Andre Agassi enters Wimbledon after a two-year hiatus from the All England Club. Depending on the style of player he has to face early on, it could be feast or famine for the eight-time Grand Slam champion.
What Agassi is going to have the toughest time with is playing his way into a match on the grass surface. Unlike the U.S. Open, where the bounces are more consistent, the grass at Wimbledon is quicker and more slick, meaning the points don't last as long. Furthermore, it's much more difficult to get solid footing on grass.
Agassi likes to have rallies that last seven or eight shots so he can work his way into a point, and that's very difficult to do on grass. If he were to meet someone who likes to put the ball away quickly -- even a player like Wesley Moodie, who's ranked 71st in the world -- Agassi could have a tough time finding his rhythm. The one thing Agassi does not want is to feel off balance. He would benefit from playing an opponent who likes to hang back on the baseline and does not try to end points after two or three shots. Fortunately for Agassi, there are more clay-court players (who prefer longer rallies) than grass-court specialists.
If Andre does get into a groove in the first few matches, I don't see why he couldn't make a legitimate run. Of course, it's a lot easier for him to play on a hard court, where he can find his range and play into the second week. So at Wimbledon, he needs some luck from the draw, at least in the first couple of rounds. But there's no reason, under these circumstances, why he couldn't advance to the quarterfinals or semis.
Despite his low seed, Agassi is confident. Let's not forget that when he won the U.S. Open in 1994, he went in unseeded and knocked off five seeded players along the way. In 1999, Agassi won the French Open at No. 13, and during than run he knocked off defending champion Carlos Moya.
Regardless of his seeding, Agassi would not be playing if he didn't feel he could be competitive. However, I don't believe he can win the title, not without a lot of luck. With players like Roger Federer, Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt, guys who thrive on grass, I think it would take a monumental effort. Unlike Pete Sampras a few years ago and Roddick today, Andre doesn't have the big serve to help him out when he's not playing well. When Sampras struggled, he could always rely on his cannon of a serve to bail him out. It was nearly impossible -- especially on grass -- to break him.
Roddick is the same way. His serve is huge, and it's led him to two straight finals at Wimbledon. Agassi, on the other hand, will need to be in a good groove from the baseline if he's to succeed. He doesn't have any other weapons to go to if his ground-stroke game is not working.
Andre knows the end is near. He will go out and give everything he has, much the same way Jimmy Connors did at the 1991 U.S. Open at 39 years old (Connors beat me en route to the semifinals before falling to Jim Courier). Like Agassi, Connors wasn't playing much, but he did realize what the situation was and knew it could be his final run. He used the crowd and all the experience he had from years of playing to help him through the first few rounds. Agassi will have the crowd on his side, and that will help.
I have never seen anyone who strikes the ball off both sides like he does. While Agassi's legs have slowed and he doesn't move around the court as well as some of the younger guys, if he gets into a rhythm, look for him to be around in the second week. I believe that's why he is still playing -- not to win the title, but because the potential of making a serious run deep into the tournament keeps him motivated. I believe he can and, more importantly, he knows he can.
Patrick McEnroe, the U.S. Davis Cup captain, is providing analysis for ESPN.com during Wimbledon.