While each of the four Majors are deemed to be the pinnacle of the sport in their own way, one may argue that Wimbledon is perhaps the most coveted of them all. Wimbledon brings with it culture, tradition, symbolism, history and more.
While all champions and others have embraced all that Wimbledon stands for, there have been the outliers who have spoken out against its traditionalism. Of these names that come to mind, none is more discernible than Andre Agassi.
In this article, we look at Agassi’s journey leading to the Wimbledon 1992 title.
The Edberg-Becker Era Draws to an End
The late 1980s saw the Stefan Edberg- Boris Becker clashes at Wimbledon, with them playing three consecutive finals between 1988-1990 at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. The 1990s will be remembered for the Pete Sampras dominance at Wimbledon, with him winning seven titles in eight years from 1993-2000, proving himself to be one of the greatest ever on those grass courts.
However, while Sampras ensured that any glimmers of a late career Wimbledon title for either of Becker or Edberg was not to be, the end of the title clashes between them was put to rest first by Michael Stich (1991) and then Andre Agassi and Goran Ivanisevic (both in 1992).
Agassi’s Early Years
Agassi broke into the top 100 of the ATP rankings in 1986 and by 1988 he had won six ATP tournaments, voted ‘Most Improved Player of the Year’ and ended the year at world number three, ahead of both Edberg and Becker.
Making some strange choices at this stage of his career, Agassi opted to not play the Australian Open for eight years (although he ended up winning it four times), and opted out of Wimbledon between 1988-1990, publicly stating that the traditionalism of Wimbledon was reason for him not to participate.
A baseliner with a strong return game, Agassi was tipped to be a French Open champion.
1990 and 1991 saw him make the finals at Roland Garros only to end up as runner-up on both occasions. Agassi made the US Open final in 1990, but lost to little known countryman Pete Sampras who Agassi had spoken of recently as ‘feeling bad for as he was never going to make it as a pro’.
The 1992 Wimbledon
Having won both the Australian and French Open in 1992, Jim Courier was hoping to become the first man since Rod Laver to win the first three majors of the year.
With grass court specialists Becker and Edberg very much in the reckoning, Pete Sampras up and coming, defending champion Michael Stich a factor on grass and the wily aging John McEnroe around, there were too many contenders for anyone to give Agassi a serious shot at being a contender or even a dark horse.
With an early third round loss for top seed and thus far ‘Player of the Year’, Jim Courier, the star-studded quarter-final line up saw Edberg, Becker, Sampras, Stich, McEnroe, alongside Agassi, Ivanisevic and lesser rated Guy Forget.
As murmurs of another Becker-Edberg Centre Court final grew louder, the likes of Agassi and Ivanisevic had other plans. Baseliner and Wimbledon non-favorite Agassi took out three time champion Boris Becker, where as young big serving Croat Ivanisevic took out Edberg.
With Ivanisevic defeating the rising Sampras and Agassi taking out veteran John McEnroe in the semi-finals, the finals saw unheralded Agassi play Ivanisevic, and a crowd of contenders, favorites and Wimbledon champions all eliminated.
Agassi v Ivanisevic Final
Although there was no strong favorite in this unexpected finale, Ivanisevic may have started as a slight favorite given his playing style over the baseliner American.
However, with Agassi having beaten McEnroe and Becker and Ivanisevic defeating Sampras and Edberg, both were high on confidence coming into the final. A tight first set saw no breaks of serve witnessing a strong clash between the Croat serve and the American’s return, before Ivanisevic took the tie-break 10-8.
With Agassi winning the next two sets 6-4, 6-4, the Croat came back strong to win the fourth 6-1 and take the match into a decider.
The final set saw a display of nerves from both and some tight service games, but with Ivanisevic serving to stay in the match, the moment got the better of him and let his serve down and believe it or not, Agassi defied all odds and himself to win his first major title at Wimbledon of all venues.
This was to be the beginning of a long, storied career that saw Agassi becoming the first man since Rod Laver to win all four majors, and in turn write his name in the history books as one of the greats in the sport.