most of you have already seen it... just too good not to emphasize!!
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
ATP still searching for the 'Next Andre'
By Dustin Dow
Enquirer staff writer
The Enquirer/Michael E. Keating
Andre Agassi withdrew Sunday from playing in this week's Masters, but local fans still couldn't wait to get his autograph.
AGASSI NEAR TOP, ON COURT AND OFF
Andre Agassi is one of the most successful men's tennis players of all time and arguably the most popular off the court because of his personality and generosity.
On the court
All-time match wins
Player W L
Jimmy Connors 1,222 269
Ivan Lendl 1,070 238
Guillermo Vilas 920 281
John McEnroe 867 192
Andre Agassi 854 254
ATP Masters Series titles
Agassi: 17 (three in W&S Masters)
Pete Sampras: 11
Thomas Muster: 8
Michael Chang: 7
Roger Federer: 7
Agassi has 60 ATP titles, good for seventh all time. His 101 weeks at No. 1 is sixth all time.
Off the court
The Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation is second only to seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong's in its financial impact on the people it helps, according to the most recent published figures.
1. Lance Armstrong Foundation, $13.7 million (2004 figures)
2. Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation, $11 million (2003 figures)
3. Tiger Woods Foundation, $1.5 million (2003 figures)
MASON - The Western & Southern Financial Group Masters remains stocked with nine of the top 10 players in the world, but there's nothing quite like losing Andre Agassi the night before the start of the tournament.
It doesn't matter if he's in Cincinnati, Hamburg or Dubai: Agassi is the ATP Tour's most recognizable player, with a fan-friendly personality that has endeared him to crowds the world over.
His withdrawal from the W&S Masters on Sunday, however, reinforced what is becoming the central storyline regarding Agassi. The 35-year-old's body is becoming too fragile to play professional tennis for many more years, and soon enough the ATP, as well as the W&S Masters, will be permanently without one of the most popular players in the history of the sport.
"I think this game has a great future when it comes to its potential growth," Agassi said Monday at the Lindner Family Tennis Center, where he met with adidas marketing representatives about their new endorsement relationship.
"It's great to see, and I can't be objective as to how I'll fit into this picture, but I can say that I'll miss it a lot. I'll miss the competition. I'll miss the sport. I'll miss the guys, all the stuff that goes with it. I can say there's a lot of hope for this game."
The realization of his own popularity, Agassi said, made the decision to pull out of the W&S Masters that much more difficult, though he called it the right move to preserve his health for the U.S. Open and beyond.
"I'm trying to negotiate a career now, and how I'm going to go about my profession," Agassi said. "And making the wrong decision is going to have big ramifications for me at this stage. But (withdrawing) does make me feel bad."
Agassi still has his moments on the court, such as last week's run to the Tennis Masters Series Canada final that vaulted him into first place in the U.S. Open Series. But he is no longer tennis' best player.
That title belongs to No. 1 Roger Federer, 24, whose gracefulness and skill are unparalleled but whose marketing prowess does not approach that of the sixth-ranked Agassi.
Likewise, the other four top-five players - Rafael Nadal, Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin and Andy Roddick - are young men who have Agassi beat on the tennis court but not in the court of appeal.
"If you are announcing the participation of Roger Federer and Andre in a tournament, I would say Andre is beating him selling tickets immediately," said Horst Klosterkemper, president of the ATP's European division. "Without devaluing Federer, who is in the moment, the top, top player, Andre has got something really special."
Agassi's off-court allure was enough to persuade adidas, the world's second-largest athletic apparel company, to enter into a long-term agreement with him in July, a partnership that includes an adidas pledge to support Agassi's charitable foundation. Agassi's former sponsor, Nike, which had paid him a reported $120 million over 10 years, balked at funding the charity to Agassi's liking.
Agassi said his agreement with adidas has little to do with how well he plays on the court - or even if he continues to play. That only emphasizes his marketing power.
Federer, by contrast, does not even have an agent, which limits the extent of his Nike deal; Reebok dumped Roddick in April (Roddick subsequently signed with Lacoste), and Hewitt, a former Nike player, has no clothing sponsor.
"While we've still got Agassi, we should milk him for all he's worth," said U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe. "He's still the biggest draw in tennis."
One simple photograph attests to that.
An aerial shot of Agassi and Federer playing on top of a Dubai helipad 700 feet above ground was seen this year by more than 3 billion people - half of the world's population.
"He's got a global impact, and it's fascinating, really, because of how late in his career it is," said Kevin Adler, vice president at Relay sponsorship and event marketing "The ATP is doing the right thing by proactively continuing to introduce the next generation to fans.
"But if you look at pro sports in general, Andre has not only delivered on the court, but he's delivered with his personality. I don't think they've got the next Andre yet."
Agassi said he would like to play next year in Mason, the site of his last major title, won last year. He made no guarantee, however, as doubts about his health dictate his future.
"For so long here, he's given people memorable matches," said W&S Masters tournament director Bruce Flory. "They loved it. He's not going to do that very often anymore. We'll miss him, but to have a guy like that around - who'd have thought you'd have somebody like that for so long? It's been phenomenal."