Dylan Stableford is the editor of media blog FishbowlNY and will write occasionally on the U.S. Open.
So, you really do wanna play rock-n-roll tennis? Of all the storylines materializing for the 2006 U.S. Open — Will Roger Federer repeat? Will James Blake rebound from his starry-eyed choke in last year's semifinal? Will we ever care about the Williams sisters? Will the debut of instant replay ruin our chances for a John McEnroe-sized tantrum? Is Andy Roddick schtooping Maria Sharapova? — make no mistake: the 2006 U.S. Open IS Andre Agassi's tournament. The crazy fashion montages cued, the Barbara Streisand "Zen master" anecdotes prepared, Agassi took stadium court last night in his 21st and final U.S. Open. And, thanks to the masterminds responsible for seeding,
Agassi came in unseeded, drawing 75th-ranked Andrei Pavel, a 32-year-old Romanian with a killer backhand, red shirt and just enough attitude to make an entire stadium court silently hate his guts.
Pavel took the first set in a tiebreak (7-4) and pushed the second set to on, too, and had a set point in the break before Agassi escaped 10-8, allowing the Agassi Entourage — one that includes his wife, Steffi Graf, two kids, a couple nannies, coach Darren Cahill, manager, trainer Gil Reyes (who could play Carlos Santana: The Steroid Years) and a bald dude who appears to really want to be in Agassi's entourage — to breathe a sigh of humid relief.
Agassi fell behind two breaks in the third and — as we've seen him do many times - appeared almost resigned to conceding the set to conserve energy. But, instead, Agassi summoned Cahill to bring him new rackets — which were apparently strung to "dramatic sports story arch" tension — and battled back to yet another tiebreak, which he won (8-6) on an inside out forehand service return. Agassi dominated the fourth and final set, 6-2, serving out the final point on the verge on tears. But not the Adam Morrison kind; these were respectable.
McEnroe called it the "best first round match I've ever seen." Can't argue with Mac.
Tonight: Blake — the top seeded American — opens his Open run, as does Sharapova, who faces unseeded Michaela Krajicek. If we're lucky, both matches will be as thrilling as Agassi's. That, or Sharapova will scream, then make out with someone.
This Could Be The End For Agassi [Deadspin]