New York: Andre Agassi reminisced about that first US Open trip 26 years ago, when he showed up "rocking a spiky, fluffy, two-tone mullet."
The teenager with a freshly minted driver's permit caught a bus too late and missed his practice time. He didn't miss much of anything else in more than two decades of visiting Flushing Meadows.
The two-time winner was inducted yesterday into the US Open Court of Champions at Arthur Ashe Stadium before the women's final.
"I wish I had the words to describe the sound you make during critical matches, the roar, the applause, the love," the 42-year-old Agassi told the New York fans during the ceremony. "It's like a jet engine and a giant heartbeat."
He competed in the tournament a men's Open Era record 21 consecutive times, from 1986 through 2006. In 1994, Agassi became the first unseeded player in the Open Era to capture the title. He won again in 1999, part of his eight career Grand Slam championships.
On that day in 1986, the 16-year-old Agassi couldn't convince the attendant overseeing the practice courts that he belonged at the Open.
"Sadly I couldn't convince my first-round opponent either," he said of a four-set loss to 128th-ranked Jeremy Bates. Andy Roddick, who followed Agassi as the American star of the Open, took part in the ceremony four days after he retired following a fourth-round loss. Roddick recalled idolising Agassi as a young player.
"He had a whole generation of kids wearing jean shorts and pink tights," he joked.
Agassi used the opportunity to pay tribute to the retiring Roddick, too. "Thank you for the years you've given us," he said before the two embraced. "I think I can speak for all of us here today that we are so proud of you."
The inscription on Agassi's plaque describes him as "bold, brash and bigger than life" and "the ultimate showman at the ultimate show."