PARIS -- The Old Guard prevailed at the French Open, with Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf staging stirring comebacks to capture crowns neither thought were still within their reach.
Agassi was on the verge of defeat Sunday after winning only three games in the first two sets against Andrei Medvedev. Yet he found inspiration and his game in time to come back and secure a piece of tennis history.The American's 1-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 victory made him only the fifth man to complete a career Grand Slam by winning all four majors -- Wimbledon, the U.S., Australian and French Opens.
He is in some illustrious company. The others to accomplish the feat were Fred Perry, Don Budge, Roy Emerson and Rod Laver. Budge and Laver (twice) did it in the same year.
Fittingly, it was Laver, the last man to do it in 1969, who presented Agassi with the trophy before cheering Roland Garros fans.
"To be assigned a place with some of the game's greatest players is an honor I'll have the rest of my life," Agassi said, fighting back tears, his voice shaking. "I can't believe I can join that company.
"I never dreamed I'd ever be back here after so many years. I'm so proud.
"I'll never forget this, I'll never forget this. I'm very blessed," said Agassi, who lost the French Open final in 1990 and 1991.
Agassi is 29. Graf will turn 30 in a week.
Graf was also in tears after beating top-ranked Martina Hingis 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 Saturday, storming back after Hingis had been three points away from victory in the second set.
"Amazing," Graf said after capturing her 22nd Grand Slam title. "This is the most incredible memory I'm going to have looking back on my career."
Graf later said this was her final French Open, although she plans to go after her eighth title in Wimbledon.
Agassi drew parallels between the two careers.
"It was almost like it was destiny, this tournament for her, in some cases for me, too.
"When I won my first Grand Slam (Wimbledon in 1992), she was the winner. When she won yesterday, I think it might have been a little inspiring to me."
But while Graf is thinking of winding down her career, Agassi is still hungry.
"She's won 22 slams, and she's never lost intensity over the years. It's easy to see why she might feel tired.
"Me, on the other hand, I've taken leaves of absence for years at a time. I feel like a spring chicken," Agassi said.
"I certainly know that I have a lot more tennis in me. There is more accomplishment left, but I'm not convinced it would ever compare to this.
Agassi was No. 1 in 1995, only to drop to No. 141 two years later, playing minor events. He had wrist surgery, but he also seemed to lose interest in the game.
After following up his 1992 Wimbledon victory with the U.S. Open title in 1994, he had not won a major since the 1995 Australian Open.
He came to Paris at a difficult time in his personal life, having filed for divorce from Brooke Shields after two years of marriage.
Yet, he survived the two weeks and seven matches, coming from behind in four of them.
"What I've managed to accomplish is astonishing," he said. "This was the greatest thing I could ever do. There are so many reasons I have to be overwhelmed."
With the victory, Agassi raised his ranking from No. 14 to fourth in the world. Even in defeat, Medvedev improved his ranking from 100 to 30.
Agassi became the first man to win all four majors on three different surfaces -- red clay, grass and hard courts. In the old days, all Grand slam tournaments except the French Open were played on grass.
So, after making history, what next, Agassi was asked.
"I don't know, I don't know." Then he reflected.
"It's been 25 years or so since somebody has won the French and Wimbledon in the same year. That would be something," Agassi said.
It hasn't been that long, actually. Bjorn Borg last did it 19 years ago -- in 1980. But Borg never won all four major titles, and neither have Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe nor Pete Sampras, to mention just some of the No. 1 players over the years.