Baby helping Agassi grow up
by Jon Saraceno of USA Today
Through no fault of his own, Andre Agassi most always has been about Andre Agassi. Superstars aren't born as much as they're manufactured and marketed, and thus free will was not an option for the imagined tennis supernova that streaked through Mike Agassi's desperate mind 32 years ago. One day, a father peeks into a crib and is certain he sees the attentive, saucer-sized eyes of a champion. The next, the little fella has a mighty racket in his tiny mitt.
All the champion-in-training drills cannot prevent inevitable adolescence and corresponding rebellion. There is no middle ground when you're growing up in Vegas — only the strip. So away went the troubled, confused teen prodigy to that famous tennis factory in Florida. Before long, Andre Agassi was on the court and in our face, a jaunty, totally rad dude with a cool double-fisted backhand to match that torrent of hair and dangling earring. A powerful, charismatic little son-of-a-gun that you instantly abhorred or adored.
Even Agassi seemed torn during his celebrated heyday, so much so that his former wife, Brooke Shields, once was quoted as saying, "I think the times (he) doesn't feel good about himself outnumber the times he does."
Like everyone, Agassi has confronted outer struggle and inner turmoil. And while he dodged responsibilities at times, his ultimate response has been fight, not flight. That sort of perseverance and determination is what makes Agassi a real champion, why we must watch him in the U.S. Open, beginning Monday in New York, where he has become a fan favorite to win his third Open, 17 years after his debut.
"At the beginning, I liked New York about as much as it liked me," says Agassi, stroking the stubble on his now famously shaved head. "I didn't understand the mentality — the spirit, the heart, the passion, the lack of time for anything not New York. We've come full circle together. I've gone through years where I loved the game and hated the game. I misdirected my anger and resentment. But those down times have given me the strength and longevity to still be out there."
With Steffi Graf, whom he married last fall, and their 10-month-old son, Jared, Agassi has discovered there's more to life than holding court at Wimbledon, customizing your private jet or winging off to Monaco with a starlet.
The best thing about being a dad?
"Discovering my boy. Every day is Christmas."
"I wish I had hunted her down 10 years ago," he says.
"I love my family; this is the greatest time of my life. I have the luxury of your greatest partner having such an intimate understanding of what you've spent your whole life doing. Away from the court, she's the epitome of someone who will show you that she cares for you — not just tell you. It's taught me how important it is in any aspect of life to act instead of talk. It has changed my life, given me a new standard for what I want for myself ... who I am to those I claim I care about."
In the late 1990s, it was Agassi who was being pulled apart, professionally and personally, by lack of focus and preparation. In 1995, he was the top-ranked player in the world; within two years he had cratered to No. 141. Distracted, out of shape and going through divorce, Agassi lost his compass. "I really didn't know what I was doing," he says. "I went through a marriage that was pretty brutal. It ended with a lot of humility. There's not a whole lot that can make a man question himself more than getting up there and promising your life (to someone)."
The Agassi renaissance began in 1998, then climaxed three years ago when he regained the No. 1 position. Physically, he must work harder than ever to keep up with frisky 20-year-olds from the USA, Europe and South America.
"Every day, I wake up going, 'How am I going to get through what's asked of me today?' " he says. "At the end of the day, I just let out a sigh of relief. I really have a hard time believing I did it."
Yes, the wild child of tennis has learned that self-centeredness is a deserted island, invincibility a mirage. So, he says, "I address every day with a real sense of appreciation. I want to suck the marrow out of life."
Contributing: E-mail Jon Saraceno at firstname.lastname@example.org
An okay article...except Agassi's son is Jaden not Jared...LOL