#4 Only in New York

Andre Agassi def James Blake 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 Quarterfinals 9/7/05

I have been to many exciting night session matches at the Open but this one was unforgettable.  I can’t remember the specifics about why I ended up going to the Open this night but I’m sure glad I did. The night began with a competitive women’s match in which Elena Dementieva beat Lindsay Davenport, 6-1 3-6 7-6.

As a result, the much-anticipated Agassi/Blake match didn’t start until about 10:15pm. Blake started out on fire, demolishing the ball and playing at a superior level.  Agassi was struggling and soon he found himself down two sets to none. At this point some people decided to go home since it was getting pretty late for a Wednesday night and it looked like a quick straight sets Blake victory. In fact, Agassi was 0 for 13 when losing the first two sets at the Open so things weren’t looking good. I crept down to the Loge section and sat in a random seat, hoping that the rightful ticketholders were gone for good. From my new seat, I had an amazing view right above the baseline and a bit to the right of the famous J-Block which is what James Blake’s supporters were known as.

Blake wasn’t able to maintain his spectacular level of play from the 1st two sets and Agassi fought back winning the 3rd and 4th. It was on to a 5th and deciding set and the crowd was going crazy. The majority of the crowd was pulling for Agassi as he was one of tennis’ most popular stars and also because at 35 years old he was nearing the end of his career. Even though Agassi was the crowd favorite, the US Open fans had a lot of respect for Blake who had suffered a terrible illness the year before and had worked very hard to get back to winning form on the tennis tour. I really liked both players so I was a bit conflicted with whom to root for but I found myself pulling a bit more for Agassi.

In the fifth set, Blake got the first service break and had the chance to serve for the match at 5-4. Fans were at the edge of their seats practically jumping up and screaming after every point. The atmosphere was electric. Somehow with the help of the fans, Agassi broke back just as he was on the verge of losing the entire match. Every point was so crucial that during play it was incredibly tense but after each point the crowd was insane. It became 6 all which meant that the match would be decided by a tie-break. Blake led 3-0 in the tie-break but Agassi continued fighting for every point with the help of the crowd. Blake then advanced to a 5-4 lead with two serves on his racquet. With a forehand return winner and a Blake error, the score was now favoring Agassi 6-5 giving him match point. Blake saved Agassi's first match point with a forehand winner. At 6-6 Agassi had one of his most amazing points drawing Blake in with a drop shot and then ripping a backhand down the line for a winner. On match point #2 Agassi nailed a forehand winner on a Blake second serve and after almost three hours he emerged victorious.

Blake had many opportunities but in the end it seemed like the crowd willed the win for Agassi. In an on- court interview after the match Agassi said, "It's 1:15 in the morning and for 20,000 people to still be here, I wasn't the winner, tennis was."

This match is considered by many to be one of the most exciting in the history of the US Open. A lot of comparisons were made between this and the famous 1991 Jimmy Conners/Aaron Krickstein match. It was similar in that it featured two Americans, one of whom was an aging superstar who found themselves on the verge of defeat only to turn the match around with the support of the crowd.

This was a classic night match, one that could only happen at the US Open.  You can see/hear how rowdy the crowd was especially towards the end of the match; I have never experienced anything like this since!