July 12, 2020

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RG Flashback, Day 1: Agassi v Safin

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The French Open was scheduled to begin today, with a Sunday start.

Sigh.

And so the tournament will flash back to this day in history, every day during the “quinzaine”.

Today, we go back to May 26, 1998, when a very young Marat Safin met a veteran Andre Agassi (who had ditched the rug to go au natural, but still had hair).

Safin was just 18, in only his second year as a pro. He had played very little junior tennis; his last two ITF junior events were the 1996 French Open (lost in the second round to Marcus Sarstrand of Sweden) and the previous year’s event (lost in the first round to Alexandre Simoni of Brazil).

Even then, he was already full-time on the Challenger circuit.

A year later, he was already ranked No. 116, and got through the qualifying to face Agassi in the first round.

He defeated Davide Scala of Italy, Christian Ruud of Norway (father of current up-and-comer Casper) and Francisco Cabello of Argentina to reach the main draw for the first time.

Comeback trail for the A-Train

As for Agassi, he was ranked No. 20 – and married to actress Brooke Shields at the time. He was still a year away from starting things up with the love of his life, Steffi Graf.

The previous fall, Agassi had infamously fallen all the way down to No. 141 in the world, questioning his future. He played down at the Challenger level. He had already pulled his ranking back up into the top 20 a couple of weeks before this French Open; a year later, he was back at No. 1.

Enjoy; it’s a great throwback I’m not sure has been available out there to see, in full version, without copyright violations.

(We won’t spoil the suspense, if you were too young or can’t remember the outcome).