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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 June 2006, 07:58 GMT 08:58 UK
Agassi ready for final Wimbledon
By Piers Newbery

Andre Agassi
Agassi has missed the last two years at Wimbledon through injury
After three years away, Andre Agassi is finally ready to return to Wimbledon.

And sad as it is that it will be his farewell appearance, at least both parties get to say a proper goodbye.

For most of this season, the 36-year-old's back injury threatened to end his Wimbledon career in the most disappointing fashion - from a physiotherapist's bench, hundreds of miles away.

It's tough enough competing at the top level when kids 17 years younger than you are winning Grand Slam titles.

But when your body is creaking so badly that you require cortisone injections before most matches, it's a good signal that your time is nearly up.

But Agassi, always obsessive about his physical conditioning, was willing to force himself through the pain barrier to play once again at the scene of his first Grand Slam title.

"It's why I didn't play the clay this year - to give me a chance to be here again," said the 1992 champion.

"It's the first one I ever won, so it's special to me for sure. The first (of the Grand Slam titles) and the last are the best memories I have in this game."

Agassi has managed just five wins in eight matches so far this year and returned last week after almost three months out.

It's deceptively hard work physically on the grass

Andre Agassi
"Health is my biggest issue," he admitted after his first-round defeat to Tim Henman at Queen's Club.

"For the past year, maybe even more, it's been a week-to-week proposition for me."

And his expectations for the weeks ahead?

AGASSI AGAIN
Andre Agassi
29 April 1970 Born, Las Vegas
1987 First ATP Tour title at Itaparica
1992 First Grand Slam title at Wimbledon
1994 Wins US Open
1996 Wins Atlanta Olympic gold
1999 Wins French Open to complete career Grand Slam
2003 Wins eighth Grand Slam of career at Australian Open
2006 Announces he will retire after US Open

"I don't know. I'm sort of working that out," Agassi admitted.

The American left Queen's Club determined to put in "a lot of hours and a lot of sets" in preparation for Wimbledon.

And when the action gets under way he believes the slower courts and higher bounce evident in recent years could help him.

"I noticed it two years ago," he said. "There was a difference between two years ago and five years previous.

"I don't know if you can pinpoint it year by year, so much as how it has evolved over the last 10 years.

"Certainly 15 to 20 years ago the courts used to get chewed up a lot more. Now they're such good grass courts that the bounce is almost like a hard court.

"The balls are different, they've got heavier, guys have got bigger and faster, so there's a lot more rallies now.

"It's deceptively hard work physically on the grass as well because the ball is still lower, footing's more unsure, so every step is taking a lot out of you if you're running hard.

"It's a good game though."

Agassi could be excused for wishing the slower conditions had been around when he was at his peak.

But despite several epic near-misses, he remains more than satisfied with his one Wimbledon title.

"I lost a couple of semis to (Pat) Rafter, who certainly plays well in faster conditions," he said. "You'd have to look back over the years at the chances I would have had.

"I'd have had a couple of chances against Pat as well as in the (1999) final against Pete (Sampras), when he played an incredible match.

"I'm sure a lot would have been different - but I wouldn't roll the dice if it meant putting my 1992 title on the line."



SEE ALSO
Men to watch at Wimbledon
22 Jun 06 |  Tennis


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