Blake donned the sort of garish ensemble Mr. Image Is Everything dared to wear more than a decade ago and, fortunately for Blake, his game looked better than his garb in a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (5) victory over Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia in the second round.
His getup was appreciated by Friday's crowd. Before the coin toss, a group of fans chanted, "Andre! Andre! Andre!" and Blake turned to give them a thumbs-up.
"I just wanted to do it once. I know Andre, how he probably doesn't want a ton of fanfare," said Blake, who got Agassi's OK for the outfit. "Andre knows we all do care about him, we all appreciate everything he's done. I think the statement was made. Now it's back to business at hand."
That includes, in the short term, a third-round match against 1998 French Open champion Carlos Moya, and in the bigger picture, the task of joining Andy Roddick and others in trying to carry U.S. tennis forward in the aftermath of the Sampras-Agassi-Courier-Chang generation.
Agassi is the last of that great group on tour, and he's playing the final tournament of his career at the Open. After winning a five-set thriller against Marcos Baghdatis that stretched from Thursday night into Friday, Agassi got an injection of anti-inflammatory medication at his hotel, the second shot he's taken as he tries to push his bad back and 36-year-old body as far as they'll go.
"I wanted to do something just to show kind of how much he's meant to the sport. I'm happy it came on a day after that unbelievable night match last night when everyone has him, for sure, at the front of their minds," Blake said.
"We're looking at his section of the draw, see when he plays next. That's the match we want to stay home for and maybe miss dinner for."
At No. 5, Blake has his highest seeding at any Grand Slam tournament, and the top placement for any American. Roddick, next at No. 9, is one win away from a possible fourth-round match against Agassi. Four other U.S. men were in action Friday, and No. 18 Robby Ginepri moved into the third round by defeating fellow American Paul Goldstein in straight sets.
Unseeded Vince Spadea knocked off No. 29 Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden, a Wimbledon semifinalist this year, but 18-year-old wild card Sam Querrey lost to 2004 French Open champion Gaston Gaudio.
Spadea enjoyed the by-play with a supportive home crowd, as partisan — if not as vociferous — as what Agassi has been hearing.
"I'm just trying to gain any type of energy from any source that's around, including umpires, ball kids, fans, family," Spadea said. "Finding excuses, whatever it is, to get myself over that hump. There's so many humps out there on just a pointly basis."
His next match comes against No. 1 Roger Federer, the two-time defending champion who amazed himself and his opponent, Tim Henman, by swatting an on-the-move, through-the-legs shot during a 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 victory.
"Rarely do you try this type of shot in a match," Federer said. "In practice, it happens all the time. But to come and pull it off on center court, you have to make sure you're not doing something totally stupid or you don't look like an idiot."
Said Henman: "There's not a lot you can say at that stage, apart from laugh."
In other action, second-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne overcame some early problems to eliminate No. 28 Ai Sugiyama 4-6, 6-1, 6-0, 2004 Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova advanced, and No. 19 Jelena Jankovic — who upset Venus Williams at Wimbledon — eliminated No. 9 Nicole Vaidisova 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.
Night matches involving Lindsay Davenport, and Marat Safin vs. David Nalbandian, were postponed because of rain before a shot was hit. More rain was forecast for Saturday, which might mean an extra day to rest for Agassi, who's already been on court for more than seven hours over two matches.
He didn't practice at all Friday, a day before his scheduled match against German qualifier Benjamin Becker.
"The hope is obviously that Andre be able to compete and that his body can match his heart," said Gil Reyes, Agassi's trainer for 17 years. "There is no big picture. This is the big picture. He must bring his all and leave his all. Once Andre announced his intention to retire, everything became about getting him here. Now that he's here ... he has no options but to do everything he can to fight to the finish."
A year ago, Agassi made a run all the way to the U.S. Open final, beating Blake along the way in a five-set quarterfinal that was every bit as theatrical as the Baghdatis match.
It was the sort of thing Blake might be excused for having wondered if he'd ever get to be a part of, given the illness and injury that forced him off tour and dropped his ranking out of the top 200.
Now he's a bigger deal than ever, which has its downside.
"I know I already have a target on my back," Blake said. "Being a top 10 player, No. 1 American, all that kind of stuff — I understand the pressure that comes with it."
The kind of pressure that the very best overcome year after year to win title after title, the way Agassi and Co. did.
"It was just an exciting time in the sport," Blake said. "It does give me pause to realize why American tennis fans have been somewhat spoiled in the past 20 years."