Every morning during the U.S. Open, Richard Pagliaro will take a look back at a significant match that took place on that calendar day.
August 31, 2006: Andre Agassi d. Marcos Baghdatis, 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 7-5 (Second Round)
Two showmen stood toe-to-toe on the baseline, ripping eye-popping drives in a night clash that was tennis theatre featuring exceptional shotmaking, improbable comebacks, choking, cramping, and a rowdy crowd of more than 23,000 exhorting Agassi through one final finish line.
It began on a Thursday night, ended on a Friday morning, and will likely remain eternally embedded in the minds of those fans who screamed their lungs out as Agassi fought off three break points at 5-5, then broke Baghdatis in the next game to close his final professional triumph.
“Listen, I've lived a dream for 21 years. I've lived a dream,” Agassi said. “It's gonna be impossible for me to be disappointed with a result when you have that sort of support and feeling out there. This is why I chose here.”
The 36-year-old Agassi was giving the people what they wanted when he took a two-set lead and appeared in command, given his 58-0 record at the Open with such a cushion. The outcome appeared a formality when Agassi opened a 4-0 fourth-set lead, but Baghdatis caught fire and Agassi tightened.
At the 25-second mark of the video, see Baghdatis hit a running shot then teeter on his toes, leaning on his racquet like a can for balance, before cramps in right legs cause him to tumble to the court at 4-4 in the fifth set.
“I just wanted to fight, you know?” Baghdatis said. “Playing Andre in Arthur Ashe, the last thing I want to just die on the court. I will do anything to win. That's all. That's what I did.”
The unseeded Agassi arrived in New York for his U.S. Open farewell burdened by a bad back that required cortisone shots and feeling unprepared with a 9-7 record on the season as he faced the Australian Open finalist. Then, he turned back time, giving fans a night to remember in his final win.
“You play for those moments,” Agassi said. “Would I have been disappointed if I had lost? Yeah, I would have been disappointed not to come back again. At the same time, how can you be disappointed when it's all sort of surreal?”