The 2005 US Open Quarterfinals match between Andre Agassi and James Blake in New York turned out to be a classic of epic proportion and could very well be considered as one of the best tennis match that I have seen in a long, long time and there are only a few of them, so to speak.
The Elder Statesman of Tennis outlasted the younger speedy and sizzling Blake in a hotly-contested nerve-wracking five-setter where the winner was only decided in a tie-break in the fifth set with the final score of 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 (8-6).
The more than 2 hours and fifty minutes of intense see-saw battle that lasted into the wee hours of a cold morning at the prestigious Arthur Ashe Stadium at Flushing Meadows in the outskirts of the city that never sleeps was worth every money and time spent for the crowd who stayed and watched as the two protagonist waged war on the famed hard court! It’s a one for the books experience that will surely be cherished and never be forgotten.
James Blake, the first African- American to reach the Quarterfinals of the US Open since the legendary Arthur Ashe in the early 1970’s raced to an easy two-sets-to-love lead against the oldest player in the current ATP Tour.
Andre Agassi looked lost and bewildered by the dazzling speed and power of his 25-year old opponent, a native New Yorker from Yonkers although currently residing in Florida.
Blake was still ahead by Two Sets and a Break Point in the Third Set when Agassi, with his back against the wall, suddenly found his rhythm and finally woke up from his stupor by digging deep into his inborn talent and vast experience and egged on by the highly-partisan Big Apple crowd, the best returner in tennis history slowly but surely crawled out from the pits as he battled his lightning-quick foe in a fight for every point in every game in the final three sets.
It was the beginning of the end for Blake who was also known as the comeback kid of Tennis, who for a time was not even sure if he would be able to play tennis again. In 2004, he broke his neck, had a bout with shingles and overcame the death of his father to cancer as he resurrected from the dead of ATP ranking from his lowest of 210 to Number 49 and gained a wild card entry at the Open. His road to the Quarterfinals is a magical ride by itself counting this year’s No. 2 seed, Rafael Nadal among his victims until his run was halted by the ageless Andre Agassi.
With all the drama and suspense unfolding in the Open spectators’ eyes normally seen in a beautifully crafted Martin Scorsese movie, Agassi managed to came out alive from the war where many people considered the hard fought match as one of the greatest come from behind wins in tennis world’s best loved icon’s long and illustrious career for the simple reason that he is more known for leading the way rather than coming back from the grave as he began to pepper his Davis Cup teammate and fellow American with savvy and precision tennis.
But James Blake, the fighter in him, refused to budge an inch especially in the deciding fifth set tie-breaker as he repeatedly rose to the occasion and countered with his powerful serve and forehand to hold Agassi at bay but only for a time for this time Agassi won’t be denied as he snatched the match away from the game opposition for the final score that does not reflect the intensity of the game in the earlier sets.
It is only fitting that when asked after the epic battle, Andre Agassi told the still delirious and appreciative crowd, "At 1:15 in the morning for 20,000 people to still be here, I wasn't the winner, tennis was."
"I don't know if I've ever felt this good here before," very well said, indeed.