Lean and mean Agassi raring to get going Down Under

MELBOURNE: Lean and crackling with energy, Andre Agassi is back in Australia with just one thing on his mind. 

The three-times Open champion is hitting form, feeling comfortable and right at home as he sets about another tilt at the Australian crown. 

One more singles victory for the 32-year-old would make him the only overseas player to bag four men’s singles titles and only the brave or the foolhardy would back against him. 

“To be back is a thrill for me. The moment I landed I felt excited and comfortable and eager to go,” the world number two said yesterday. “That’s a good thing.” 

As the mercury soars in Melbourne, Agassi’s strict off-season regime begins to pay dividends at the first grand slam of the year – and this year should prove no different. 

“For me, not living out of a suitcase for any period of time is holiday enough,” the American said of the time spent between the Masters Cup in November and his arrival in Australia last week. “I have to do something every day ... I didn’t take time off, I just took time away from the tennis court.” 

For Agassi, “doing something” entails working out at the gym and pushing himself on runs near his Las Vegas home. 

“It is important for me to be strong and healthy,” he added. “I have got to keep pushing myself physically – it is all I can really count on.” 

Certainly Agassi’s fitness will give him the edge over many competitors his junior when the Open kicks off next Monday. 

A wrist injury caused him to miss last year’s event when he would have been gunning for three in a row. 

This year, he says he is just happy to be competing. “I have always enjoyed playing here,” he told reporters at a news conference ahead of the Kooyong Classic – the traditional Australian Open warm-up event at the former Open venue. 

“The courts are playing well and I am looking forward to it. For me, if my game is feeling good and I am feeling fresh then I like the way I feel out there.” 

Agassi plays Sweden’s Thomas Enqvist on the opening day at Kooyong today. Other matches are Alex Corretja vs Mark Philippoussis, French junior Richard Gasquet vs Moroccan Younes El Aynaoui and Andrei Pavel vs Sebastien Grosjean. – Agencies  

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