THE 2006 US OPEN
THE 2006 US OPEN
Triumph and Tears
For Graf And Agassi
Story by Diane Dunne and Roger Webster
Photos by Diane Dunne
HERE was hardly a dry eye in the house as Andre Agassi blew his last kisses and bowed goodbye to the crowd at the 2006 US Open in Flushing Meadows. The sold-out house applauded for nearly five minutes, sending him messages of love, admiration and respect for one of the best-liked players in the history of tennis, as the 36-year-old 8-time Grand Slam winner left for retirement from a sterling 21-year career.
Known as a humanitarian, he founded a school for underprivileged children and a foundation for helping the less fortunate, Andre advised, "Just use every day as an opportunity to get better, not just on the court."
His wife, former 22 Grand Slam tennis champ Steffi Graf and his two children came to support him at his last match. His had to explain that it was okay for their dad to cry, as he left the stadium with tears streaming down his cheeks.
She walks on the court and men stop in mid-sentence. Long, lean and lovely Maria Sharapova wallops an unforgettable impact. Her "I feel pretty" TV commercial for Nike says it all. The prettiness of this creature creates a distraction, taking one off guard. But when she plays tennis, she's a whiz of a contender and champion.
Jubilant and giddy as a teenager, Maria skipped off the court carrying home the trophy and a cool $1.7 million for winning the tournament.
If ever there was greatness in today's tennis, it's embodied by the Swiss star Roger Federer, 25, the number one tennis player in the world. His forehands, backhands, movements and motions are elegance in action—a Fred Astaire on the tennis court. He not only won the men's finals at the US Open, but also set a record as the first player in the world to win both Wimbledon and the US Open three years in a row.
Even golfing champ Tiger Woods sat in the Federer box to see Roger set a new record.
The tournament opened with a tribute to Agassi and closed by honoring two great women. Martina Navratilova, retired twice before but came back. Now, at 49, she won her 59th Grand Slam title playing mixed doubles with Bob Bryan and adamantly declared this her final-final-final appearance in matches. Navratilova won more singles titles—167—than any other woman and is the consummate competitor.
The tennis center was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center, honoring the woman who has done more for women's tennis than anyone else.
Watching the two-week tournament were Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale, Jim Carey, Donald Trump, Dustin Hoffman, Anna Wintour, Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Fallon, Rosie Perez, Star Jones, Eva Mendes, Jann Werner, Sheryl Crow, Destiny's Child singer Kelly Rowland, Bill O'Reilly, Katie Couric, Donna Karan, Michael Kors, Ben Stiller, Seal with wife Heidi Klum and their two children, and Mets third baseman David Wright.