Sunday, September 03, 2006

André Agassi

On Friday morning I watched the tennis match between André Agassi and Marcos Baghdatis at the U.S. Open Championships in New York.

Agassi is now 36, and this is his last tennis tournament. He has won 60 titles, 8 Grand Slams. He became a tennis professional in 1986 and won his first title in 1987. This is his 21st U.S. Open. After this he puts his racket away.

Agassi is known for his competitive drive and his capacity to win a match after being down 0-2.

This was one of the best tennis matches I have ever seen. Agassi won the first two sets, and was 4-0 ahead in the third (and, should he win, deciding) set. Then Baghdatis came to life. He won four games in a row, and the set. He also won the fourth set. The match became a five setter.

You began to wonder how long Agassi’s body could take the beating it got from the 21 year old Cypriot. It looked like he was totally out of gas physically and simply could not keep up.

But he continued hitting those long, hard, precision baseline strokes that drove Baghdatis (and many players before him) crazy. They stayed on serve, and the score was 4-4.

(Please excuse the tennis jargon. If you can’t follow it, go on to another site. Thanks for visiting!)

Suddenly Baghdatis got a cramp in his right leg. He could hardly stand up, let alone walk. You wondered if he would have to give up and withdraw himself from the match, which would be a real disaster. But he continued to play, and because he couldn’t use his legs, he used his arms. From 5-4 it became 5-5. Agassi won his own service, 6-5. He only had to break Baghdatis to win the match. But that was now not so easy, as Baghdatis suddenly seemed fit and young again.

Finally it was match point (the second for Agassi, by the way), and this one was enough. Agassi won, 7-5.

This was a terrific battle of body and will, which tennis is. Baghdatis’struggle to keep going even when his body had let him down.

Agassi’s capacity to stay mentally sharp and control the match, even as his body was losing strength.

Here were two champions giving everything they had.

“No, I beat my body” said the Apostle Paul “and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

There you have it.

André Agassi has set up a charitable foundation to create recreational and educational opportunities for at-risk children in Southern Nevada (I didn’t even know there were at-risk children in Southern Nevada!). “I have been very blessed and had many opportunities available to me," said Agassi. "Children today face so many obstacles. If I can make a positive impact on at least one child's life, then it has all been worthwhile."

There you have it.

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