RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Roger Federer won the US Open men's singles title yesterday for the second straight year. However, a 35-year-old Andre Agassi clearly won the heart of the New York crowd and the tennis world with his inspiring performance. On Saturday, Kim Clijsters defeated Mary Pierce for her first major title. Commentator John Feinstein joins me now.
JOHN FEINSTEIN reporting:
Good morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: It did look for a while yesterday that Agassi might pull off a victory, actually on the court, not just in the hearts.
FEINSTEIN: Right. In fact, Federer said that midway through that third set when Agassi went up 4-2, it crossed his mind that he might lose, and he's never lost a major final. He's six for six. But Federer's a brilliant player. Agassi, who's played against, among others, Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, just to name a few, said after the match he's the best player he's ever seen. And Federer had to be yesterday when he rallied back in that third set. And once he won the third-set tie break, Agassi at 35 just didn't have enough left in the tank for that fourth set, and Federer won easily.
MONTAGNE: Of course, the reason it would have been such a huge upset is that Federer is so dominant right now.
FEINSTEIN: He really is. He's only lost three matches this year. He won both Wimbledon and the United States Open for the second straight year. And, Renee, he's only 24. He is at his peak right now. He should get better. I mean, if he looks at Agassi as a role model, he can play at this level for another 10 or 11 years and perhaps challenge Pete Sampras' record of 14 major titles, the most any man has ever won.
MONTAGNE: John, put into perspective for us what Andre Agassi did these last two weeks.
FEINSTEIN: Well, let's start with the fact that Ronald Reagan was still president when he played his first US Open. It's been 20 years. That's unheard of in tennis. He is, as I said, 35. He's now the father of two. He was a punk teen-ager when he first showed up at the Open. And the way he turned himself around as a competitor--when he was a younger player, Renee, he was one of the great quitters of all time. He'd get behind in a match and that was it, he was done. Now you have to drive a stake through his heart to beat him. He won three five-set matches in this tournament. There are players who don't win three five-set matches in a career. And to get to the US Open final at his age and to give Federer the match he did, it's one of the great sports accomplishments of the year, even though he didn't win.
MONTAGNE: It seems as if the women were overlooked throughout the tournament, but this was a breakthrough even for Clijsters, wasn't it?
FEINSTEIN: Absolutely. I mean, she's a player who's been ranked number one in the world, but without the portfolio of winning a major title. And she had the best summer and the healthiest summer of any woman on tour. She beat Venus Williams in the quarterfinal, she dominated Mary Pierce in the final on Saturday. And, you know, a year ago, she was hurt. She was among the many women injured. And she played superb tennis throughout and deserved the title.
MONTAGNE: And missing in action this last weekend: Andy Roddick, the Williams sisters.
FEINSTEIN: Andy Roddick was missing in action the whole tournament, and the credit card company that paid him big money for a two-week promotional series, and he was gone after the first night, wasn't too happy. Very bad tournament for him. The Williams sisters played each other in the fourth round and then Venus was, as I said, beaten easily by Kim Clijsters. Not good for CBS in their ratings, but Andre Agassi probably saved the day.
MONTAGNE: John, thanks very much.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Renee.
MONTAGNE: The comments of John Feinstein, whose most recent book is "Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery."
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