In a battle of former champions, Andre Agassi and Yevgeny Kafelnikov faced off in the 2000 Australian Open final.
Having finally completed the career Grand Slam with his surprise run to the 1999 French Open title, Agassi only ramped up his efforts from there: He made a run to the Wimbledon final a few weeks later, then closed out the majors that year with a return to the winner’s circle at the US Open.
The American finished the season as the No. 1-ranked player in the world, just two years removed from falling outside of the top 140.
Optimism was high going into the new millennium, as he kicked off his campaign at the Australian Open. Only dropping one set through his first five matches, he was pushed to the brink by his longtime rival Pete Sampras in the semifinals before rallying for a five-set win to reach his first Melbourne final since his 1995 victory. In the championship match, he would face world No. 2 Kafelnikov. The Russian, who won the ’99 title for his second career major victory, had been in impressive form throughout the tournament: After dropping the first set in his opening match, he didn’t look back, as he won his 18 sets in a row.
Back in 1994, Kafelnikov announced himself on the world stage with a win over Agassi in their first encounter in Monte Carlo. In 1999, the two faced off four times, with Kafelnikov winning the first match before Agassi took the next three, including wins at the US Open and season-ending championships. In Melbourne, Kafelnikov was eager to turn the tide and he would go on to win his 19th set in a row by taking the opener 6-3.
In the second set, Agassi found the measure on his groundstrokes and return game. Gaining a crucial break to put himself up 5-3, Agassi leveled the match when Kafelnikov missed a forehand on set point. The world No. 1 then raced through the third set 6-2, and at the beginning of the fourth, broke Kafelnikov right away. Serving at 5-4, Agassi struck three aces, including one on match point, to clinch his sixth career Grand Slam title and third in his last four events.
For the first time in his career, Kafelnikov reached the semifinals or better at consecutive majors, with his final-four showing at the ’99 US Open preceding this run.
Out of his six major titles, this was the fourth where Agassi dropped the opening set before going on to win.
For the second major in a row, Agassi snapped a five-year title drought at the tournament: His US Open wins came in 1994 and ’99.
The last time a male player reached four straight major finals was 1969, the year Rod Laver claimed his second calendar-year Grand Slam.