The Grand Slam dream of Germany's Rainer Schüttler went up in flames in the sweltering Melbourne heat on Sunday as a scorching display by Andre Agassi secured the American his fourth Australian Open title.
Down and out down under
Rainer Schüttler, once again the rising star of German tennis, came back down to earth with a bump on Sunday after a whirlwind encounter with Andre Agassi ended his dream of bringing the Australian Open title back home.
The 26-year-old Schüttler, entering the competition seeded 31 had never further than the fourth round of a major tournament before arriving at Melbourne Park earlier this month. After an amazing run through earlier rounds, the German had stunned the tennis world by reaching the final at the expense of the equally unfancied Andy Roddick.
On reaching Sunday's final, he became the first German player since Michael Stich at the 1996 French Open to play in a major singles final and was only the second German to reach the men's final in the 98-year history of the Australian Open.
Unfortunately, the young German rarely looked comfortable with these facts and was easy pickings for a rejuvenated Agassi on blistering from.
Schüttler blown away by rampant Agassi
The American blew Schüttler off the court in one hour and 16 minutes, winning his fourth Australian Open title in straight sets 6-2 6-2 6-1 to become the third oldest winner of a slam title in the open era at the grand old age of 32.
The figures on paper show the difference in quality between the two players: Agassi hit 30 winners to Schüttler's 16 and only made half as many unforced errors as the German while Schuettler got just 51 per cent of his first serves into play, and only won 58 per cent of the points when he did. That figure dropped to a miserable 28 per cent on his second serve.
But statistics only tell half the story.
Even in top form, the German would have needed divine intervention to overcome the rampant Agassi. The veteran champion, with eight Grand Slam singles titles under his belt, exploded out of the blocks spectacular fashion, stringing together a run of eight points to lead 2-0.
Errors punished in whirlwind match
It looked like Agassi would be in the shower before the hour was out as the world number two broke Schüttler's serve again before the shell-shocked German steadied himself and broke back in the fourth game. This proved to be just a blip as the relentless Agassi engineered two more break points in Schuettler's fourth service game and broke when the German overhit a forehand.
An unhappy Rainer Schüttler.
Schüttler battled back in an attempt to delay Agassi winning the first set but the German threw a 0-30 lead against the American's serve by throwing in two forehand errors. The first set was in the bag in just 29 minutes. Agassi claimed the second set by the same score in three minutes less to leave Schüttler reeling. And the German's game continued to come apart at the seams under the might of Agassi's assault and he was broken three further times in the third set.
While Agassi celebrated another successful trip Down Under, another German could afford a rueful smile - Agassi's wife, Steffi Graf.
Mixed messages from potential dream team?
Back on court soon?
It has been widely reported that the couple agreed on a wager before the Australian Open whereby Graf would come out of retirement to partner her husband on court if Agassi triumphed at Melbourne Park in Sunday’s final. The couple, who married in 2001 and have a son, Jaden Gil, are expected to enter the mixed doubles competition at the French Open in May - if Agassi can hold his wife to the agreement. Graf retired in 1999 after an illustrious career in which she won 22 Grand Slam titles.