Agassi faces a rough road at the U.S. Open

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor

NEW YORK - This is Andre Agassi's U.S. Open, his 21st and final go-round on the courts at Flushing Meadows, his chance to bid his American fans one final, emotional farewell. Only if you're planning on heading out to the National Tennis Center to say your own goodbyes to Agassi, you might not want to wait too long.
The final Grand Slam tournament of the year conducted its draw for the men's and women's singles brackets Wednesday at the United Nations, and Agassi appears to have a rough road to the third round, let alone a third Open title. Presuming Agassi beats Romanian Andrei Pavel in Round 1, he would likely face eighth-seeded Marcos Baghdatis, the up-and-coming 21-year-old from Cyprus who has athleticism and an aggressive style of play that could give the 36-year-old Agassi serious problems.
"He's very quick, and he can take the ball early," striking it inside the baseline, said Patrick McEnroe, who will provide Open commentary for USA Network. "If Baghdatis is on form and fit, it would be very hard for Andre to win."
If the unseeded Agassi, ranked 37th, can get by Baghdatis, he still has the third seed, Ivan Ljubicic, plus a pair of former Open champs - ninth seed Andy Roddick and 15th seed Lleyton Hewitt - in his quarter of the draw.
Many would argue, though, that in men's tennis, the hardest section of the draw is the one Roger Federer is in. In that regard, Agassi has a reprieve: He had already been placed on the opposite side of the bracket from the Swiss dynamo who is the No. 1 player in the world, this year's Australian Open and Wimbledon champ and virtually unbeatable when he's not on clay.
"It's Roger and everybody else. That's what it comes down to," McEnroe said, adding: "Federer got pretty much of a dream draw. No problems for him."
As problems go, James Blake drew a big one yesterday. Blake, the American who made a captivating run in last year's Open before falling to Agassi in the quarterfinal round, is the No. 5 seed - his highest in an Open - but he finds himself in Federer's quarter of the sheet and would run into the top seed in this year's quarterfinals if he can get through his area of the draw, which includes Czech Tomas Berdych, the 12th seed.
As for the women, with `05 champ Kim Clijsters out with a wrist injury, the field, unlike the men's side, is wide open. There is, however, little home flavor to the American championship. Four of the top six seeds are Russian (France's Amelie Mauresmo is No. 1) and the best-known Americans - Lindsay Davenport (10th seed), Venus Williams (30th) and Serena Williams (wild card) - have missed long stretches this year due to injury.
Said former India Davis Cup captain Vijay Amritraj: "Among the women, if your name ends in `ic' or `ova,' you're doing very well."
The women, however, may feel like they're playing in the shadows with Agassi around. However long that lasts.
"Andre plays his last Open, and the sport will truly miss him," Amritraj said. "But new stars are born every year."