PARIS, JUNE 9 -- Ten years and a vast difference in fashion and attitude separate Andre Agassi and Andres Gomez. They are brought together in Sunday's French Open final, a 20-year-old Las Vegas material boy and a 30-year-old Ecuadorian journeyman.
Agassi and Gomez arrived here by similar yet diametrically opposite paths. Agassi put on layers of muscle at the bench press, hoping to designate this season as his breakthrough. Gomez has lost 15 pounds by quitting beer and is striving to win a major after 12 years of disappointment.
"The experience doesn't count, it's not like we'll be trying to outsmart each other," Agassi said. "He is in the same situaion as me: We haven't reached the final of a Grand Slam tournament before."
Their power baseline games are suited for the dull, red clay of Stade Roland Garros, but they are all-surface and all-court players who share the flaw of occasional lackadaisicalness. But that is where the similarities end, Agassi a diminutive long-hair of 5 feet 11 who likes to counterpunch, Gomez a neatly attired and barrel-chested mass of 6 feet 4, and perhaps more of a shot-maker.
The American is a nonconformist who has yet to demonstrate he has either the hardiness or maturity to be a champion. He is attempting to follow younger but more mature Michael Chang, 18, who last year was the first American to win the French since 1955.
Agassi wears his hair in a blond-on-black mane and carries pictures of his sports cars. He has chosen hot pink and black expressly to irritate French Tennis Federation President Philippe Chatrier, who is considering a predominately white clothing rule. His behavior has been alternately sullen, naive, or that of an international film star.
He does not shower, dress, or even set foot in the locker room; he has a special room for himself and his entourage. At the airport he demanded to drive the limousine to his hotel. Told by the driver it was impossible, he threw a small tantrum and continued to insist until advised the insurance problems would be too great.
Stories like these obscure Agassi's not inconsiderable and growing ability to play tennis. He has a poisonous forehand and a short, vicious two-fisted backhand. For the first time since he shot to the top five by winning six tournaments in 1988, he has shown a measure of steadiness and aim on the court.
"If I win a Grand Slam tournament people should focus more on my tennis amd capabilities," Agassi said. "I don't see any reason why they would not think that way. But if they didn't, it wouldn't really surprise me. I don't know. I'm not really concerned with that."
Perhaps nothing sums up the gap in age and potential between Agassi and Gomez as well as this: Agassi surpassed $2 million in earnings by making the final; Gomez's earnings over his 12-year career amount to $3.4 million. Agassi has been a Grand Slam semifinalist four times, Gomez never won a major quarterfinal until now. The French is the tournament he covets most and has the best chance of winning, with 15 of his 19 titles on clay.
So while the future yawns before Agassi, it is growing smaller for Gomez. On the eve of their final, both clearly were thinking about an opportunity that may not come again this easily.
"He is 20. He is talented. It will be a nice match," Gomez said.