Agassi chased home by Haas, 20 German ousts idol from Wimbledon

June 26, 1998|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

WIMBLEDON, England -- Andre Agassi used to be the future of tennis, the self-made anti-hero with preposterous clothes and the ripping forehands that set hearts racing.

Now, he's just another 28-year-old guy chasing the past.

And yesterday, he took yet another step toward the tennis twilight. He lost at Wimbledon in the second round to a player who grew up idolizing him, getting bullied by German-born, American-trained Tommy Haas, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4.

It was easy to spot the differences between these players. Agassi wore his baseball cap with the brim pulled forward over his balding scalp. Haas wore his cap backward over his long brown hair.

L Agassi was slow and tentative. Haas was fast and aggressive.

At Wimbledon, on grass, there is nothing crueler than seeing an ex-champ put out to pasture by a kid. It was even sadder still since Agassi and Haas have known each other for years, ever since they were honed under the Florida sun by coach Nick Bollettieri.

Back then, though, Agassi was the star and Haas was just another little boy with big tennis dreams.

"I used to look up to him when I was young and play with him once in a while, which was very nice," said Haas, 20.

But Haas took his idol apart in this match, which was halted by darkness after the third set Wednesday, and picked up late yesterday afternoon as the shadows began to fall on Centre Court.

Agassi ran out of room and ran out of magic.

"I didn't feel like I deserved to win it," he said.

Yet as he spoke, Agassi sounded like a player in a state of denial. Time is running out on his career, but he keeps trying to look forward. He basically took off a year after marrying Brooke Shields. And in his view, he's still on a comeback journey, not a farewell tour.

"It even took Michael Jordan a year before he got to where he was playing his best again," Agassi said. "So, I have to at least give myself a year, just to see my best, wherever that may be."

Last fall, Agassi went back to the tennis minor leagues, the Challenger circuit, flipping the numbers on the scoreboard just like a rookie, so that he could pick up enough confidence and points to make a serious run in the Grand Slam events.

"I know this road real well and ultimately, you've got to be motivated for it," he said. "I am. I'm certainly not out there for my health."

Agassi made a strong run in the spring, rising in the rankings, and even grabbed a No. 13 seed at Wimbledon.

But it turned out the seed was based more on nostalgia than reality.

"I need to be in a much better position coming into these events," he said. "That's what it's all about."

The future belongs to those like Haas. He's part of Germany's second tennis generation, the kids who were raised on the exploits of Boris Becker at Wimbledon. He even has a tape of BTC Becker's 1985 triumph, and can reel off moments from that tournament like a tennis historian.

"I know a lot of history on Centre Court, and you think about it the whole time when you are out there," Haas said. "It gives you motivation."

Against Agassi, all Haas needed was an opening. The players met in March, but in that match, Agassi ran the kid from side to side and ran him off the court. But this was different. Haas kept adjusting and kept changing pace against Agassi. In the third-set tiebreaker Wednesday night, Haas benefited from a horrendous line call to get to set point. He even admitted that the ball skidded far out. But that didn't stop him from clubbing Agassi to take the set before darkness.

And yesterday, Haas kept applying pressure. He gave up a service break to open the fourth set, but then retrieved it in the sixth game, and ran Agassi right out of Wimbledon, cracking one last forehand return to end the match.

"You have to go out there and beat him, otherwise he'll break you down," Haas said.

Haas advanced. Agassi prepared to go home, joining a trio of fellow Americans who lost: Michael Chang, Jan-Michael Gambill and Vincent Spadea. The only Americans to advance to the third round are reigning champion Pete Sampras and Todd Martin, a 6-3, 7-5, 6-2 winner over Mark Draper.

Before he left, Agassi was asked who would win the tournament. He immediately pointed to 1997 champion and No. 9 seed Richard Krajicek, who won his second-round match yesterday over Dinu Pescariu, 6-1, 6-3, 6-2.

Agassi's prediction might not be such a bad call. The bottom half of the draw is looking even more barren after yet another seed went down, No. 5 Carlos Moya, the French Open champion who was beaten by Hicham Arazi, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.

But Agassi won't be around to influence events. At Wimbledon, he's finished.

Featured matches


Pete Sampras (1), U.S., vs. Thomas Enqvist, Sweden

Petr Korda (3), Czech Republic, vs. Jerome Golmard, France

Tim Henman (12), Britain, vs. Byron Black, Zimbabwe


Lindsay Davenport (2), U.S., vs. Maria Alejandra Vento, Venezuela

Steffi Graf (4), Germany, vs. Natasha Zvereva, Belarus

Monica Seles (6), U.S., vs. Yayuk Basuki, Indonesia

Pub Date: 6/26/98

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