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   Sunday, 26 January, 2003, 11:23 GMT
Agassi ends Grand Slam drought
Andre Agassi celebrates with coach Darren Cahill
Andre Agassi celebrates with coach Darren Cahill

Forget Lleyton Hewitt, Shane Warne or any of Australia's other sporting heroes for that matter.

Most people down under spent Australia Day toasting the success of American Andre Agassi after he cantered to a record fourth title at Melbourne Park.

While the bush fires raged off the court and the big seeds buckled on it, Agassi quietly but efficiently set about his task of claiming his eighth Grand Slam.

I really didn't know where I was going to find myself over the first few months of last year

Andre Agassi
But the self-effacing American was almost lost for words after sweeping aside German outsider Rainer Schuettler in the final.

"I can't describe how good this feels," Agassi told BBC Sport Online.

"I'm always extra surprised when I win a game these days - never mind a tournament.

"So to win my fourth Grand Slam here is something which will take a lot of time to absorb."

With the exception of his third round contest with Nicolas Escude, Agassi was never troubled on his way to picking up the trophy.

Andre Agassi's wife Steffi Graf watches him win in Melbourne
Steffi Graf might play doubles in Paris
At times his tennis was on the verge of perfection.

In his seven matches he dropped only two sets and has now won 21 consecutive games in the Australian Open.

In fact, Agassi looked so at home on the Melbourne's rebound ace courts over the fortnight that you half expected him to change his son's nappies between games.

But is it the surface which brings the best out the 31-year-old?

"Yes, I think it is," conceded Agassi.

"It suits my game really well, allowing to me to take the ball early and it gets the best out of my kick serves.

"It is also down to the conditions - if you were to look at my history you will see I thrive on hot and windy conditions, so Melbourne Park is a great place for me to play.

"I just wish I'd started played here a long time ago - I might have had even more success," he added.

Agassi's latest Grand Slam title caps the most hectic year of his life.

Only 12 months ago he missed the Australian Open with a wrist injury which forced him to consider hanging up his racquet.

This was followed by the birth of his son and his much publicised failure to win a Grand Slam in 2002.

But Agassi still regards the year as a great achievement.

"I think the last year has been a great success.

"I really didn't know where I was going to find myself over the first few months of last year.

Andre Agassi
Agassi lost just two sets in two weeks
"I'd just turned 31 and just didn't know if my wrist would ever recover - and, of course, Steffi (Graf) and I had a child.

"I could have quit and become a full time father - but my wrist recovered and a year on I've become the Australian Open champion again.

"It could have been a lot worse!"

His supremacy at the baseline has cemented Agassi's place amongst the tennis legends.

Although his career wins fail to match up to the standards of compatriot Pete Sampras, he has finally joined the likes of Jimmy Connors and Fred Perry in the deep end of the pool of tennis greats.

But, does this mean the Melbourne public will witness Agassi following in the traditions of former champions by jumping in the Yarra River?

"I don't think so - I did that last time and got some sort of stomach virus after swallowing some of the water.

"Anyway, I've got some bets to cash in on in the bathroom and bedroom before that after winning here.

"First I've got to shave off my coaches hair then I think I'll concentrate on persuading my wife to play doubles with me in France.

"But I guarantee you one thing," he chuckled.

"You will see a big smile on my face if she does end up playing doubles with me at Roland Garros."

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