Rain Delays Play at U.S. Open Again

James Blake did his best Andre Agassi impersonation at the U.S. Open, donning the sort of garish garb — Day-Glo spandex tights, hot pink vertical bars on his shirt, white bandanna atop his head — that Mr. Image Is Everything dared to wear more than a decade ago.

Before the coin toss for his 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (5) second-round victory over Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia, Blake was greeted with chants of "Andre! Andre!" from the stands.

That was as close as fans got to cheering for Agassi for a while, because the rain that postponed Friday's night session at Flushing Meadows carried right on through to early Saturday.

Because of the bad weather, the start of play Saturday was delayed. With the forecast calling for rain until the evening, there was the possibility of the day session being postponed entirely.

And that, of course, would be just fine with Agassi. The eight-time major champion has needed two injections this week as he tries to push his 36-year-old body and bad back to the limit in the last tournament of his career.

"I would only imagine that any additional rest would be a help," said Gil Reyes, Agassi's trainer.

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Agassi was given an injection of anti-inflammatory medication Friday, Reyes said. Unlike Tuesday, when Agassi went to a hospital for a cortisone shot, this procedure was done at Agassi's hotel, because his back hurt too much for a car ride.

"The hope is obviously that Andre be able to compete and that his body can match his heart," Reyes said. "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 option but to do everything he can to fight to the finish."

Agassi was to play German qualifier Benjamin Becker in the third round Saturday. Other players scheduled to be on court, weather permitting, included past U.S. Open champions Lindsay Davenport, Marat Safin and Andy Roddick — who could face Agassi in the round of 16.

Roddick and Blake both have been dealt the unenviable task of following the great generation of U.S. men who won Grand Slam titles: Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Michael Chang.

"It does give me pause to realize why American tennis fans have been somewhat spoiled in the past 20 years," Blake said. "We're doing our best to represent them, and hopefully make it another great era."

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 Agassi's win over Marcos Baghdatis on Thursday-into-Friday.

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.

At No. 5, Blake has his highest seeding at any Grand Slam tournament, and the top placement for any American at the Open (Roddick is next at No. 9). Being a bigger deal than ever does have its downside, however.

"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."

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."

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."