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Seduction complete, Agassi bows out

Wimbledon is the sort of place that grows on you, just ask Andre Agassi. The eight-times grand slam champion took his leave of the All England Club in the fourth round on Monday but immediately said he planned to return next year.

india Updated: Jul 01, 2003 22:41 IST
Reuters
Reuters
PTI

Wimbledon is the sort of place that grows on you, just ask Andre Agassi.

The eight-times grand slam champion took his leave of the All England Club in the fourth round on Monday but immediately said he planned to return to what he described as "the greatest arena in our sport" next year.

On his departure from number one court after his defeat at the hands of Mark Philippoussis there was just a wave and a smile, not the blown kisses and bows to his adoring fans in all four stands that accompany his victories.

"I just feel like, as I get older, I have more sort of capacity to embrace those moments. It's just sort of a little thing I do to show my thanks," the 33-year-old said last week when asked about what has become a trademark gesture.

What a contrast to the brash 17-year-old who pitched up at the All England Club for his first grasscourt grand slam in 1987.

All Florida tan, wild blond tresses, earrings and attitude, the teenager lost in the first round and declined to return for the next three years.

The man who said he was out to "shake up the Country Club", did not like the stuffiness, the etiquette or the all-white sportswear the All England Club demanded he wear.

The baseliner was not over-enamoured with the grass surface either -- "This isn't tennis," he later said.

He did eventually return in 1991, and from the day he peeled off his track-suit to reveal lilywhite shirt and shorts and received a thunderous ovation, his love affair with Wimbledon began.

A quarter-finalist that year, Agassi was back the next to clinch his first grand slam title.

Eleven years on, the Las Vegan has a sensible cropped haircut, a full collection of grand slam titles and is a happily married father of one.

"Yeah, I think as you get older, you're more aware of how short-term all of these opportunities are," he said at Wimbledon last week.

"I think it's easy to take a lot for granted when you're young. I came out young, all the best ones are young and out here competing because they're good enough to be out here.

"The downside to that is you don't have experience to sometimes realise exactly what a great opportunity it is to be out here playing for championships."

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Far from being an antagonist to the Wimbledon traditions, Agassi could rival some of the more conservative members of the All England Club -- of which he is member by virtue of that 1992 victory -- if his comments this week are anything to go by.

On the ending of the obligation of players bowing and curtseying to the Royal Box: "I certainly can understand the decision to not want attention brought to you. But with that being said, it was a nice tradition that I enjoyed. So I'm a little disappointed."

On playing on the albeit much improved grasscourt surface: "When a grass court is perfect, it plays sort of truer, it gives a baseliner a chance to play baseline tennis."

On his decision not to talk about the proposed players' boycott of grand slams: "What I said was during the championships it wouldn't be something I discuss out of respect for the greatest tournament in tennis."

As for the All England Club, Agassi now so loves the place that he even popped in before the warm-up tournament at Queen's Club last month.

"Just an opportunity to come here and enjoy my membership that I don't get to enjoy from the other side of the world," he said.

"You know, being a member of this club makes you consider moving it's so special. You know, so when I am here, I do enjoy the opportunity of taking advantage out of it, practising here, having a cup of tea,"he added with a smile.

First Published: Jul 01, 2003 22:41 IST