| AGASSI: Ready to help make the game drug-free
Melbourne: Andre Agassi says his focus is not on being world No.1 any more but finishing No.1 at the end of a Grand Slam.
Agassi, 32, is the ‘grand old man’ of the meet, and is concentrating on winning the majors rather than committing himself to the weekly global grind for rankings points.
“My focus now is not being No.1 but being No.1 at the end of a two-week tournament in one of the Slams,” he said. The current top ranking spot is held by Lleyton Hewitt.
“I’m not convinced any more that I have it in me to fight for No.1. The fact that I had a shot at it last year came as a pleasant surprise to me, and therefore, owed it to myself to take that chance.
“But going into the year, I keep my head down and I’m thinking about one tournament at a time. If I can keep sharp for the biggest tournaments of the year and really give myself a chance to win, then I feel like I’m doing the most I can.”
Agassi is bidding to become only the fourth man to win four Australian Open titles, behind Roy Emerson (6), Jack Crawford (4) and Ken Rosewall (4).
Agassi said he was very prepared for “whatever was required” of him throughout the tournament. “I feel strong physically, mentally and ready to play all the events, but realistically speaking, I don’t know if that’s possible any more for me, so I don’t have a real expectation.
“I’m very prepared for whatever’s required of me physically and mentally to get through a tournament like this. The day of recovery is crucial. Just the recovery time and the way the body starts responding as you get older definitely changes.
Meanwhile, Agassi says he’s prepared to go the extra mile and have blood testing for the banned endurance-enhancing substance EPO at the Australian Open to keep tennis clean.
Random drug testing has been introduced at the year’s first Grand Slam tournament amid fears that the use of EPO has become prevalent in tennis.
Russian Marat Safin said last week he was not in favour of the testing because tennis players already have urine testing for drugs. But Agassi said if there were doubts about the use of drug-taking in tennis, then they had to be removed.
“My contention is that the sport of tennis is a great sport and it’s filled with a lot of great competitors who just work hard to prepare themselves,” said Agassi. “And if there’s one question in anybody’s mind as to how clean our sport is, that’s one question too many.
“So I would have no problem, personally, going the extra mile for the sake of removing any question that may exist.”