As his racquet fell to the ground, he raised his arms to the sky and began to sob. The date was 6 June 1999 and after an epic five-setter, Andre Agassi had achieved what he had believed to be the impossible: winning Roland-Garros. “My first feeling was just sheer shock that it was really over,” he said.
RG Legends: Andre Agassi looks back on his 1999 win
A losing finalist in 1990 and 1991, Andre Agassi discusses his long-awaited 1999 Roland-Garros triumph.
So near yet so far
Those emotions had much to do with the tournament setting and the backstory of the kid from Vegas. A runner-up to Andres Gomez in 1990 and again to Jim Courier the following year, Agassi thought his chance of lifting the Coupe des Mousquetaires had gone for good, a feeling that only intensified in the lead-up to the tournament. “And then in 1999 I’m 29 years old,” he explained. “Two years earlier I’d fallen from No. 1 in the world to No. 140 in the world and I’d climbed all the way back up again. But still at this time clay was very difficult for me. I almost didn’t play the tournament because of a shoulder issue I was having.”
Rain brings salvation
Little wonder, then, that the American felt apprehensive as he walked out at Court Philippe-Chatrier to take on Andrei Medvedev, a player high on confidence again following a pep talk from Agassi himself only a few weeks earlier. Fully focused on the job in hand, the Ukrainian was in total command in the opening two sets and seemingly on his way to the title. Then the rain came, halting play for 20 minutes. The break was a blessing for Agassi. “I was not moving, not playing well,” he recalled. “And the rains came and it stopped the match and I got a chance to gather myself, talk to my coach. And I really settled down.”
A truly special moment
When the players returned from the locker room, Agassi suddenly found his rhythm. Surviving two double faults and a break point at 4-4 in the third, he went on to break his opponent’s serve and clinch the set. As the match tilted in his favour, Agassi began to play with increasing freedom, keeping his emotions fully in check until Medvedev hit one final forehand long to bring the match to an end. In winning 1-6 2-6 6-4 6-3 6-4, Agassi became the first player to claim the four Grand Slam titles on four different surfaces. “I’ve got to say it was the best moment I’ve ever had on a tennis court, as far as an accomplishment goes,” said Agassi. “And the feeling was me living the rest of my life truly believing I wouldn’t have another regret as it relates to my career.”