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In 1994, Agassi and new coach Brad Gilbert charted a course to get to No. 1. Agassi won the 1994 U.S. Open as an unseeded player, and defeated Pete Sampras at the 1995 Aussie Open. By April 1995, he had surpassed Sampras to achieve the No. 1 ranking.
But Agassi slipped in the French Open quarterfinals, and he blew a lead to Boris Becker at the Wimbledon semifinals.
Still, Agassi defeated Sampras three of five times on hardcourts (Aussie, Miami, Montreal) and rode a 26-game winning streak into the U.S. Open finals.
The U.S. Open wasn't Agassi's best day and Sampras once again rose to the occasion behind his big serve and clutch play. Sampras took the first two sets, and split the last two to close Agassi out.
In his autobiography, Open, Agassi admitted that the defeat crushed him. He had put so much into his crusade, and had again come up on the short end to Sampras.
Over the next few years, he was more unmotivated, and eventually dropped to No. 141 in the world. He used crystal methamphetamine and failed an ATP drug test.
Though Agassi revitalized his career in 1999, it was a reminder of what could have been. Perhaps the U.S. Open win could have sent Sampras into soul-searching. It's not unreasonable to suppose that Agassi could have matched Sampras' dominance.
Maybe Agassi wins five or six more Slams from 1996-1998. This could have put him at 14 Slams and a possible claim as the GOAT.
Sports consist of so many twists and turns in the careers and legacies of players and teams. We can only know for sure of what actually happened, but there will always be the "what if?" moments that define how fans think about the athletes and their careers.
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