Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Stableford: Long Night In Flushing

Illustration for article titled Stableford: Long Night In Flushing

Dylan Stableford is the editor of media blog FishbowlNY and will write occasionally on the U.S. Open.


The 2005 Agassi-Blake. 2001's Sampras-Agassi. 1991 Connors-Krickstein, and Connors-P.Mac. 1980 McEnroe-Connors.

OK, the last one's pushing it — we were toddlers then. But the2006 Agassi-Baghdatis five-set match that unfolded on Arthur Ashe Stadium Court will be among the greatest epics in the history of the tournament. Here's why:

Retirement: As you know, Andre Agassi is done after the Open. And while previous classic matches have had as many plot twists, they haven't had a career riding on them.
36: The age of Andre Agassi. In other sports, you're in your prime. In tennis, you're a couple of ankle sprains away from the senior tour.
21: The age of Marcos Baghdatis. For the better part of three sets, he looked 36.
Baghdatis: He was the perfect villain for Agassi's hero: colorful, loud, tough, and more than a little crazy. If it wasn't Agassi, the crowd of 23,000 would've been rooting for Baghdatis. Still, he wasn't the recipient of the loudest boos — those were reserved for Bill O'Reilly when The Factor host was shown on the jumbotron.
23,000: It was certainly the loudest, most raucous Arthur Ashe Stadium has ever been, and nearly everyone stayed for the entire match. It was sort of like being at the Garden. Err, not this year's Garden. More like the '94 Garden.
Martina Hingis: The former beauty-turned-merely-tennis-hot had the courtesy of losing in straight sets, allowing Agassi-Baghdatis to start more or less on time.
Cramping: Up 1-0 and a break to start the fifth set, the 21-year-old called the trainer over to work on his leg. At 4-4, Baghdatis cramping became so severe he fell to the court and proceeded to hobble around the court for the most of the rest of the set.
Cortisone: The morning after Agassi's four-set first round thriller, he woke up in so much back pain, his manager and business partner Perry Rogers says a cortisone shot was administered with a seven-inch needle over a 30-minute period. This is tennis' answer to Curt Schilling's Bloody Sock.
Nationalism: While there were roughly seven Greek nationals in attendance, they made their presence felt during Baghdatis' comeback, waving flags and providing an opportunity for brief but welcome periods of New York tennis fan ugliness.
Rodapova: Weren't involved.
McEnroe. While we weren't lucky enough to get one of the in-stadium ear-pieces that carried the USA audio feed with Johnny Mac's commentary, McEnroe was clearly moved, choked-up even, during his on-court interviews with both players after the match, having witnessed what he called "one of the best matches I've ever seen." Then he hugged Agassi. Then everybody went home.

Next up for Agassi: Becker. As in 25-year-old Benjamin Becker — no relation to Boris — a qualifier from Germany who's ranked 112th. Then maybe, just maybe, Agassi will get a quarterfinal date with one-half of Rodapova, Andy Roddick, whose only Mojo this year is in his coach, Jimmy Connors.