Men's Tennis (ATP)
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At the Net. . .

By Scott Riley
Tennis Editor

Are we sure Agassi's No. 1?

Riley Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Don't look now, but world No. 1 superstar Andre Agassi has been anything but spectacular this season.

Since capturing his sixth career Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January (more than six months ago), Andre has failed to so much as reach a final.

Is the current No. 1 in the twilight of his career?

The 30-year-old American made tennis history in Paris last year when he became only the fifth man to secure the career Grand Slam, with titles at the Australian, French and U.S. Opens and Wimbledon. Fellow greats Sampras, Borg, McEnroe and Connors haven't turned the trick.

But Agassi has slowed this season, posting a 23-10 match record, with just the one title -- and one final appearance -- all year long. If you want to include Davis Cup results [insert yawn here], Andre is 27-10 in 2000. Since the Aussie Slam, Agassi is a pedestrian 16-10, excluding Davis Cup.

Since stifling Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov at the Australian Open, Agassi's drought includes setbacks against such tennis luminaries as Francisco Clavet, Hicham Arazi, Jiri Vanek, Dominik Hrbaty [stop me when you recognize any of these names], Karol Kucera, Gianluca Pozzi, Jerome Golmard, and Fernando Vicente. The Arazi and Golmard losses were first-rounders.

I sense a pattern.

His recent woes (Golmard and Vicente) were the result of a back injury suffered in a minor car accident in his native Las Vegas. Agassi, returning home from his Wimbledon semifinal loss against Patrick Rafter, was rear-ended, causing the highly-publicized back ailment. The discomfiture forced the American to miss the Davis Cup semifinal against Spain, which peppered the McEnroe-led/Agassi- and Sampras-less team, 5-0, in Europe.

Although Andre is ranked No. 1 in the current ATP Singles Entry System (a.k.a. the world rankings), he has dipped to No. 5 in the Tour Champions Race, which determines the year's top player by season's end.

The reigning U.S. and Australian Open champion is typically considered the "player to beat" in any given tournament (if Pete's not playing), but Agassi's results over the past half year prove otherwise.

Is he getting old (30, with a bad back), or is Agassi distracted from tennis once again -- like he was while accompanied by one Brooke Shields? It was while wedded to Shields that Andre's world ranking dropped to No. 122 (by the conclusion of the '97 campaign).

Agassi, of course, is currently courting former world No. 1 women's tennis star Steffi Graf.

The American's gonna need to crank it up again to prove that he's not as has-been.

Let's not totally diminish his greatness. Agassi does own 45 career titles, which places him 10th on the all-time list, just one championship better than Thomas Muster. Remember him? And Andre's on-court earnings do exceed $20 million for his career.

But Agassi is a 15-year pro who better consider another profession in the near future if he doesn't locate his old (1999) form.

The year-end No. 1 in '99 has looked anything but in this new millennium.

Agassi likely will be the first or second seed at the upcoming U.S. Open, but don't expect him to bag that coveted trophy in his current state.