US Open 1994: Unseeded Andre Agassi writes history



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US Open 1994: Unseeded Andre Agassi writes history

Andre Agassi was the leader of the new generation born in the early 70's, making a flying progress through the ATP rankings and becoming a Grand Slam contender way before turning 20. Between Roland Garros 1990-1991, Andre lost three Grand Slam finals and that all changed when he won Wimbledon in 1992, against all odds. He was unable to carry that form into 1993 as well, winning two smaller titles and playing just 44 matches due to a tendinitis in his right wrist that required a surgery in December.

It could have threatened his entire career but everything went well and Andre was determined to return even stronger, getting himself in the best possible physical shape and starting to work with Brad Gilbert in Miami 1994.

Brad prepared the best possible strategy to draw the most from Agassi's shots and he turned him into a completely different player who knew how to control every segment of his game in order to cross the finish line before his opponents, instead of chasing a 6-1 6-1 win like he did before.

Pete Sampras defeated Agassi in the final of Miami but Andre was on the right track despite some ups and downs in the next few months. In Toronto, Andre saved two match points against David Wheaton in the third round and he went on to win the title, his first under Gilbert's guidance that gave him a huge boost before the US Open.

After a poor run in Los Angeles and New Haven, Andre had entered the US Open ranked 20, not being seeded for the first time since 1987 when he was still 17! After solid wins over Robert Eriksson, Guy Forget and Wayne Ferreira, Andre had to survive a stern test from his compatriot Michael Chang, scoring a 6-1 6-7 6-3 3-6 6-1 win in three hours and five minutes to reach the quarters.

Despite a five-setter, Andre had the control over the scoreboard and this was a huge difference compared to some tight matches from the past, as he kept his focus until breaking Chang's resistance in the deciding set.

Thomas Muster was his next rival and the Austrian could stay in touch with the American only in the opening set, with Agassi sailing through sets two and three to book his place in the semi-final. There, he topped world number 9 Todd Martin 6-3 4-6 6-2 6-3 for his second US Open final, outplaying his rival with an error-free game and a superb performance on the return that kept Martin with no chance.

In the title match, Andre Agassi defeated Michael Stich 6-1 7-6 7-5 in an hour and 56 minutes to lift his second Grand Slam crown, the first at the US Open, also becoming the first unseeded champion since Fred Stolle in 1966 and the first who had to beat five seeds en route to a Major title since Vic Seixas in 1954 when there were 20 seeds! The German had 39 service winners and 14 from his volley but he was unable to match Agassi's pace from the baseline, wasting the only two break points he earned and getting broken four times from 11 chances he gave to Andre.

Michael was three points away from winning sets two and three but it wasn't to be for him against more focused and determined player who grabbed both sets to seal the deal and start a huge celebration, returning to the pinnacle of the men's tennis where he always belonged.

Agassi was there with Stich in the shortest points and his domination in the more extended rallies was never in doubt, keeping his shots under control and drawing a lot of errors from the other side of the net. A backhand down the line return winner sent Andre in front in the very first game of the match when he broke at love and he saved two break points in the following game with great serves to cement the lead and move 2-0 up.

Another great return pushed Agassi 3-0 up and the opening set was in his hands after the third break in game seven, claiming the opener 6-1 in 24 minutes. Stich saved two break points in the second game of the second set and we saw great serving from both to set up a tie break (Agassi lost five points in six service games).

Andre opened it with a service winner and he moved 2-1 up with a perfect lob winner after equally good return. Michael pulled the mini-break back but Andre forged another lead in the sixth point following another great return that he placed under Michael's feet.

Stich saved two set points at 3-6 but a service winner sealed the deal for Andre who clinched the breaker 7-5, moving two sets to love up after just 72 minutes. The German had to fend off three break points at the start of the third set to avoid an even bigger deficit and he stayed in touch with Agassi until the 11th game when he got broken at 15, allowing Andre to serve for the title in the following game.

Three unforced errors from Stich sent him 40-15 up and he secured one of his most important wins ever with a forehand winner, throwing his racquet in disbelief and writing one of the best stories ever at the US Open. ALSO READ: September 12, 2004: Roger Federer completes the best GS season since 1988