Archive for Saturday, September 2, 2006

Blake pays tribute to Agassi

American advances at U.S. Open

September 2, 2006

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— From the Day-Glo spandex tights to the hot pink vertical bars on his shirt to the white bandanna wrapped atop his head, James Blake paid tribute to Andre Agassi at the U.S. Open on Friday.

Blake donned the sort of garish ensemble Mr. Image Is Everything dared to wear more than a decade ago and, fortunately for Blake, his game looked better than his garb in a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (5) victory over Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia in the second round.

His getup was appreciated by Friday's crowd. Before the coin toss, a group of fans chanted, "Andre! Andre! Andre!" and Blake turned to give them a thumbs-up.

"I just wanted to do it once. I know Andre, how he probably doesn't want a ton of fanfare," said Blake, who got Agassi's OK for the outfit. "Andre knows we all do care about him, we all appreciate everything he's done. I think the statement was made. Now it's back to business at hand."

That includes, in the short term, a third-round match against 1998 French Open champion Carlos Moya, and in the bigger picture, the task of joining Andy Roddick and others in trying to carry U.S. tennis forward in the aftermath of the Sampras-Agassi-Courier-Chang generation.

At No. 5, Blake has his highest seeding at any Grand Slam tournament and the top placement for any American. Roddick, next at No. 9, is one victory away from a possible fourth-round match against Agassi.

No. 1 Roger Federer, the two-time defending champion, amazed himself and his opponent, Tim Henman, by swatting an on-the-move, through-the-legs shot during a 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 victory.

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