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Wimbledon has not seen the last of him quite yet. Andre Agassi prolonged his farewell on Thursday with an impressive second-round victory over Italy’s Andreas Seppi 6-4 7-6 6-4.
The man from Las Vegas may have decided finally to cash in his chips after the US Open in September, but he far from resembled a 36-year-old contemplating retirement on Number One Court.
Yet one sensed at the start the crowd feared this could be the legend’s last appearance on the famous grass courts, and they gave him a standing ovation just in case. All the cards seemed stacked against him – his chronic back injury had restricted him to only eight matches this year before Wimbledon and he was
facing a man 14 years his junior who had reached the semi-finals of the Nottingham grass-court tournament last week.
Indeed Seppi, one of those strapping baseliners wearing his cap back-to-front, may well have been inspired by the style that won Wimbledon for Agassi 14 years ago, the first of his eight grand-slam titles, when the Italian was a talented 12-year-old.
But it soon became clear that Seppi’s game lacks a real weapon, and he also displayed a predilection for suicidal drop shots. Furthermore, the old champion was in fine form, serving aces, pinging his drives from corner to corner, and maintaining the length that has worn down far superior opponents.
He also showed his ability to up his game at crucial moments, first doing it when leading 5-4 and breaking Seppi to take the set. His one slip came in the second set when, having broken the Italian to lead 5-3, he played a sloppy service game and allowed his opponent to break back. But come the tie-break he again raised his performance and cruised through 7-2.
By now the crowd was willing him to victory, and an early break in the third set proved enough.
Next he plays French Open champion Rafael Nadal, and if someone has to end Agassi’s Wimbledon career, it would be fitting for it to be done by another great player.