Published: January 19, 2007 03:14 pm Inside Sports: Tennis needs another Agassi By KIRK MCCRACKEN Herald Sports Writer After watching the early rounds of the 2007 Australian Open, I’ve decided men’s tennis is dead. I am a huge tennis fan and have watched every grand slam since I was a kid. My younger brother Kelly and I used to live at the Sapulpa tennis courts in the summers of our youth and we played every waking moment. But back then we were spoiled. We got to watch the greats –– John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg, Bjorn Borg, Boris Becker, Arthur Ashe, Jim Courier, Pete Sampras and Vitas Gerulaitis. These guys were flashy. You tuned in to watch their game as well as their attitude, swagger and potential for temper tantrums. John McEnroe could throw fits that would make a two-year-old sit up and say, “Hey, this guy’s good.” Wimbledon great Boris Becker thought he was former film icon James Dean reincarnated. It’s true. He bought the same kind of car Dean died in and was often seen at the scene of the accident. And Pat Cash, he…um…um… well, he wore a checkered head band. Vitas Gerulaitis has arguably the best name in tennis history. He won only one grand slam title, but his name sounds like something sailors often get after weekend pass in Thailand. There was a bad Vitas Gerulaitis outbreak in the early 1970s. I actually got to see Jimmy Connors play in person in 1985. A friend of mine got tickets to the Bank of Oklahoma tennis finals and Conners was playing in the match. It was amazing. But for me, the greatest tennis player of all time was Andre Agassi. Agassi is one of only five male players that can boast of a career Grand Slam, winning all four grand slam events (Wimbledon, French Open, Australian Open and U.S. Open.) He was also a member of a winning Davis Cup team, won an Olympic gold medal and has won 17 ATP Masters Series tournaments, more than any other player. That’s all well and good, but this guy used to wear make-up and leather pants during matches in his early career. When he came on the scene in 1986 he terrified the tennis world. Agassi truly embraced his rebel image. He had long, flowing curly hair, had his ears pierced and wore black outfits in a gentlemen’s sport that encourage all-white clothing. He wasn’t winning at first but people noticed him. He was making millions in endorsements but the grand slam wins were eluding him. The cocky American actually refused to play in Wimbledon from 1988 to 1990 because he would not conform to their sissy, British all-white dress code. However, he would eventually cave, and he won the men’s singles title in 1992, defeating Goran Ivanisevic in a five set final. He even shaved his body hair so there wouldn’t be any dark colors on his person. In 1992, I was a senior in high school and my father forced me to go to church instead of watching the Wimbledon final. I had to tape it. It was pointless to send me to church that day, and I didn’t hear a word the preacher said. Some would say that is obvious to this day. My little brother Kelly and I couldn’t wait to get home, but by then the match was over. We started the tape from the beginning and the anticipation was killing us. Agassi dropped the first set 6-7, but rallied to win sets two and threeb 6-4 and 6-4. However, he lost the fourth set 1-6 and Ivanisevic was in total control, serving ace after ace. The fifth and final set was all Agassi and he won his first grand slam, throwing his racquet in the air, falling to the plush grass of Roland Garos with his face in the hands, tears rolling down his checks. After that, tennis was all about Agassi. The Las Vegas native had epic battles with fellow American and friend Pete Sampras that will go down in annals of history. Agassi also made waves off the court. He dated Barbara Streisand when she was in her 80s, and married and then divorced former supermodel Brooke Shields. After 20 years of tennis, Agassi retired in 2006. In his last match, he lost to Germany’s Benjamin Becker in four painful sets. He then received an eight-minute standing ovation from the crowd and delivered a memorable retirement speech that rivaled Lou Gehrig’s. Today’s U.S. men’s tennis players are boring. I would rather watch paint dry than watch Roger Federer play tennis. Andy Roddick’s claim to fame was dating Mandy Moore, and James Blake’s most memorable moment on the court was slipping and breaking his neck (he’s okay now.) The sport of tennis needs characters. It needs guys that are willing to wear make-up, hot pants or whatever. We need trash-talking, flashy, gutsy, yell-at-the-officials, cry-when-things-aren’t going-your-way, dating-supermodels-type players. Maybe Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens should pick up a tennis racquet. He’s all talk. It’s only been a few months and I already miss Andre.