“The Dragon” was Andre Agassi’s name for Court Central at Roland Garros. Twice before it had slain him, Agassi the favorite but losing the 1990 and ’91 finals. Eight long years later, through cycles of soaring ups and deeply downward downs, Agassi was once again in the finals of the French Open, hoping to overcome doubt and at last find deliverance at the one Slam he’d never won.
There had been early round challenges: two points away from defeat versus Arnaud Clement, down a set and two breaks versus the holder, Carlos Moya. But Agassi had fought his way back to victory.
His opponent, Andrei Medvedev, was playing well in part due to some motivational and tactical advice Agassi had given him earlier that spring. Thoroughly dictating play with flat, penetrating groundstrokes, Medvedev took a two sets to love lead. In the third, serving at 4-all, 30-40, Agassi played the point of his career, feathering a forehand volley winner. He won the third, the fourth, and went up a break in the fifth. Serving for the career Slam at 5-4, Agassi held comfortably, bursting into tears moments after Medvedev’s return flew long. Agassi had become only the fifth man in tennis history to have earned the singles title at all four majors. Years later, in his autobiography, “Open,” Agassi would write, “Winning is never supposed to matter this much. But it does, it does, I can’t help it.”
Ranked 141 in the world in late 1997, by the end of ’99, Agassi was ranked number one in the world.
(with thanks to Randy Walker and Mikki Singh for their app, On This Day in Tennis History)
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