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.
September 7, 2005: Andre Agassi d. James Blake, 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (6) (Quarterfinals)
Summoning up the competitive character shaped from two decades of major matches, the 35-year-old Agassi scripted yet another comeback in rallying from a two-set deficit for the sixth time and registering a stirring victory over Blake, in a match many hailed as an instant classic.
“This is what it's about," Agassi said. "It's just about authentic competition, just getting out there and having respect for each other's game and respect for each other's person and just letting it fly, and letting it be just about tennis.”
The 49th-ranked Blake, who beat second-ranked Rafael Nadal and Tommy Robredo in succession to reach the quarterfinals, imposed his bold baseline game in the first two sets, bursting to the ball with such speed he made Agassi look a half-step slow. Agassi answered back striking the ball with greater authority in the next two sets. By the final stages of the fifth set, Agassi and Blake were playing transcendent tennis.
“I fought my heart out. I did everything I could,” Blake said. “Played as well as I could those first couple sets. Even got up a break I think in the third and the fifth. He played a little too good. He really started going for broke on some of those, and champions make those when they're going for broke in the fifth set and down.”
The Yonkers, N.Y. native served for the match at 5-4 in the fifth set and took a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaker, but Agassi hit a forehand return winner to level it, and hit the same shot to seal an electrifying win that ended with fans chanting “Andre! Andre!”
“[When people ask:] ‘What does the Open mean to you?’ That's what it means, what you just saw out there,” Agassi said in a 1:30 a.m. press conference. “There's no place like it. It's 1:15 in the morning, 20,000 people out there, and tennis won tonight. That happens here in New York.”