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With Agassi's Adieu, French Have Little to Cheer
By HARVEY ARATON


ARIS, June 3 - The French took no pleasure in the downfall of the last American man from their Grand Slam tournament here today at Roland Garros. Why would they? Of all the players on the men's tour, who better to cross international borders and transcend heated nationalistic agendas than the man who has won Grand Slam tournaments on hardcourts, grass and clay?

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With Pete Sampras in virtual, if undeclared, retirement, it is Andre Agassi who is now the most accomplished of them all, the only one to whom greatness means more than a Grand Slam tournament victory or two. Why wouldn't the French appreciate Ambassador Andre, whose game has always been best suited for fast courts but who managed to win here in 1999, when he became the only player of his generation to win a career Grand Slam.

"I feel great what I've accomplished," he said. "But it doesn't quite help right now."

On a breezy, overcast afternoon, he couldn't solve the shot making of a 21-year-old Argentine named Guillermo Coria, couldn't dictate the points in the manner that he must. Agassi lost in the quarterfinals of the French Open, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, with the crowd at Philippe Chatrier Court pleading for him to rally right down to the fatal match point.

"I've always felt a tremendous amount of support here," Agassi said. "It's a crowd that appreciates and understands the game as well as anyone.

"This year," he added, making no mention of trans-Atlantic hostilities over Iraq, "was no different.''

There was a smattering of boos in the stadium for Venus Williams on Sunday after she lost to the Russian Vera Zvonareva, but my gut tells me it was more disappointment for an error-strewn effort than it was payback for freedom fries. Before Agassi took the court today, Serena Williams dismantled the Frenchwoman Amélie Mauresmo by 6-1, 6-2. Williams was accorded the warmth she deserved for another clinical demonstration of unrelenting power tennis.

She moves on, the last American standing in Paris, to the semifinals tomorrow against Justine Henin-Hardenne. The men's draw will make do with its clever clay-court topspinners, nothing unusual for the second week here. In the year of Sampras's apparent departure, it may also be symbolic of the marketing challenge men's tennis can face when Agassi follows Sampras into daddy domesticity.

Like golf, tennis needs a Tiger. In the States, people ask who the next great American player will be, but it is fair to wonder when the rest of the world will produce even one man who is looked upon as an unquestioned citizen and continuous superstar of the world.

Lleyton Hewitt, the current No. 1 player, won a United States Open, then Wimbledon, and is zero for his last three Grand Slams. He lacks a big weapon the way Marat Safin, the handsome Russian who raised hopes by winning the United States Open in 2000 and nothing since, seems to be devoid of resolve.

Gustavo Kuerten, the charismatic Brazilian, disappointed Serena, a fan, by losing again today. Kuerten, a three-time French Open winner, and the Spaniards who dominate here seldom win on hardcourts, and some won't so much as walk on the grass even when there isn't a young male serve-and-volley player in sight.

Tennis's surface variety, the more-than-subtle differences in styles, has not stifled consistency and superstar development for the women the way it has for the men. Serena has won the last four Grand Slams and may be heading toward a sweep in one calendar year.

"Winning all four in one year would certainly rank up there with one of the most difficult things to do in all sports," Agassi said, referring more to the men. "To do it in your career is quite an achievement, something I certainly value a lot."

Brad Gilbert, the coach he has credited for moving him past his Image-Is-Everything youthful veneer, is going to try his luck with the talented but struggling American Andy Roddick. But the Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz in me keeps asking, when are the French, the Germans and the other Europeans going to step up and get with the program?

Where, for instance, is the next Ivan Lendl or Boris Becker? Since 1990, when Sampras burst onto the scene by winning the United States Open, Yanks have won 26 of 53 Grand Slam events. Agassi, the winner of eight, has, at age 33, been at it long enough to be Coria's boyhood idol.

"Listen, I'd rather not be his idol and play him on hard court than be his idol and play him on clay," Agassi said, simultaneously joking and not kidding.

The French fans stood and cheered with fervor as he waved and walked off today, headed to the grass courts, on his way to the eventual full-time raising of his young son and the child he and his wife, the retired German women's champion Steffi Graf, are expecting. If it takes that long to produce another Agassi - American, European or dual citizen - men's tennis is in for a tedious and painful run.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Although I agree that half the New Balls are headcases, don't the French want to see good tennis, no matter who is playing? And we still have Ferrero, arguably the favorite coming into the tournament, Costa's spirited defense, Verkerk the giant giantkiller and Coria, the upstart choirboy. They're like players out of an epic Tolkien novel come to life.

Oh, I forgot, they all are "clay court specialists". Never mind.
 

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That's a negative!

The French crowd and the Roland Garros spectateurs are the best people in the world. They'll fill a stadium for any player. They come for the tennis, not the celebs. And even when a Frenchman or Frenchwoman is on the dirt, they are still so respectful to the opponent, and clap for anyone's brilliant winner or incredible forced error. So, that's a negative. Agassi's gone--I think they'll live.
 

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Hurley, LMAO.
 

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Gee, it's really dumb article day isn't it? Why exactly does there need to be one player who wins everything? It makes me laugh how they say this about the men today, then tomorrow there'll be one about how pathetic is that the same woman's won the last 4 andf no-on can match her - and they won't see the hypocrisy in that at all!
 

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"when are the French, the Germans and the other Europeans going to step up and get with the program? "

Well the Aussies are on the programme, wonder if he even knows that Hewitt has won more slams than all the young American hopes put together? Then again, so's Safin and probably in a week, Ferrero. But hell, they're not French or German so clearly that doesn not count. I think I need a nice cup of tea now.
 

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Point out the French and the Germans because they are on the same boats with the Americans, no Slamer in the near future.
 

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*yawn* Why don't these writers save us the crap and just come right out and say it? "We want an English speaking champion". Every article shits out the same prejudiced crap about the up and coming players from other countries, doing their best to paint the guys are boring and talentless. Guess those writers are going to be having a rocky few years :devil:

I'm done my somewhat unrelated rant now.
 

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The French crowd and the Roland Garros spectateurs are the best people in the world. They'll fill a stadium for any player. They come for the tennis, not the celebs. And even when a Frenchman or Frenchwoman is on the dirt, they are still so respectful to the opponent, and clap for anyone's brilliant winner or incredible forced error. So, that's a negative. Agassi's gone--I think they'll live.


Well the French crowd can behave real boorish and not at all "respectful of opponent" as was again displayed today and also happened in the past when they treated the defending champ playing Agassi, very bad!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Number1Kim said:
Well the Aussies are on the programme, wonder if he even knows that Hewitt has won more slams than all the young American hopes put together?
Hewitt doesn't count according to the reporter:


"Andre Agassi is the only one to whom greatness means more than a Grand Slam tournament victory or two."


"Lleyton Hewitt, the current No. 1 player, won a United States Open, then Wimbledon, and is zero for his last three Grand Slams. He lacks a big weapon..."
 

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This is Harvey Araton, the same man who said NBC should cancel its Wimbledon coverage last year after all the Americans bombed out by the third round.

He's a champion ass-talker.
 

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well the crowd sure forgot Agassi in a hurry! :eek:
 

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All that animosity crossing the Atlantic is one-way. The French are capable of respecting other people's views.
 
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