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September 8 - Open Arms

It’s now 1:17 in the morning on September 8th and I can’t sleep.

For the past three hours I have been riveted to USA and CBS (What’s up with the
shared coverage?) watching an epic match unfold. My interest in the 2005 U.S Open
has been lukewarm at best, but for some reason I was drawn to an all American
quarterfinal. Perhaps I felt inclined to watch Andre Agassi, a true legend of the game
regain his footing after limping off the court at Roland Garros a beaten man. It may
also have been the undeniable bravery of James Blake, who in the past year has
suffered a broken neck, a case of shingles that resulted in the partial paralysis of his
face, and the loss of his father to stomach cancer. Both men’s roads to the
quarterfinals were inspiring to say the least, and their match proved to be the most
inspirational moment of all.

Blake came into the match a decided underdog, having made the field as a wild card. However, once
play got underway it was instantly clear that he had come to play and play hard. A product of Yonkers,
Blake provided his hometown crowd with a performance rich in both grace and power. Even in defeat
Blake retained his grace, dubbing Agassi “…a champion in every sense of the word.”

Agassi took the match by virtue of winning a fifth-set tie breaker, a fitting conclusion only possible in
Flushing, as no other Grand Slam allows a match going the distance to be decided in that way. As
Andre pointed out in his post-match interview, the true winners on this night were the 20,000 fans still
packing Arthur Ashe Stadium and the countless others, who, like me, tuned in from their living rooms.

More than a victory for Andre, this was a victory for American Tennis and the U.S. Open. I know this
match served to revitalize my interest in this great sport and I can only hope others come to embrace
it as I have. Though Andre proved to be king in this grand battle for Queens, both men deserve to
wear the crown, at least for tonight.