Agassi Needs Another Injection for Back

Team Infidel

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As bad as his back has been, Andre Agassi never resorted to taking injections during a tournament. This U.S. Open is hardly any event, though: It's his final one, and Agassi now has received two types of shots to deal with the pain.

Agassi was given an injection of anti-inflammatory medication Friday, his trainer, Gil Reyes, said in a telephone interview. Unlike Tuesday, when Agassi went to a hospital for a cortisone shot, this procedure was done at Agassi's hotel, because his back hurt too much for a car ride.

The eight-time Grand Slam title winner didn't practice at all Friday, the day before his third-round match against German qualifier Benjamin Becker.

Agassi was examined by the U.S. Open's chief medical officer, Brian Hainline, following his theatrical five-set, 3-hour, 48-minute second-round victory over eighth-seeded Marcos Baghdatis, a match that stretched from Thursday night into Friday.

A hobbling Agassi appeared to have trouble swatting autographed balls into the stands when his victory was complete and shifted in his chair as he tried to find a comfortable position during the postmatch news conference. Reyes said the 36-year-old Agassi needed to lie on the ground outside the players' lounge in Arthur Ashe Stadium while waiting to be driven to his hotel.

"Andre's back was stiffening up. Pretty excruciating," Reyes said. "The inflammation was causing tremendous pain and an obvious lack of mobility."

Agassi has dealt with a painful sciatic nerve for some time now; it's why he played only 15 matches in 2006 before the Open.

Reyes estimated Agassi has had eight to 10 cortisone injections over the past four years, including the one after his 3 1/2-hour first-round victory. There are limits to what are considered safe doses and frequency of such shots, which is why Agassi was given a different medicine Friday by a tournament doctor.

"Believe me, I'll exhaust all possibilities short of taking too many risks for long term," Agassi said. "I do want to make sure I give myself the best look here, but I don't want to compromise the rest of my life."

Each time he steps on court could be Agassi's last match as a pro, and Saturday afternoon he'll face Becker, who's ranked 112th and won the 2004 NCAA singles championship for Baylor University. Benjamin's not related to Boris - a question he gets everywhere he goes, of course.

Becker, 25, grew up pretending he was Agassi when playing with friends, and he tried to catch a glimpse of the match against Baghdatis, but was shooed into a tunnel because there weren't seats available. Becker did get a sense of what it was like to hear 23,000 fans rooting for Agassi and against his opponent.

"I'm trying to prepare for that, because that's something I've never, never experienced," said Becker, who recalled trying to deal with venomous crowds of about 200 when he was in college.

"That's why I play tennis. That's also why I practiced and everything, to play in the atmosphere like that and in a stadium like that against a guy like that, a guy like Agassi," Becker said. "That's what I been looking forward to since I started playing tennis."

Top-ranked Roger Federer enjoying watching Agassi-Baghdatis, even though he had to be awake and ready for his own 11 a.m. start Friday. Watching on TV while in bed, Federer said he was just about peeking out from under his blankets, nervous for both players.

"Fantastic. Loved it," Federer said. "Back and forth. The cramping. The respect for each other. The way the fans got into it. It was just great. Agassi the winner in the end - it's a great story."

Federer, who's all of 25, knows what it's like to be part of such a draining match.

"I was tired the next day - and the day after that," Federer said.

Which is why Agassi's team might be keeping close tabs on the weather: The forecast for Saturday called for a 100 percent chance of rain.

"I would only imagine that any additional rest would be a help," Reyes said.

Agassi's father told ABC News he hopes his son decides to quit before getting on the court again.

"If it's up to me, I won't let him go to play tomorrow," Mike Agassi said. "He hasn't talked to me, (but) that's how I feel about it. I don't think he should play."

Reyes, though, said there hadn't been any consideration of pulling out.

"The hope is obviously that Andre be able to compete and that his body can match his heart," said Reyes, Agassi's trainer for 17 years. "There is no big picture. This is the big picture. He must bring his all and leave his all. Once Andre announced his intention to retire, everything became about getting him here. Now that he's here ... he has no option but to do everything he can to fight to the finish."