Agassi's final farewell to Wimbledon

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Andre Agassi bowed out of Wimbledon for the final time on Saturday, beaten in straight sets by Rafael Nadal.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:35 IST
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A tearful Andre Agassi bowed out of Wimbledon for the final time on Saturday, beaten in straight sets by Rafael Nadal. Defending women's champion Venus Williams also departed, upset in three sets by Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, 7-6 (8), 4-6, 6-4. Playing in his 14th Wimbledon before retirement later this year, the 36-year-old Agassi couldn't keep up with the relentless power hitting of the 20-year-old Spaniard and fell 7-6 (5), 6-2, 6-4. In a bigger surprise, three-time champion Williams was eliminated by the 29th-ranked Jankovic amid a flood of unforced errors and double faults. With her sister Serena out injured, there will be no Williams in the Wimbledon final for the first time since 1999. The sisters have won five of the last six titles. "It definitely feels really weird," Venus said. Williams lost on Court 2, known as the "Graveyard of Champions" for its history of major upsets. Others who have lost on that court include Serena Williams, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras. Venus Williams had 50 winners, but hurt her chances with 12 double faults and 54 errors. The 21-year-old Jancovic, who reached the final of a Grand Slam for the first time, had 27 winners and 21 errors. The match slipped away from Williams when she double-faulted three times in a row and was broken at love to go down 5-3. With Jankovic serving for the match, Williams broke back for 5-4. But Williams couldn't hold in the next game, saving three match points before double-faulting again to set up a fourth. She ended the match with a forehand into the net. "At the end I was just so nervous," Jankovic said. "The racket felt like (it weighed) 30 pounds. I was just telling myself to hang in there and hopefully I will pull it out." Williams said she had pain in her left wrist, but didn't blame that for the defeat. "I had some opportunities out there, but unfortunately she played some good tennis," she said. "I think against a player like me she feels maybe she has nothing to lose." For one last time, Agassi stood in the middle of the court after the match and blew kisses and bowed to all corners of the arena. Then, in a break with Wimbledon tradition, he addressed the crowd by microphone to say goodbye. "It's been a lot of incredible years here," Agassi said, wiping away tears. "I'll never be able to repay you for how you've embraced me over the years and I thank you for that. You guys are awesome tennis fans, you have shown me so much love." Then Agassi took his bag, stopped to sign a few autographs and gave a final wave as he walked off the most famous court in tennis. Among those in the crowd was his wife, Steffi Graf, a seven-time Wimbledon champion who sat in the Royal Box along with other tournament winners and sports champions. "It's been a privilege to be out there again for one last time," Agassi said. "I'll look back at this as one of my most memorable experiences. For me, this means as much as winning, saying goodbye." Agassi said he'll miss the Wimbledon crowds and atmosphere more than anything. "This was a place that first taught me to respect the sport, to really appreciate the opportunity and privilege it is to play a game for a living, to play tennis," he said. "Whether they're queuing up on the outside or sitting with their umbrellas on Centre Court, it's quite a love for the sport. That's what separates this from every other event." In other matches, 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt, seeded No. 6, cruised into the fourth round with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win over Belgium's Olivier Rochus. Fifth-seeded Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia squandered a two-set lead and was upset by Russia's Dmitry Tursunov 5-7, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (6), 6-2. He's the second-highest seeded player ousted so far, following No. 4 David Nalbandian's exit on Friday. Nadal will next face Irakli Labadze of Georgia, who advanced when Mardy Fish retired because of illness after losing the first set 6-2. In women's play, top-seeded Amelie Mauresmo beat Australia's Nicole Pratt 6-1, 6-2. No. 4 Maria Sharapova, the 2004 champion, swept into the fourth round with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Amy Frazier, playing in her 18th Wimbledon. Two other Russians - No. 7 Elena Dementieva and No. 9 Anastasia Myskina - also won in straight sets. Nadal, the two-time French Open champion, transferred his clay-court baseline game to the grass of Centre Court to reach the fourth round of Wimbledon for the first time. It marked the changing of the guard, with the popular American leaving the All England Club stage for good and Nadal making his breakthrough on the fast surface. Nadal had just turned 6 when Agassi won the first of his eight Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon in 1992. "He is one of the best players," Nadal said in remarks to the crowd. "I want to congratulate Andre. He is unbelievable. Today I played for sure my best match on grass." Agassi wasn't just beaten by Nadal, he was dominated. Nadal had 44 winners and only 10 unforced errors, while Agassi had 23 winners and 18 errors. "I just wanted to give myself a chance," Agassi said. "I went out there today and he just beat me. I was hoping for too much." The Spaniard isn't renowned for his serve, and Agassi is considered one of the best returners in the history of the game. Yet, Nadal had 18 aces and won 64 of 79 points on serve. Not only did he never face a break point - Agassi never even got to deuce on Nadal's serve. "Maybe I served the best in my career," he said. Fittingly, Nadal finished the match with an ace - a wide-swinging serve that gave Agassi no chance. Nadal leaped in the air and held up his arms, but celebrated in a relatively muted fashion. The two embraced at the net, and Nadal gave Agassi a pat on the back as they headed to their chairs. "Today I played my best match, but it's not my day," Nadal said. "It's his day." (AP)

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