Andre Agassi : biography
2002 opened with disappointment for Agassi, as injury forced him to skip the Australian Open, where he was a two-time defending champion. The last duel between Agassi and Sampras came in the final of the US Open, which Sampras won in four sets and left Sampras with a 20–14 edge in their 34 career meetings. The match was the last of Sampras’s career. Agassi’s US Open finish, along with his Masters Series victories in Key Biscayne, Rome and Madrid, helped him finish 2002 as the oldest year-end world no. 2 at 32 years and 8 months.
In 2003, Agassi won the eighth (and final) Grand Slam title of his career at the Australian Open, where he beat Rainer Schüttler in straight sets in the final. In March, he won his sixth career and third consecutive Key Biscayne title, in the process surpassing his wife, Steffi Graf, who was a five-time winner of the event. The final was his 18th straight win in that tournament, which broke the previous record of 17 set by Sampras from 1993–1995. (Agassi’s winning streak continued to 20 after winning his first two matches at the 2004 edition of that tournament before bowing to Agustín Calleri.) With the victory, Agassi became the youngest (19 years old) and oldest (32) winner of the Key Biscayne tournament. On 28 April 2003, he recaptured the world no. 1 ranking after a quarterfinal victory over Xavier Malisse at the Queen’s Club Championships to become the oldest top-ranked male player since the ATP rankings began at 33 years and 13 days. He had held the world no. 1 ranking for two weeks, when Lleyton Hewitt took it back on 12 May 2003. Agassi then recaptured the world no. 1 ranking once again on 16 June 2003, which he held for 12 weeks until 7 September 2003. During his career, Agassi held the world no. 1 ranking for a total of 101 weeks. Agassi’s ranking slipped when injuries forced him to withdraw from many events. He did manage to reach the US Open semifinals, where he lost to Juan Carlos Ferrero and surrendered his world no. 1 ranking to Ferrero. At the year-end Tennis Masters Cup, Agassi lost in the final to Federer and finished the year ranked world no. 4. At age 33, he was the oldest player to rank in the top 5 since Connors, at age 35, was world no. 4 in 1987.
In 2004, Agassi began the year with a five-set loss in the semifinals of the Australian Open to Marat Safin; the loss ended Agassi’s 26-match winning streak at the event, a record that still stands. He won the Masters series event in Cincinnati to bring his career total to 59 top-level singles titles and a record 17 ATP Masters Series titles, having already won seven of the nine ATP Masters tournament—all except the tournaments in Monte Carlo and Hamburg. At 34, he became the second-oldest singles champion in Cincinnati tournament history (the tournament began in 1899), surpassed only by Ken Rosewall, who won the title in 1970 at age 35. He finished the year ranked world no. 8, the oldest player to finish in the top 10 since the 36-year-old Connors was world no. 7 in 1988. Agassi also became only the sixth male player during the open era to reach 800 career wins with his first-round victory over Alex Bogomolov in Countrywide Classic in Los Angeles.
Agassi’s 2005 began with a quarterfinal loss to Federer at the Australian Open. Agassi had several other deep runs at tournaments, but had to withdraw from several events due to injury. He lost to Jarkko Nieminen in the first round of the French Open. He won his fourth title in Los Angeles and reached the final of the Rogers Cup, before falling to world no. 2 Rafael Nadal. Agassi’s 2005 was defined by an improbable run to the US Open final. After beating Răzvan Sabău and Ivo Karlović in straight sets and Tomáš Berdych in four sets, Agassi won three consecutive five-set matches to advance to the final. The most notable of these matches was his quarterfinal victory over James Blake, where he rallied from two sets down to win 7–6 in the fifth set. His other five-set victims were Xavier Malisse in the fourth round and Robby Ginepri in the semifinals. In the final, Agassi faced Federer, who was seeking his second consecutive US Open title and his sixth Grand Slam title in two years. Federer defeated Agassi in four sets, although Agassi gave him a scare when Agassi was up a break in the third set after splitting the first two sets.