Agassi Retires from Tennis After U.S. Open Loss

Andre Agassi said a tearful goodbye to tennis Sunday after losing to Germany's Benjamin Becker, the world's 112th-ranked player, in four sets at the U.S. Open. The 36-year-old tennis legend is one of only five men to win all four Grand Slam tournaments.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Andre Agassi said goodbye to pro tennis yesterday. He lost to Germany's Benjamin Becker in four sets at the U.S. Open. Agassi is 36 years old, and he is one of only five men to win all four grand slam titles.

To talk about yesterday's match and Agassi's career we've called Bud Collins, who is an NBC Commentator and Boston Globe columnist. Welcome to the program again.

Mr. BUD COLLINS (NBC Commentator and Boston Globe columnist): Well, good morning.

INSKEEP: Seems kind of sad that Agassi didn't get to go out with a match against one of the other greats of tennis.

Mr. COLLINS: Well, maybe yes, maybe no. I think it worked out just right.

He would've been, had to play Andy Roddick today, and I think it would have been a mess, because he wasn't even ready to play yesterday. His back was killing him. He put on a good show. He had a set point in the fourth to send it into the fifth, but Andre really had used it all up when he beat Marcos Baghdatis in that match Thursday night that extended into Friday morning.

His father urged him to quit right there. And that might not have been a bad idea. But Andre said I didn't come here to quit. So he did acquit himself well yesterday, and you had 23,000 people just praying for him to win and cheering him on. It was bedlam out there. But finally - it's sort of ironic - you lose to a guy nobody had ever heard of before. Benjamin Becker, who is a college boy at Waco, Texas at Baylor, and he was an all-American there where he won the NCAA title in 2004, but…

INSKEEP: And I don't want to diminish his playing too much. It says here that he ended the match with a 133 mile an hour ace, which…

Mr. COLLINS: Well, you shouldn't diminish him, because he had 27 aces, and he had a tremendous forehand. And he said he was nervous at first. Of course, he said he had goose bumps walking out there because he knew he was in the enemy camp. And it was tough, but he said it was also fun. And he was glad to have won, but he said it was also sad because it was Andre.

But he'll go down and he'll have his footnote in history. He was like a guy who poisoned Winnie the Pooh's honey.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: What made Agassi such an appealing player, aside from his pure skill, his winning?

Mr. COLLINS: Well, he was the only - he's one of five players to win the four major championships. Five players in the history of the game! So he just had a flair that attracted people, even when he was the proverbial bad boy in the early stages of his career when he did an awful lot of unseemly things. But he just appealed to people. And they all wanted to see him win so much.

He gave away 15 years to Baghdatis. He only gave away 11 to Becker. But he was always out there fighting. He came in with a new style of the game, really. He was aggressive from the baseline. Now there are a lot of baseliners, but they're waiting for the ball. Andre never waited. It was like a game of ping-pong, the way he played it.

INSKEEP: And just very briefly, Bud Collins, I know that golfers can go on to a senior tour, what happens…

Mr. COLLINS: Golfers can play until after they're - five years after they're dead.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: I hope so. But what do pro tennis players do at this stage?

Mr. COLLINS: Well, their careers are more and more shortened by the difficulties of the game, because with these new racquets, you're wearing out your body. You can hit every ball as hard as possible, and the good Lord didn't make us to do that. They're playing more and more on hard courts. There are more injuries than ever before. So for a guy to last - plenty of players played into their 40s at one time - Richard Pancho Gonzales and Rod Laver, Kenny Rosewall, people like that. But to play to 36 now is quite extraordinary.

INSKEEP: Okay, Bud, good to talk with you again.

Mr. COLLINS: Thank you very much.

INSKEEP: Bud Collins is a sports commentator for NBC and a columnist for the Boston Globe, speaking about the final match of Andre Agassi yesterday at the U.S. Open.

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