Agassi Sings Praises Of Rios After Losing ’98 Miami Final

Marcelo Rios defeated Andre Agassi 75 63 64 in the 1998 final of Key Biscayne with such a grand display of tennis that the EUROSPORT commentator was inspired to state, “I’ve rarely seen a better performance from any player, any match, from my time in watching tennis. This performance by Rios stands up to any match.”

After the match, Agassi answered questions about Marcelo Rios…

Q. Do you think it’s going to take you a few times playing a guy like him? Seemed like you were having trouble reading his shot. Was it your game being off or, “This guy is good, I’m going to have to play him a few times”?

ANDRE AGASSI: I definitely had trouble reading some of his forehands. When I would hit my backhand crosscourt, I had trouble having a sense for when to cut it off and take it up the line. Sometimes he was flicking it up the line. A little trouble reading his serve, his forehand, wasn’t quite pulling the trigger on my own shots. He’s the kind of guy that you can’t wait for him to miss; you’ve got to be able to take it to him. I didn’t quite do it. I mean, I was hitting the ball okay, but I wasn’t stepping in and really getting good wood on it.

Q. Andre, how much did it hurt you not to have played a couple big finals, be on a regular roll when you come to this stage?

ANDRE AGASSI: Honestly, I felt like it had more to do with Marcelo than that particular situation. You know, you have to address him like a big player. I was going out there and playing him like he’s five foot eight. I thought I could back him into the paint. The bottom line is, you know, he doesn’t play his size. He has good stick, he moves well, serves better than you expect. You know, he puts you in a position to have to do something early in the point. That’s to his credit.

Q. A match like this, long rallies, two guys who weren’t six-foot-four hitting 180 miles an hour serves, how good is this for tennis in the United States?

ANDRE AGASSI: It’s nice. You know, I never thought we’d see a player as good as Marcelo again after Chang. He plays well. Brings another dimension to tennis. It’s nice for me as a competitor to get out there and play that kind of tennis. It really forces you to think, forces you to move, forces you to execute. I think it’s good for the game. There’s no question about it, especially in America where, you know, people tend to be a bit — have more options for big-time sports, they don’t want to tune into tennis if they’re watching a big serve here, a big serve there. This is good for tennis all-around, especially here.

(Scoop’s book “Marcelo Rios: The Man We Barely Knew” was called “Magnificent, excellent, you did it in a very unique way,” by Nick Bollettieri. It’s available at Amazon.com for $12.99.)


  • Steve · February 5, 2013 at 9:25 am

    Scoop, have you seen Marcelo play recently? What’s his level like on the Champion’s tour???

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 5, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Steve, Yes I saw some highlights, he’s much more muscular and more stiff now, far different than his ATP years. Still nice to watch because it’s Rios but the flair and magic are now absent.

  • Andrew Miller · February 5, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    The magic is gone. I think what may make sense is to figure out how he learned how to play that way. My sense is his dad, an engineer, had an idea. It just seems a lot like a trick someone taught him, like Pete Fischer indoctrinating Sampras. Anyhows. Federer’s the best player I’ve ever seen (I’ve seen Agassi, Sampras, Djokovic, Edberg, Lendl, Becker, Federer, Nadal etc etc). But the best ball ever hit? Rios.

    Just never saw it coming. So many options. Federer played Rios’ style better than Rios – but Federer didn’t have to rely completely on a Rios style of play. With Rios you saw it from start to finish, just brilliant play. Like reading a great book, every page had something you may never see again. Federer did this too – and we will miss Federer when he’s no longer on tour.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 5, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    Andrew, I wish I had the chance to ask Hans Gildemeister how Rios became the player he did but never connected with him. Also tried asking Gabriel Silberstein, a peer of Rios in juniors, but he was very vague. I hope to find out more in the future what inspired and sparked Rios to play that unique style. Maybe it was natural expression, like a singer or painter. I think Federer plays half like an artist Rios and half like a machine programmed to win. Rios was all artistry, all about spontaneity, no tactics nor patterns. Still, I’d prefer to watch Rios at his best in old videos and you tube highlights than modern Fed, Djok, Nadal or Murray. Seriously. Nobody did it like Rios. Nobody could either.

  • Andrew Miller · February 6, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    Did Nelson Flores enjoy the book? Maybe he has something on how Rios turned into Rios (the player not the jerk). It’s just a very interesting way of playing, and it’s obvious that when executed at the highest level (Federer) this game wins big. Few play this way because it probably drives you crazy.

  • Andrew Miller · February 6, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Ah Scoop. Federer is one of the few players I’d pay $ to see, he does so much with the ball.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 6, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    Andrew, I’d pay and do pay to see any pro players in action. I think they are all magicians and miracles. Anybody who gets a single ATP point is an amazing player. I’ve gotten to hit with a couple of guys who had ATP points, Jose Antonio Salazar Martin and Anthony Assal and it was an unforgettable experience. There are so many unknown talents out there.

  • Andrew Miller · February 8, 2013 at 6:00 am

    I hit too with players that got something like 1 point overall. They knew what they were doing! You are right Scoop, it is fierce out there. One of them was outstanding but ran out of funding (from what I know) and the other was awesome too but I think was having too much fun and no self control. Maybe that’s why it’s confusing to me that you have a lot of players, serious players, for whom it’s pretty straightforward what they need to do. But on the other hand, what it is they’ve done to get “here” to this point is what worked, and why change what worked? You start trying something else, all the sudden you’re losing because you have no idea how to use the new things you learn, and your ranking drops, and you decide forget it.

    And sometimes it goes wrong. Look at Djokovic with Todd Martin. That was a failure in some serious ways with the serve (maybe not with other parts of the game). That said maybe Djokovic’s ability at net or transition game is from Todd Martin. But the experiment itself was costly to Djokovic – other players look at that and say aint tampering with my game!

    This was Agassi’s dilemma and I would say it’s same for all players. They hit a point and then comes the part where they either have to improve their game (technique, fitness) or improve at playing the game (strategy). And putting in that kind of work is sometimes an insult to players who probably don’t know how to learn a new kind of shot, given that what they’ve got they’ve used since age 6, 7, 8 etc. And initially it backfires…with two exceptions.



    Somehow both of them have improved aspects of their game and are better and better without losing significantly. Federer had “some” hiccups in ’08 (not just from sickness, but from learning something new).

    Touchy subject. Stick with what you’re good at? Or make some changes?

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 8, 2013 at 9:58 am

    There was some kid in Spain who was being touted as better than Nadal, he won some big junior title twice and Nadal only won it once. But then his progress stalled and they tried to change something in his game, a grip or something and it pretty much ruined his game, now he’s around 20 and not even a factor in futures or challengers. But sometimes it works – the Sampras backhand change. I really don’t blame Martin for Djokovic’s serving woes back then, Djok was in a funk mentally, Martin just happened to be around at the time and unfairly takes blame. Nobody could have coached Djok out of his funk then, he just needed time to mature and grow out of it, which of couse he did. Martin is an extremely intelligent guy and he knows his tennis. I’ve spoken with him many times, he even had a 2-0 record vs. Rios : ) He’ll produce and coach talented players in the future, I’m sure of it.

  • Andrew Miller · February 10, 2013 at 9:37 am

    Scoop, can you detect any part of Djokovic’ current game that comes from Martin? It was not as if Djokovic fell off the planet when working with Martin – I don’t even think his ranking changed – but his serve DID fall off a cliff, and there was the issue of a racquet change back to Head from Wilson ( he had been with Head, then switched to Wilson, then back to Head ). We have seen players like JC Ferrero who switched racquet companies (and got the chicken pox) and never made it back to the top 10. I wonder if Djokovic really did improve during the Martin era and then just needed a familiar voice to help him make sense of his new game while helping him recover his lethal serve.

    Strange how tennis works. You can be a Federer, who never had any strategy, get a strategic voice like Annacone and for the most part it works, and use it or not it’s part of Federer’s game. Or Agassi, who gets a strategic voice from Gilbert and it works. Or Murray and Roddick, who get a strategic voice from Gilbert and it works but they deny it works (and Gilbert shoots himself in the foot by talking too much). He and Querrey no longer work together, but even after working with Querrey Gilbert believes Querrey can win a lot more.

    One thing about Gilbert. When his time is up with every player Gilbert doesn’t say anything negative about them. He really believes in every player’s ability to improve.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 10, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Andrew, I don’t see any Martin influence, he’s the same fundamental player basically with a clear and mature head now. He was in a growing stage with Martin, recovering from the Roddick confrontation at US Open, and gluten was still a part of his diet then ) Djokovic just wasn’t ready to be in the role of top player maturity wise, he was still a new kid on the block learning the ropes about the tour and the business, the media, what to say what not to say, Martin’s coaching had nothing to do with his struggles IMO. Just like when Fed lost to Horna at FO in straight sets it wasn’t his coach’s fault, he just wasn’t ready to take the throne yet, maturity wise.



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