Graceful Exit

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Tennis great Andre Agassi finally met his match Sunday, with CBS there to capture it. His opponent had a long grey beard and held an hour glass, but he finally proved too much for the 36-year-old with the bald head and bad back.

Agassi retired after his loss in the U.S. Open's third round Sunday with a touching tear-filled speech that recalled Cal Ripken and even Lou Gehrig.

And while Agassi lasted, propped up by pain-killing injections in his back, what TV drama it was.

USA Network also struck gold with Agassi's first- and second-round matches, with some of the most jaw-dropping tennis in recent memory. It was played at a high level, raised even above that by the emotional backstory of the former self-absorbed, all-image, all–the-time Vegas kid who turned into the game's grand statesman.

On Sunday, after a four-set loss to B. Becker from Germany (Benny, not Boris), Agassi was as gracious in defeat as he has been in victory. There were few dry eyes in his sport, or in the tennis fan TV audience, as Agassi thanked the crowd for supporting him through the good times–major victories, comebacks–and bad–divorces and his early days when he fronted all that talent with a petulant and rather insufferable persona. But all was forgiven and then some.

All we needed was Josh Groban singing "You Raise Me Up" for a soundtrack.

Federer probably already has this championship in his pocket, but Agassi won the hearts of the crowd and the respect of the players and press, which means that whoever kisses the trophy, there will be at least two Big winners, plus all of us who got our vicaroius courtside seat thanks to CBS and USA.

By John Eggerton

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