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Aggasi pulls out five-set thriller
The 35-year-old American reached the semifinals in the early hours Thursday.
NEW YORK -- Too busy still performing magic with his racket and creating memories for a new generation, Andre Agassi doesn't have the time or interest to think about retirement.
He left the U.S. Open in the wee hours Thursday morning after one more stirring match in a 20-year career filled with them.
This time, spry as ever at 35, he absorbed a beating from speedy James Blake for two sets late Wednesday night, spun the match around in the next two, then came up with scintillating shots in a fifth-set tiebreaker to win 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (6).
The victory made Agassi the oldest semifinalist since Jimmy Connors performed his own magic tricks in similarly thrilling matches on the way to the semis in 1991. On Saturday, Agassi faces another young American trying to make his mark, unseeded 22-year-old Robby Ginepri.
For the moment, any talk of Agassi retiring, playing his last match at the U.S. Open this weekend, win or lose, is premature.
"I'll gladly take somebody along the ride with me," Agassi said. "I don't know for a long time how my career is going to end. I don't know what I'm going to do, how I'm going to do it, when I'm going to do it.
"When I get that question, I'm just a bit numb to it really. I don't know what's going to happen."
Agassi owns eight Grand Slam titles, two of them at the U.S. Open in 1994 and '99. He's threatened here in recent years, reaching the final three years ago, the semis two years ago and the quarters last year. Now he may be ready to reverse that slight spiral.
"Everyone keeps asking when he's going to retire," Blake said. "He has no reason to retire. He's one of the best in the world, still chasing Grand Slams. If he's still enjoying it and still finding ways to motivate himself, I say let him play forever."
Agassi said before the tournament that he would wait until the end of the year to decide whether to play on or quit. He will weigh his desire to keep challenging himself and giving back to the game, versus his desire to spend more time with his wife, Steffi Graf, and their two young children. Of concern, too, are questions about his fragile back, which required two cortisone injections in the spine this year to calm down sciatic nerve pain from a herniated disc. That injury led to his first-round loss in the French Open and his absence from Wimbledon.
There is no doubt, though, that Agassi can keep playing at a high level when he's healthy.
"I question myself every day," Agassi said after beating Blake. "That's what I still find motivating about this. I don't have the answers, I don't pretend that I do just because I won the match. Just keep fighting and maybe something good happens."
Agassi, playing in his 20th straight U.S. Open, said that a match like this one against Blake "means as much to me as doing it in the finals."
"It's about authentic competition, getting out there and having respect for each other's game, respect for each other's person, letting it fly and letting it just be about tennis," he said.
"It's all a bit surreal. I get out there and I try to work and I come off the court and many times in my career I feel like it's been a dream. That's how it is here. It's a dream to be doing this. I feel same way with the my children, feel same way off the court. It's all surprising to me."