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A distinguished visitor at the Open

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AN OLD FAVOURITE: Andre Agassi and John McEnroe in the commentary box during the Federer-Roddick match.
AN OLD FAVOURITE: Andre Agassi and John McEnroe in the commentary box during the Federer-Roddick match.

NEW YORK: Andre Agassi drew one of the loudest cheers at this U.S. Open when he was shown on the Jumbotrons during Wednesday night’s match between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick.

Sitting in the USA Network booth, Agassi got a huge standing ovation and waved to the crowd. The eight-time Grand Slam champion and two-time U.S. Open winner played his final competitive match last year at Flushing Meadows.

“This is why I came back, right there. Thank you very much,” Agassi said on TV. “In some respects, it feels like yesterday. In other respects, it feels like a lifetime ago.”

Call her Corporal

Some players will leave Flushing Meadows and go to Beijing for the China Open. Others will begin preparing for the Davis Cup.

Shahar Peer has a more pressing assignment.

Now that she’s done at the U.S. Open, she’ll head home to rejoin the Israeli army.

The 20-year-old Peer is a corporal and will finish her mandatory two-year service in October. She’s in a programme that gives her flexibility to play tennis and help develop athletes.

“From the beginning, when you’re like me, I told my family I want to do it,” she said Wednesday. “It was really important to give as much as I can to the country because I get so much support. It’s not that it hurts my career, so I was really happy to go the Army.”

Peer said her job was mostly clerical. She wears the uniform but does not carry a weapon.

“Only in basic training,” she said. “We learn how to shoot.”

Ranked 18th by the WTA Tour, Peer became the first Israeli woman to reach the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open, then lost to No. 6 Anna Chakvetadze 6-4, 6-1.

Cheered on by fans chanting her name in Hebrew and waving Israeli flags, Peer broke into a big smile when “Hava Nagila” boomed over the sound system after an earlier win in the tournament.

“The crowd was unbelievable for me,” she said. “I get so much support here.”

The Late Show

As Andy Roddick and Roger Federer took their final break, a familiar tune drifted over the sound system — “After Midnight” by Eric Clapton.

They play it every time the clock strikes the bewitching hour at Arthur Ashe Stadium. And it’s becoming the theme song at this U.S. Open.

Late nights are something of a tradition at Flushing Meadows. Fans often stayed until the end, cheering on the likes of Jimmy Connors and Andre Agassi.

But can too late become too much?

“I think it’s great,” former Grand Slam finalist Mary Joe Fernandez said on Wednesday. “It’s the U.S. Open and it’s almost the only place it happens. You expect one or two of those every year.”

Then again, she didn’t go the distance for the four-setter between Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer that ended at 1:50 a.m. on Wednesday.

“I couldn’t stay up for the third set and it was wild to find out that Ferrer won in the morning,” she said.

Nikolay Davydenko enjoyed the match, too. Most of it, anyway.

“Too late,” he said after reaching the semifinals. “Need to sleep.” — AP

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