The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Legends vote for Agassi

London: Wimbledon legends Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker believe that veteran Andre Agassi can still be a contender at the All England Club next week.

Agassi, now 33, reached the semi-finals of the Queen’s Club grasscourt event and is among the favourites for Wimbledon which gets underway in seven days’ time.

“To me it’s outstanding,” said Edberg. “Agassi is playing great at 33. They say it’s difficult to win a Grand Slam once you are past 30. But every once in a while you get an exception,” added Edberg.

Three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker said the fact that Agassi had endured some lean years — he dropped to 141 in the rankings in 1997 — had helped extend his career.

“Stefan and I were in the top ten for twelve to thirteen years, playing 60 or 70 matches a year,” said Becker.

And the 35-year-old German added that it was the strain of consistently playing so many matches that had caused 14-time Grand Slam champion Pete Sampras to lose form.

“You look at Pete. He was number one for six or seven years straight. Eventually that takes its toll.

“Andre’s had times when he’s slipped to nearly 150 in the world, almost having a few years out and that’s given him a couple of years.”

Looking ahead to Wimbledon, Becker said he “had to go” with defending champion Lleyton Hewitt even though the Australian lost in the quarter finals at Queen’s.

“Also there is Agassi and Queen’s winner Andy Roddick. And Roger Federer is one of the most naturally gifted players out there. He can play on any surface.

“The last couple of years there have only been two, three or four guys who could win it but this year it’s pretty open.”

Becker and Edberg won five Wimbledon titles between 1985 and 1990, a period when they were acknowledged as the best serve-and-volley players around.

But they admitted times had changed. “A lot of tennis is played from the back of the court and the guys do it well,” said Edberg.

“Perhaps these things go in cycles. What the game needs is a contrast in styles. It’s good when an aggressive player is up against a defensive player. But the difference today is that the guys return so much better.”

Becker said home favourite Tim Henman also had a shot at winning the title.

And Edberg said: “It’s not quite too late for Tim. He’s got a few more good years left in him. I thought he had a good chance when he lost to Goran Ivanisevic in 2001 semi-final. “But he’s played well on grass for a number of years and has more experience than the other players.”

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