Reyes and Agassi
(So sorry if this has already been posted...I read everything I can, but don't always read everything. I am almost as intrigued with this man Gil Reyes as I am with Agassi...credit to Inside Tennis Magazine...October issue):
COVER STORY: U.S. OPEN, october 2005
Gil Reyes on Agassi: ‘Tonight He Became What He Wanted To Be’
There’s no greater high profile tennis tandem in the Open Era than Andre Agassi and his pal/trainer/profoundly loyal confidante Gil Reyes. The former UNLV strength and conditioning coach-turned-savant-extraordinaire is as unsparing in the gym as he is strong and stoic in the friends box. Andre says Reyes’ support in decison-making is “priceless.” The Las Vegan noted, “Gil is the reason why I’ve won more Slams after the age of 29 than I did before. He’s the reason why I’m still out there playing at a time when I can really understand and appreciate it.” Obviously, there’s a deep spiritual bond between the two. Andre named his firt-born son after the man who’s been by his side through thick and thin for 16 years. Just after Andre’s magical triumph over Blake, IT and a couple of others spoke with the exceptional man behind the man.
QUESTION: What made tonight’s Agassi-Blake match so unique?
GIL REYES: Just think about all the things that are so special, so good about sports — the human spirit, the human will, having a genuine love and respect for each other and the biggest respect you can give an athlete is to give it all you have against him. Andre and james brought everything they could. The result just happened to go our way. But tonight wasn't about statistics. Down two sets to love, Andre sensed that this was much more than a big match — it was a moment in his life, not just his career and he needed to answer the call and he did."
Q: His life has had so many moments. When we look back will this be right there with the Sampras matches, his Wimbledon win, his Olympic gold or his great '99 Paris breakthrough?
GR: Absolutely. Yes.
Q: Why does Andre touch so many?
GR: They've see him struggle. We've all struggled. We've all been knocked down. We connect to that fact, that he was knocked down and got back up.
Q: How did Andre evolve from being a kid preoccupied with surface 'n sizzle to a man who of depth and reflection?
GR: It's everything he's wanted to be. He's become what he's wanted to be. Everyone of us dreams of scaling the heights and digging so deep within ourselves. He has. It's not so much a change. This has meant something to him since I met him when he was 18. This is who he wanted to be - and I'm not talking about the tennis player. This is who he wanted to be as a man. He’s become that before your very eyes.
Q: If you had to summarize this night in a word...
GR: It would only be 'will.' Andre gets it. This was not about a tennis match. It really wasn't. When you find yourself down two sets to none, in this moment, it's no longer about tennis. It was himself. This was a moment he's been preparing himself for. Tonight, he became what he wanted to be, which is everything we all dream of. We get tested in different ways. We get challenged in our lives. Tonight it just happened to be on the biggest stage of the American tennis year. He answered the bell. He can sleep tonight knowing that he answered the bell.
Q: Were you nervous?
GR: It's different, because when he was down two sets to none at Roland Garros in the ['99] final, that was fighting the dragon which had alluded us previously in the final. Each time we approached Roland Garros, the actual stadium, for 10 years between trips to the final. Roland Garros would literally loom in the streets of Paris.
Q: But Paris is all about beauty?
GR: We loved Paris, we loved the tournament, but when we would drive up there, there it was — that stadium. It looked like a dragon to us. We hated it. But tonight was different. It was against James. The way that moment was, the way the feeling was. all of that sorted itself out as the moment approached. We had heard and seen the stories of two great American athletes, two great American stories. They were each facing a moment in their lives. James faced it and answered the bell. You walk away from this loving James. You look at James and say, if you win, I hope I'm the first to come up to hug you. James earned it. James is a great American story, a great American athlete. Get to know him as a man and you're inspired. That's who he is. Andre just happened to be on the other side of the net. It wasn't the dragon, it wasn't Roland Garros, it was two sets to none when the story began for Andre because he was going to have to find a way to meet the challenge. You're a great athlete on a great stage — now what are you going to do now?
Q: He's such a survivor. Is that instinct? Is that craft?
GR: Now you're getting into a different area of Andre. The Andre he always wanted to be. We ask how great people face adversity. Sometimes we're fortunate to get through life without ever having to face that moment. But then you say maybe that wasn't so fortunate — I actually wanted to know. I wish I had known how I would have responded. For Andre, tonight was the answer. Down two sets to none, you couldn't have scripted it more dramatically.
Q: He loves the test, the challenge?
GR: Yes. He was ready. No one enjoys the feeling of adversity more than he does. You certainly don't go looking for it, but we're lucky to have faced that adversity. I think we all want that one moment of adversity — a crisis, a test. We all want it. We're all afraid of it. When the final bell is rung, we each wish we would have had one moment. Tonight was that moment. At Roland Garros, he slayed the dragon. Tonight was about respect and admiration. I'm sitting up there in total respect and awe of James Blake. Normally, we don't start rooting for the other guy. We want Andre to beat the other guy.But we're up there saying, James, you're special.If Andre must leave this game anytime soon, James please stay. James, please take care of yourself.
Q: At two sets and a break down against a young player, did you have any doubts Andre could come back?
GR: I knew that Andre could respond physically. The only problem was James had plenty, too. He's not only a great athlete, he has great heart. James was not going to give it away, he wasn't going to back off. James didn't falter. The match just turned.
Q: What do you work on so Andre has legs in a fifth set?
GR: It's not just the lungs. When you see an athlete pull up short - especially in this sport — most of the time it's not that he's out of wind. His legs are going. Once the legs go, you're helpless. We don't just work on the lungs, not just cardiovascular. We literally brutalize the legs with two-hour training sessions on just the legs. The legs, the legs. It's about starting and stopping, starting and stopping. We do that in the gym. Non-stop on the legs, we just set those thighs on fire. "You want to hurt" is a phrase he's heard hundred of times from me in the weight room. You're best things are on the other side of that hurt. So when your legs start hurting, don't shut down. Don't pace yourself when your legs hurt. Go. Get them to hurt.
Q: A few months ago at the French, we saw a man who was broken, who's career was in jeopardy. How did he come back?
GR: I prayed for that. I prayed that whatever his destiny was, he would be at peace. The immediate future, which, for Andre, is also the big picture. He's not 25, any short term plans are long-term plans. We were broken in spirit and we were also broken physically. [His coach] Darren Cahill and I needed to do everything we could to make sure the story was not left unfinished. We didn't want the doctor to be the one who said, "You're finished." We were broken in many ways. I told him to take some time off, a few weeks. He called me the next day and said, "I'm finished. Let's get this right. Let's fix this."
Q: You've been with him for so long. How does this night compare in performance and drama? Twenty thousand fans, one o'clock in the morning , a terrific opponent...
GR: New York, man. I rank it up there certainly at the top because of what happened. Again, it wasn't about coming here, it wasn't about winning this match. It was about this moment and what we were going to do. James came out of his own body. If Andre leaves the game, tennis is in pretty good hands. Listen to the guy. Don't just watch the guy. Listen to the guy
© 2005 INSIDE TENNIS All rights reserved.