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Agonizing Over the Departure of Agassi

The Inside Track | MORNING BRIEFING

September 01, 2006|Mike Terry | Times Staff Writer

Andre Agassi is ready to leave competitive tennis, and fans and USTA officials alike are wondering: Will he take the remaining interest Americans have in the sport with him?

At the moment, Newsday columnist Shaun Powell writes, tennis is "strictly for the hard core to love and the casual fan to ignore, except in special moments, which can't happen without special players. And there's the rub. There's nobody with charisma and magnetism strong enough to pull tennis more into the mainstream."

Add Powell: Powell writes that the women are creating some sizzle at the U.S. Open, but the men, with the exception of Agassi, have no one capturing the public's imagination.

That includes Roger Federer, considered the best player of his generation and by some the best ever.

Writes Powell, "The top-rated men's player is cut more in the Pete Sampras mold. That makes Roger Federer very dangerous to play and someone you'd pay to see. He also inherited Sampras' charisma, unfortunately, and has lost six of eight to Rafael Nadal.

"It would seem, then, that Nadal will be the Agassi of the next generation, except there are times when you want to tell him where to shove that annoying fist pump. Besides, do you really trust a man who wears capri pants?"

Trivia time: Brad Penny leads the Dodgers with 14 victories. Which Dodgers pitcher last won 20 games?

Then there's hockey: Miami Herald columnist Greg Cote writes that major pro sports in his city have never been better.

"This could be the dawn of a renaissance for our pro sports teams," Cote said. "The Dolphins, picked for the Super Bowl. The Heat, reigning as NBA champions. The Marlins, shocking baseball with a legitimate playoff run. The Panthers, well let's quit while we're ahead."

And a hockey deal: The Kings' trade for former Vancouver Canucks goaltender Dan Cloutier happened on July 5, and Cloutier has yet to play a game for his new team. But none of that means much to Adam Proteau of the Hockey News.

Writes Proteau, "Any longtime L.A. fan who remembers inconsistent Kings netminder names (Jamie Storr, Stephane Fiset, Felix Potvin and Roman Cechmanek) was likely plenty underwhelmed by the acquisition of Cloutier. But it's good to get that first sense of "is that all there is?" out of the way early, so it won't seem near as much of a shock when Cloutier frustrates them again during the season."

Style over ... whatever: Jim Furyk's quirky golf swing has been described in many ways, but never like this.

Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg says Furyk's backswing "looks like an old man in his boxers trying to close an umbrella in a hurricane."

Trivia answer: Ramon Martinez in 1990.

And finally: From SportsbyBrooks.com: "Look who's endorsing a DVD titled, 'Power Yoga for Baseball.' None other than Yankees GM Brian Cashman. Who knew that writing huge checks was such a spiritual exercise?"

mike.terry@latimes.com

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