In a long, tension-filled night that stretched into Thursday morning at the U.S. Open, Andre Agassi took a pounding for two sets from a sizzling James Blake, pounced back at him for two more, then survived a tiebreaker to win in a wondrous five-set drama.
Initially helpless against the dazzling speed and precision of Blake – dubbed the new “Cinderella Man” – Agassi asserted himself in the third set, turned the match around and looked fresher at the end of a 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (6) triumph that put him in the semis – two wins from capturing the title he won in 1994 and ’99.
“It couldn’t have been more fun to lose,” Blake, 25, told Agassi, 35, as they embraced at the net as a still-packed Arthur Ashe Stadium resounded in a lengthy standing ovation.
“At 1:15 in the morning for 20,000 people to still be here, I wasn’t the winner, tennis was,” Agassi (dubbed “Andre the Giant”) told the crowd. “I don’t know if I’ve ever felt this good here before.”
Still, for those keeping score, Blake’s girlfriend, 5’10” South Florida star volleyball player Jennifer Scholle, got more TV airtime watching the game than did Agassi’s wife, tennis legend Steffi Graf.
Calling the focus “interesting,” Scholle tells the New York Post: “Obviously, the attention is because James is playing so amazing, and he does have such an amazing story as well, all the hardship he went through last year.” Blake’s woes included the left side of his face being paralyzed by a viral infection brought on by the stress caused by the death of his father in May 2004.
Scholle also tells the Post that she has “no idea” about the future of their relationship.
As for Agassi, awaiting him on Saturday will be U.S. Davis Cup teammate Robby Ginepri, an unsung, unseeded 22-year-old who reached his first major semifinal.
“Saturday is going to be a blast,” Agassi said, according to the Associated Press. “The whole weekend is going to be a blast.”