July 31, 2005 : The day Andre Agassi won his final ATP Title
Every day, Tennis Majors takes you back in time to relive a tennis event which happened on this specific day. On this day in 2005, Andre Agassi overcame the big-serving GIlles Muller to win the 60th singles title of his career
What exactly happened on that day?
On this day, July 31 in 2005, Andre Agassi, aged 35, beat Gilles Muller (6-4, 7-5) in the Los Angeles Open final to claim the 60th and final title of his Hall of Fame career. The Las Vegas Kid had only won one tournament (Cincinnati in August 2004) since his triumph at the Houston Open in April 2003. Many experts believed that he was finished. But by lifting the trophy for the fourth time in Los Angeles, Agassi reminded them that, despite his age, he was not be counted out.
The players involved: Andre Agassi and Gilles Muller
- Andre Agassi: the Las Vegas kid who became a tennis legend
Andre Agassi, the Las Vegas Kid, was a tennis legend. He had turned professional in 1986 and soon became one of tennis’ biggest superstars thanks to his incredible skills on the court as well as his interesting outfits, including the iconic denim shorts and the pink bike shorts (worn as underlayer). Taught by his father and bred at the Nick Bollettieri Academy, Agassi’s game relied on a great return (the best of its time) and on hitting the ball on the rise on both sides with incredible power, which was revolutionary at the time and then copied by generations of tennis players.
After finishing runner-up in three Grand Slams, once at the 1990 US Open and twice in Roland-Garros (1990 and 1991), Agassi claimed his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 1992, defeating big server Goran Ivanisevic in the final (6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4). This title was followed by the 1994 US Open and the 1995 Australian Open, the only time he beat his eternal rival, Pete Sampras, in a Grand Slam final (4-6,6-1, 7-6, 6-4). He reached the world No 1 ranking shortly after this success, on April 10, 1995, for 30 weeks. In 1996 and 1997, despite winning the gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Agassi went through a very difficult times and his ranking dropped as low as No 141 in the world.
Displaying great humility, Agassi went back to play on the ATP Challenger Tour at the end of 1997 to regain his form and confidence. He slowly came back to the top in 1998, finishing the year as world No 6, although his Grand Slam results were disappointing. In 1999, he eventually triumphed at Roland-Garros, eight years after his second runner-up finish, after a dramatic match where he edged Andrei Medvedev (1-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4). That year, after finishing runner-up to Sampras at Wimbledon (6-3, 6-4, 7-5), he claimed a second US Open crown and regain the No 1 spot for 52 additional weeks. In the following years, he added three more Australian Open titles to his resume (2000, 2001, 2003) and appeared for the final time at the top of the ATP ranking on September 7, 2003.
In 2004, Agassi started the season well, with an amazing five-set semi-final at the Australian Open which he lost against Marat Safin (7-6, 7-6, 5-7, 1-6, 6-3), followed by another semi-final in Indian Wells, losing to the new world No 1 Roger Federer, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. At 34, the legend was still alive, but in the following months, injuries prevented him from performing at his best. At Roland-Garros, he lost in the first round against qualifier Jerome Haehnel, suffering from back pain that would force him to withdraw from Wimbledon. In July 2005, he was still ranked No 6 in the world thanks to his quarter-final appearances he had reached at the 2004 US Open and at the 2005 Australian Open (defeated each time by Roger Federer). But he had only claimed one title in the last 18 months. Troubled by injuries, Agassi had lost in the first round of Roland-Garros in May, and he had not played any other tournament before arriving in Los Angeles, in late July.
- Gilles Muller: the big-serving left-hander from Luxembourg
Gilles Muller, from Luxembourg, was born in 1983. The big-serving left-hander entered the top 100 in August 2004, after he reached the final in Washington, where he lost to Lleyton Hewitt (6-3, 6-4) after having edged world No 6 Andre Agassi in the semi-final. In 2005, he made himself famous at Wimbledon, where, thanks to his aggressive game and massive serve, he managed to eliminate world No 3, Rafael Nadal, in the second round (6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4), before losing to Richard Gasquet (7-6, 6-3, 6-3) in the third round. In July 2005, Gilles Muller entered the Los Angeles draw as the world No 75.
The place: The Los Angeles Tennis Center
The Los Angeles Tennis Tournament was held for the first time in 1927, and since 1984, it was hosted at the Los Angeles Tennis Center, which belonged to UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). It included a women’s draw until 1974. But from 1975, it became a men-only event played on hard court, a few weeks before the US Open. Its position on the American calendar attracted several great players, and its former champions included American tennis legends such as Jimmy Connors (1973, 1974, 1982, 1984), John McEnroe (1981, 1986), Pete Sampras (1991, 1999) and Agassi himself (1998, 2001, 2002).
The facts: Agassi wins final in straight sets
In July 2005, when Agassi entered the Los Angeles Open, no one knew what to expect from the American legend, who had not played a single match since his first-round loss at the French Open two months earlier. On one hand, Agassi had not competed as often in the past 12 months as earlier, as he was now 35 years old and he was bothered by nagging injuries. He had skipped Wimbledon in 2004 and 2005, and his last two appearances at Roland-Garros had been very brief as he had lost in the first round each time. On the other hand, Agassi had still managed to win the ATP Masters series event in Cincinnati in 2004, and had reached two Grand Slam quarter-finals in New York and in Melbourne, losing only to Roger Federer, proving that he could still compete with the best in major tournaments.
Since his first round 6-1, 6-0 victory against world No 109 Jean-Rene Lisnard, it was clear that Agassi had skipped Wimbledon only to recover and sharpen his game. Only Paradorn Srichaphan, from Thailand, managed to win one set against the Las Vegas Kid on his way to the final.
There, the tall southpaw Gilles Muller stood between Agassi and the American’s 60th ATP title. Agassi knew Muller and his deadly serve already, as he had lost to him the previous year in Washington (6-4, 7-5).
In the first set, Agassi dropped only two points on his serve in the first set, which he took, 6-4. In the second set, at 5-5, Muller, who maybe respected Agassi too much as his childhood idol, saw his opponent come back from 40-0 to break his serve. A few points later, Agassi had sealed his 60th title on the tour.
“It’s been a dream week for me, for sure,” Agassi said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I couldn’t have expected to come in here and find my comfort level so early on in the tournament and get better with each match. It’s a great sign.”
What next: Another Grand Slam final for Agassi
In the following weeks, Agassi would achieve amazing results, reaching the final in Montreal (defeated by Rafael Nadal, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2) and at the US Open, his last Grand Slam final, runner-up to Roger Federer in four sets of high-level tennis (6-3, 2-6, 7-6, 6-1).
The 60th title conquered by the Las Vegas Kid in Los Angeles would also be his last. Only in 2006 would he leave the Top 10 once and for all. Playing only eight tournaments that year, Agassi would put an end to his career at Flushing Meadows. After delivering a final epic fight to prevail against world No 8 Marcos Baghdatis (6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 7-5), he would be defeated by Benjamin Becker in the third round, 7-5, 6-7, 6-4, 7-5.
Gilles Muller would win two titles on the tour, both in 2017 (in Sydney and s’Hertogenbosch). That year, in July, the left-hander would also reach his career-best ranking of world No 21 shortly after his best Grand Slam performance at Wimbledon. At the All England Club, Muller would beat Rafael Nadal in the fourth round ((6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 15-13) and would make his way to the quarter-finals (eliminated by Marin Cilic, 3-6, 7-6, 7-5, 5-7 ,6-1). Muller would retire from professional tennis in 2018.