Even without Pete Sampras (leg injury), the Olympic tennis tournament at the Stone Mountain Tennis Center in Atlanta 1996 was very successful for the home nation. The Americans secured three out of four gold medals, failing to win a medal only in the men's doubles.
World no. 6 Andre Agassi was among those who brought the Olympic glory for the home nation, taking full advantage of the favorable draw and going all the way to becoming the first American with men's singles gold medal since Vincent Richards in Paris 1924!
On August 3, Andre toppled Sergi Bruguera 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 in the title match in swift 77 minutes in front of the partisan crowd of 10,000, conquering one of the most beloved titles in a long and decorated career. It couldn't come in a better moment for Andre, who won just three matches between Miami and Atlanta (he would win Cincinnati two weeks later) and dropped out from the top-5 for the first time since October 1994.
Andre had to work hard from the first obstacle in Atlanta, beating Jonas Bjorkman 7-6, 7-6 for a place in the second round, where he took down Karol Kucera 6-4, 6-4. Andrea Gaudenzi stood between Agassi and the spot in the quarter-final and pushed the American to the limits for a set and a half before Andre delivered a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory to stay on the title course.
World no. 11 Wayne Ferreira was the last opponent before the battle for the medals, and it turned out to be another tough day at the office for Agassi, with the South African serving for the match in the final set before Andre got through 7-5, 4-6, 7-5.
In the semis, the crowd favorite took down the doubles specialist with a wild card Leander Paes 7-6, 6-3. Interestingly, it was a clash of the players from the Olympian families, with Vece Paes competing at the 1972 Munich Olympics (won the bronze medal in field hockey), while Emmanuel "Mike" Aghassian represented Iran in boxing in 1948 and 1952!
Andre Agassi won the Olympic Games singles gold medal title in Atlanta 1996.
The first set was very close, and the American clinched it in the tie break after fending off two set points before having the edge in the second to advance into the final and secure a medal.
The Spaniard Sergi Bruguera had a great run in Atlanta, especially after competing in Stuttgart on clay in the previous week. In the first round, the Spaniard survived Andrei Pavel and delivered five wins to find himself in a gold medal chase.
Andre wasn't at his best in the first five encounters, but there was nothing wrong with his tennis when it mattered the most, dominating from start to finish and halting Bruguera on just six games to embrace the Olympic glory.
Agassi was the dominant figure on serve and from the baseline to take power off the rival's shots. The American lost six points behind his first serve and fended off five out of six break chances (Bruguera needed five break opportunities to grab the first and only in the second set) to keep his serve safe and mount the pressure on the rival.
On the other hand, he was all over Sergi on return, creating nine break chances and converting seven to seal the deal in no time and start a huge celebration. Overall, the American won almost twice as many points, forcing Bruguera to make 40 forced errors and prevailing in the other segments to topple the opponent and march towards the gold.
With the advantage in the shortest and mid-range exchanges, Andre could play his tennis and move the Spaniard from one side to another, earning those seven breaks to dominate from start to finish. Agassi broke in the third game of the match, held at love with an ace to cement the advantage and delivered another break at love that pushed him 4-1 in front after Bruguera's double fault.
Serving for the set, the American landed an ace at 5-2 to secure the opener, dropping two points behind the initial shot and hoping for more of the same in the rest of the clash. The fourth game of the second set lasted for ten minutes, and Bruguera converted the fifth break opportunity to break back and level the score at 2-2.
Still, the Spaniard sprayed a backhand error to give serve away immediately and push Andre 3-2 in front. Returning at 5-3, Agassi broke at 15 with a forehand winner to take two sets to love lead and move closer to the gold medal.
Sergi was giving his best to stay in contention, but that wasn't possible against such a strong rival who broke him with a beautiful forehand crosscourt winner in the third set's fourth game. A deep return at 4-1 clinched another return game for the home favorite, who was now serving for the title.
In his last push to prolong the encounter, Bruguera created a break chance that Andre erased with a service winner, sealing the deal with a forehand winner two points later to become an Olympic champion and claim the 33rd ATP title, the first since Miami in March.