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Écrit par Jerome   
25-09-2006

Article d'InsideTennis : http://www.insidetennis.com/1006_first_serve.html

Andre Agassi

Tennis is a vast, multilayered community, rich with varied veins. Lively and endearing, I like to think of it as a rollicking, more-than-dysfunctional family. And this September, our family's unofficial, unelected and increasingly understanding hero stepped aside.
Summer's breeze inevitably gives way to autumn's chill. The giddy joys of youth fade before the solemn cares of adulthood. And even Andre Agassi — the most delightful, compelling, perplexing, generous, accessible and transformative player any of us has had the pleasure to know — must fade.
With that in mind, Martin and Ignacio Casaccia flew 6,300 miles from Buenos Aires to the Big Apple just to see the legend take his final bow. There, the Argentinean brothers joined a record crowd of 37,380 that packed the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center for the most anticipated (and dreaded) retirement in tennis lore at what was dubbed the Andre Agassi Open.
Here there was but a singular passion. All hoped for a last bolt of Agassian magic.
"Andre, don't go! We love you!"
"One more dance."
"Oh God, please don't let him lose," the adoring throngs implored.
And the modest, bowlegged Las Vegan, with his curious quick-step gait and "I will survive" ethos, did not disappoint when, in two captivating after-midnight classics, he once again blasted sublime on-the-rise groundies and proved he was unafraid to push his wracked-with-pain body to domains where others dared not tread. Just ask the veteran Andrei Pavel, who fell short in five sets on opening night. Or better yet, ask 21-year-old Marcos Baghdatis, who cramped painfully before falling in a scintillating night marathon that will be remembered for eons.
But past glories, dreamy visions of a last hurrah and seven-inch needles filled with pain-numbing cortisone can defy reality for just so long. And so, despite the Herculean collective will of the tennis masses, the curtain came down. On Sunday, September 3, at 2:29 p.m. after three hours and three minutes of battle, a hard-to-hate German villain (B. "no, not that one" Becker) blasted an ace down the T past the hobbling hero. Andre would never again field another shot. It was over. Time to let go.
Our hopes for a last glorious run had finally given way to a haunting sense of sorrow. Yes, our sport has faced losses before. Out of nowhere, a mad man stabbed Monica Seles. The conscience of our game, Arthur Ashe, announced he had AIDS. Of course, Agassi's retirement was hardly life threatening. Still, the departure of tennis's most loveable figure was somehow inexplicable, confusing, hard to take. After Andre's loss, the stunned stadium throng rose to shower the icon with a melancholy round of applause that thundered loud and long, unlike any other in tennis memory. "I was sitting there," Andre said, "realizing that I was saying goodbye to everybody out there, and they were saying goodbye to me...It's a necessary evil."
Then, incredibly, play stopped on the outer courts as hardened pros such as Lindsay Davenport and Marat Safin strained to listen to the tennis master. Weeping and distraught, his face sobbing with emotion, Andre stepped forward to offer, with moist eyes and quivering lips, the most moving farewell address in sports since July 4, 1939, when Lou Gehrig's ("Today, I consider myself the luckiest man in the world") words echoed through Yankee Stadium.
"The scoreboard," Andre announced, "said I lost today, but what the scoreboard doesn't say is what it is I have found. And over the last 21 years, I have found loyalty. You have pulled for me on the court and also in life. I've found inspiration. You have willed me to succeed, sometimes even in my lowest moments. And I've found generosity. You have given me your shoulders to stand on to reach for my dreams, dreams I could have never reached without you. Over the last 21 years, I have found you, and I will take you and the memory of you with me for the rest of my life."
Andre's telling words and the realization of his departure brought a palpable numbness. Elevator operators were beside themselves. A weepy Serena Williams had to remind herself that it was Andre, not her, who was retiring. Lindsay Davenport said Andre was "the most important person we've had in our sport in the last 20 years. Billie Jean King made huge inroads for women, but Andre made our sport cool, popular with the younger crowd, exciting. He's beloved...He was everything we wanted him to be."
Not surprisingly, shell-shocked tennis lovers on the outer plazas and in the inner hallways of Ashe Stadium were overcome by a collective gloom as tennis began to deal with the loss of the man who touched so many. Then, wouldn't you know it, Andre himself continued to put it all in perspective. In the locker room, the players offered their own ovation, and Andre gave another speech. Never mind that he all but collapsed in pain in front of his locker, No. 238, he rose to tell the players of their role in this game.

 
   
"I'm not going to lie," Andy Murray told the New York Times. "Fifty percent, 60 percent of the people in the locker room were probably in tears and were holding it back. I know I was."
Then Andre limped his way down the hall to the standing-room-only interview room, where he recalled the relief of winning his first tournament, confiding that he understands his rebel-without-a-cause adolescence, but would hardly want to relive it. He delighted in the sweet prospect of waking up in the morning and not caring how he felt and once again expressed his "in the moment" philosophy, explaining that his pride "doesn't come from accomplishment, but from the striving, [dealing with] what's in front of you, how you're going to get through it, how you're going to connect to it, care about it. I take pride in that people [and] my peers tell me they're going to miss me...Applause from the fans, from my peers...those will be the greatest memories, memories I will keep forever."
Then, 45 minutes later, as his farewell press conference wound down, he was asked whether he had one last question for us. "Are you guys going to really miss me?" he responded. "Or are you just acting like that?" En masse, we all put down our pads and mikes to give Andre his third standing ovation of the afternoon.
I then approached the guy I'd known for 21 years. The fascinating man who, more than any other athlete, was open, vulnerable and shared his ride no matter how bumpy the road; the man who insisted overzealous security guards let me into a Munich locker room so we could talk in peace; the man who always fielded my questions — no matter how zany — with an exquisite care; the man who provided me with an unbroken string of sublime moments.
So we shook hands and shared a clasp. "Thank you for all the heart," I muttered in a broken voice. Our eyes met. There was an expression of sorrow, deep affection. Tears welled, the sorrow of parting, a poignant silence that spoke loudly. For at last there was nothing left to say on this day, the day the music died.
Dernière mise à jour : ( 25-09-2006 )
 
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