ALWAYS coming from a different angle, Andre Agassi believes a Swiss star will have an influence in Sunday night's men's final, where he expects Novak Djokovic to beat Andy Murray. But it's not Roger Federer.
Surviving a huge fright against Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka, who led Djokovic a set and 5-3 in the fourth round before the Serb won 12-10 in the fifth, has provided the defending champion with a grounding while chasing a hat-trick of Australian Open titles, Agassi said.
''Given Djokovic's second life in that Wawrinka match and how he settled down and loosened up and started to hit his shots, I think he's in the right state of mind and I think he's going to execute with that sense of conviction. I like him,'' he said on Saturday.
''It makes a big difference, especially if you have a chance to recover physically. The vulnerable match for him would have been the next one because that's the one where somebody would have had a chance, [Tomas] Berdych.
''As a result of him getting through that solidly, comfortably and getting his tank a little bit more full and then blowing somebody out [David Ferrer in the semis], I think it plays a big factor because you feel like you're playing with the house's money, so to speak. That's what you need in tennis.''
Such is life at the top of tennis, Agassi saw Federer's defeat to Murray in Friday night's semi-final as a sign - subtle, but significant - of a changing of the guard, meaning the 17-time grand slam winner had to ''step it up'' to stay on the heels of this year's finalists.
But he remains in awe of how the world's big four, which still includes Rafael Nadal, continually raise the standard.
Agassi detects something of that ability in Bernard Tomic, although he said the ruthlessness the best call on would help the young Australian lower his ranking. Witness Djokovic's crushing of Ferrer, who is nominally the best of the rest.
''He has such firepower, but he's one of those guys who plays down to his opponent. You know what I mean?'' Agassi said of Tomic. ''He does more if he has to on every shot. He can hit great shots but he doesn't play the systematic, pressure game that he could because if you don't give him much to work with, he's content to not impose himself on you.
''I think that's where he could really make a big step in his game. When he's out there playing someone who's trying to hurt him he can rise. If he can have that upside, you've got to get better at getting there more often.''
Tomic's emergence is central to Tennis Australia's hopes of a traditional power regaining its lustre. Similarly, Agassi wants to see the US ''care again'' about tennis, and said that would depend on the likes of Sloane Stephens and John Isner - absent from Melbourne due to injury - inspiring the next wave.
The US and Australia share 60 Davis Cup titles between them, but Agassi said matching Europe's current dominance meant changing tack at junior level.
''An important component to that is spending a lot of time on the red clay at an early age. We don't have it and you guys are only starting to put it in,'' he said.
Agassi said clay was the best preparation in teaching youngsters the art of placement, rallying and imparting spin on strokes.
''It used to serve you year-round to grow up on a faster court and then make the adjustment in the clay season. Now it's the opposite. It seems like if you grew up on the clay, it's much easier to make the adjustment on other surfaces,'' he said.
The increasing drift towards speed, power and endurance has raised questions over whether tennis needs to do more against performance-enhancing drugs, particularly in light of Lance Armstrong's recent confessions.
Agassi said on Friday he was saddened and angered by Armstrong's doping admissions, and said stringent testing might have prevented him ''destroying a few years'' of his own life. Agassi used crystal meth in 1997 and, in his autobiography, admitted lying to authorities by claiming his drink had been spiked after he failed a drug test.
He said on Saturday year-round testing made it doubtful any players could use drugs and go undetected, although authorities had to remain vigilant.
''I suppose one could find a doctor and spend their time negotiating the nooks … of where they might be able to get away with it. Hard for me to believe it's achievable,'' he said. ''The integrity of a lot of sports with the recent events, it's understandable that that would come into question … I worry for the sport where anybody would ever question the integrity of the athletes.''