U.S. OPEN Questions envelop 34-year-old Agassi



Venus and Serena Williams will try to regain their championship form.
NEW YORK (AP) -- We've seen this scenario before:
A thirtysomething former No. 1 and multiple major champion, in a Grand Slam slump but certain he can still hack it, comes to the U.S. Open and ... wins the thing.
Pete Sampras did it in 2002. Can Andre Agassi in 2004?
"I'm dealing with questions I've never had before," Agassi said. "You know: Why can't I get over the hump? Why has it taken me longer than I would want it to? You can't get around the fact that the challenges are different at 34 than they are at 24. So it's uncharted territory for me every year now."
When play starts Monday at the National Tennis Center, Agassi's bid for a ninth major title will be chief among a crop of compelling story lines:
UCan Andy Roddick ride his 150 mph serve and improving overall game to another Open title in his first defense of a Slam? "The biggest fear before last year was the fear of the unknown," he said. "Now I know I can do it."
UCan Serena and Venus Williams, who missed the 2003 Open with injuries, re-emerge as the best in the women's game? Venus hasn't won a major in three years, Serena in 14 months.
UCan No. 1 Roger Federer, so dominant all year and champion at three of the past five Slams, finally have an impact at the Open, the major where he's fared the worst?
UCan No. 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne repeat as champion even though she's played only eight matches in the last 41/2 months while recovering from a viral illness? She looked fantastic in winning a gold medal at the Olympics; the Athens tournament ended last Sunday, which is why the Open starts a week later than usual.
UCan Lindsay Davenport, who's talked about retiring but won her past four tournaments, win a fourth major at 28?
UCan Maria Sharapova, all of 17, follow up her Wimbledon championship with a strong Open? Can another of the rising Russians give their country a third straight major title?
Quest
Agassi, twice Sharapova's age, is one of just five men with a career Grand Slam. Like Sampras, who quit after beating Agassi to win major No. 14 at the Open two years ago, he figures his legacy will be defined by total Slam victories.
"He probably goes into the Open thinking: 'OK, I can do it one more time,"' U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe said. "I think we all know that's what he's looking for."
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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