Wednesday, November 28, 2007

2000 Wimbledon SF: Rafter def. Agassi

Rafter def. Agassi: 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.
Classic: Yes.
Rating: 96.

The Plot:
Patrick Rafter was bidding to reach the Wimbledon final for the first time in 2000. But first he had to defeat the best returner in the game, Andre Agassi, in the semifinal.

The Match: Both men take a few games before they settle in, but there are no breaks of serve until 5-6, when Agassi plays a poor service game to lose the set. Rafter gains the momentum and breaks in the 2nd set to go up 2-0, before Agassi comes roaring back. Both men are playing great tennis, but Agassi finds a higher gear and breaks Rafter with some phenomenal returns and passes to take the 2nd set.

The 3rd set is a strange affair. Agassi seems to be in the drivers seat, but he plays a horrible game to lose his serve and give Rafter a 5-3 advantage. Agassi breaks back, and holds serve until 5-6, when he again plays a horrible game to lose the set. Agassi then breaks Rafter in the opening game of the 4th set, and manages to maintain this advantage throughout the 4th set, even though Rafter is putting a lot of pressure on Agassi.

The 5th set is a tense affair. Rafter faces break points against him in the opening game, but gets out of it. At 3-2, Rafter breaks Agassi, playing some great tennis, and then holds onto the break advantage until he serves out the match at 5-4.

The bottom line: Rafter plays a tactically very smart match: On serve he sticks to his serve-volley game, but on the return games he uses a slow backhand slice that begs Agassi to attack the net. Agassi does not volley competently to do so, and so must hit winners off these slow shots, which creates a lot of unforced errors. Rafter plays many spectacular volleys at net; Agassi produces many good passing shots and lobs. The contrast in style makes for a great match. Rafter is playing his very best, but I feel Agassi is just slightly below his best, and he seems to get frustrated at times. All that said, this is an absolutely classic encounter, overflowing with spectacularly played points.

Available in the Wimbledon classic match series.

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