Wed, Jul 02, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Andre remains a long way from giving up

AP , WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND

Andre Agassi falls while playing Mark Philipoussis during their fourth round match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, England on Monday.

PHOTO: AFP

The question struck Andre Agassi as odd, if not impertinent.

Did he consider, as he walked off the court Monday after his fourth-round loss to Mark Philippoussis, whether he would ever be back at Wimbledon?

"Why wouldn't I be back?" he shot back. "I'm still a tennis player. This is the place to be ... My plan is to be back here next year.''

So there were no sentimental farewells, no blown kisses or teary looks at the cheering crowd. He swallowed this five-set loss hard and moved on. There will be other chances at Grand Slam titles, no matter what the calendar or skeptics say.

Agassi's age, 33, had nothing to do with his five-set defeat. He didn't run out of energy, didn't lose a step in quickness. Like his loss to Pete Sampras in last year's US Open final, he simply came up a tad short on a day of monster serves by Philippoussis, who tied Goran Ivanisevic's Wimbledon record with 46 aces.

"It's quite the same animal at work," Agassi said. "You know, it's somebody who's willing to push the boundaries of what they can get away with out there, and coming up with it. The only sort of question I have to ask myself and answer is, `Am I making him do something special, or am I letting him get away with something?'"

Agassi answered that question by giving full credit to Philippoussis. Even with the best returns in the business, Agassi was helpless against serves that were consistently 200kph-215kph and nicking the lines.

When defending champion and top-seeded Lleyton Hewitt lost on opening day last week, the No. 2 Agassi became the favorite to win Wimbledon. It didn't matter how old he was, that his only other victory here came in 1992, and that no other player since Bill Tilden had gone so long between Wimbledon wins.

All that mattered was that Agassi was still fitter than almost everyone in the game, still had all his incredible skills and reflexes, and still had the hunger. Nothing about this 6-3, 2-6, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4 loss changed any of that.

Maybe Philippoussis just got fed up with losing to Agassi, who had beaten him the last six times they played.

The crowd was decidedly on Agassi's side, though there were cheers for both players, with the fans in awe of Philippoussis' power and Agassi's resolve.

"C'mon, Big Man," one fan called out to boost the Australian early on.

"C'mon, Little Man," an Agassi fan responded.

A service winner at 206kph, and two aces at 129kph and 128kph gave Philippoussis a 5-3 lead. There would be no more drama. Philippoussis closed out the match the next time he served.

Agassi has eight majors and more money than he'll ever need.

"If something special happened all the time," he said with a mature man's perspective, "it wouldn't be so special."

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