Hitting rock bottom in 1997, Andre Agassi was back at his best in the following years. The American claimed five Grand Slam and eight Masters 1000 crowns since 1999, becoming world no. 1 in September that year for the first time in three and a half years!
Agassi turned 30 in 2000 and was still one of the players to beat under the close leadership of Brad Gilbert, battling against the new generation and staying at the top until 2003 when he finally started to lose the ground.
The last season of the charismatic star came in 2006, launching it from the top-10 and playing eight ATP tournaments before that emotional retirement at the US Open, one of the most beautiful moments in the history of our sport.
A year earlier, Andre claimed his 60th and last ATP title in Los Angeles on July 31. The home favorite toppled Gilles Muller 6-4, 7-5 in an hour and 28 minutes, becoming the eighth player in the Open era with 60 ATP crowns after Rod Laver, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Pete Sampras and Guillermo Vilas.
Andre was the top seed, losing just one set en route to the final, his 88th in a career, competing for the first time since Roland Garros due to a chronic sciatic nerve problem. In the first round, the veteran toppled Jean-Rene Lisnard 6-1, 6-0 in 47 minutes, advancing into the quarter-final with another quick triumph over Kevin Kim.
In the battle for the last four, Agassi prevailed against Paradorn Srichaphan 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in an hour and 52 minutes. The veteran did more damage on the return, converting four out of 12 chances to book the spot in the semis where he delivered another flawless performance to oust Juan Ignacio Chela and reach the title match.
There, the 35-year-old performed in another rock-solid encounter against Gilles Muller, the youngster from Luxembourg who entered his second ATP final.
Serving at 70%, Andre saved both break chances to keep the pressure on the other side.
Gilles gave his best to stay in touch but couldn't match the rival's pace, suffering two breaks at the beginning of the match and at 5-5 in set number two to end on the losing side.
It was the fourth title in Los Angeles for Andre who made a debut in 1987, joining Frank Parker, Roy Emerson and Jimmy Connors of the most successful players. Agassi became the oldest ATP champion since Jimmy Connors in Tel Aviv 1989, getting the opportunity to celebrate what turned out to be the last ATP title with the home fans.
Carried by this momentum, Andre was the finalist of the following two significant events as well, losing to Rafael Nadal in Montreal and Roger Federer at the US Open, becoming the oldest Grand Slam finalist since Ken Rosewall 31 years earlier!
"It feels amazing. These moments don't happen very often anymore and I'm taking it in," Agassi said. "It's great to let my game fly and be eager to scamper after shots you're not sure you're going to get.
I'd never felt that before and it's a scary thing when you're looking for a doctor to tell you, 'You're not playing anymore.' It's a helpless feeling. It was very possible, and still is, that it gets to a point when I can't do it."