** Andre News Articles & Interviews !! ** - Page 6 - MensTennisForums.com
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post #76 of 731 (permalink) Old 10-05-2004, 08:31 PM
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Tuesday October 5, 08:08 PM

Agassi coming back Down Under

The centenary Australian Open will be graced by Andre Agassi, Martina Navratilova and a historic men's night final.

Agassi's bows to a packed crowd after losing an epic semi-final to Marat Safin in January prompted speculation he had played at Melbourne Park for the last time.


But the four-time Open champ has committed to at least one more year on the circuit and wife Steffi Graf confirmed recently he was coming back Down Under.

The 48-year-old Navratilova's initial response after losing the 2004 Australian mixed doubles final with Leander Paes seemed unequivocal.

"Losing in a final stinks - it's almost better to lose earlier," the ageless legend said at the time.

"But at the same time, it's nice to be on that stage and be able to say goodbye properly."

But she has had a change of heart and will again enter the doubles competitions.

"What I heard was that she was potentially going to do a bigger commentating role (with Channel Seven) but because of her on-court duties she's not going to," Open chief executive Paul McNamee said on Tuesday at the 2005 tournament launch.

The situation surrounding Australian-turned-Serb Jelena Dokic is less clear.

Dokic has not played at Melbourne Park since falling out with organisers in 2001 after claims by her father Damir that the draw had been rigged.

The former world No.4 planned to end her Australian exile this year, only to withdraw at the last moment saying her preparation was inadequate.

Since then Dokic's ranking has slipped to 43 and she hasn't won a tour match since April.

"Unfortunately she's really struggling with her tennis," said McNamee.

She'd be really welcome if she did come, but I've had no definitive word."

The biggest change for the 2005 Open is a first-ever men's singles night final starting at 7.30pm (AEDT) on January 30.

That moves it into a better time zone for Asian and European TV viewers, although it will take place in the middle of the night in the United States.

Both men's semi-finals have been played at night for several years.

McNamee said there was no plan to move the women's semis and finals from its current daytime slots.

Total prizemoney has been increased by $100,000 to $19.1 million, while the price of finals tickets has risen $20 to $145.

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post #77 of 731 (permalink) Old 10-18-2004, 01:18 AM
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Article on Andre in the American Way MagazineA SURE BET


When he's not competing, tennis ace Andre Agassi heads home to Las Vegas, which he says is much more normal than people think.

Andre Agassi is a Vegas boy, born and raised. But he’s not from the bright lights, roll ’em side of town. He’s from the Vegas of neighborhoods, churches, and schools, the Vegas that the 33-year-old tennis vet says taught him that anything is possible. The son of a mother who worked at an unemployment office and a dad who helped run the Jubilee show, Agassi got his first taste of pro tennis as a ball boy for tournaments at Caesars Palace, and began his rise to what has become almost two decades in the upper rankings of his sport. Although he once blazed across the court in long hair and day-glo clothing, Agassi is now as down- to-earth as the next guy, living in Vegas with his wife, retired tennis pro Steffi Graf, and their two children. Although he still travels to tournaments much of the year, Agassi has left a legacy to his hometown: the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation, which has raised more than $35 million for children’s charities, and the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, which educates some 250 students. Here’s a weekend in the city where Andre Agassi learned to win.

Where do you go first after returning home from a tournament or appearance?
“A good restaurant, because Vegas has come so far in their cuisine and dining options. I love Nobhill at the MGM Grand. It’s a phenomenal restaurant. For steak, I love Delmonico at the Venetian. Go for the filet, charred medium. With the family, go up in Summerlin to a place called Sedona. Actually, I’m a partner in it, and it feels like home to go to the place that you helped create.”

You’re also part owner now in the Golden Nugget.
“Yeah, I’m involved with some friends that I grew up with, which is exciting. I’m second generation here, and the people I’m involved with are third generation Vegas. The Nugget is a lot of fun because it’s such old Vegas. You’re talking about a place that has been there for a lot of years and has a great feel.”

Do you have any other favorite hotels/casinos?
“It’s hard to get nicer than the Bellagio. But that said, every hotel offers its thing. Caesars Palace now has Celine Dion camped there. You’ve got Mandalay Bay, which has an incredible bar and lounge at the top of the hotel called The Foundation. There’s a deck there overlooking the whole city. The Hard Rock Hotel has The Joint, with incredible music acts that come through. This city is about targeting what it is you are looking for, because you’re going to find it. It’s not about one place having it all and you never leave; there’s just too much to experience.”

What else should every visitor know about Las Vegas?
“Vegas has been the fastest-growing city in America for more than 30 years. It’s a city of great vision. It’s a city where the community believes that if you actually believe in something enough, you can create it and make it happen. It gets a tough rap because it’s perceived as an adult Disneyland. But the community of people who actually live here is strong. It is a community that bonds together and looks out for each other. It’s an incredibly inspirational city.”

Most people think of the Strip when they think of Vegas, but there’s also a lot of activity downtown, right?
“Downtown is a place where you can park your car and walk around and experience that old feeling of just stepping two feet off the street into a casino that basically has no doors. And the lights are incredible. There are more lights downtown than you will see in New York at Christmas.”

Where do you go then to get away from all the glitz?
“There’s a lot to be offered in the outskirts — the Red Rock Canyon, going hiking and biking. If you’re on the Strip, you’re probably about 35 minutes away from Red Rock. You just take Charleston as far west as you can possibly go. There are trails all back through there with waterfalls and beautiful red rock and great hiking.”

Tell us a great local spot that people don’t know about.
“Out where we live, there’s this place called Desert Shores, where there are these little lakes. There is a real cute French eatery called Marché Bacchus there on the lake where you can sit outside. You would never know you were in Vegas. Jaden, our two-year-old, entertains himself by feeding the ducks while we’re eating.”

With all the money in Vegas, there’s got to be some good shopping.
“Yeah, we have all the great shops: the Aladdin shops and the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, which are incredible. Go with the family. You go from having dinner to taking your kids to FAO Schwarz to looking around at different high-end retailers. You can’t imagine how many thousands of pairs of jeans there are to choose from until you go to the Forum Shops. It’s a lot of fun. But I don’t know if you should trust me with shopping.”

Okay, what about something you know a little more about, like sports. What are your favorite golf courses?
“Shadow Creek is pretty amazing. It’s the course Steve Wynn built through the Mirage Resorts. He put about $43 million into it and made it look like you were on some holes in Hawaii and some in Colorado. You just can’t believe the terrain and the way he built this course. The thing that blows you away about it is that it’s in the middle of the desert. There has been such a big boom in courses here. There’s Bali Hai, a great course right on the Strip. But I am a creature of habit, and usually play at the courses closest to where I live, Shadow Creek and Red Rock.”

I bet your wife likes all the spas. Which ones are the best?
“There is a great one at the Bellagio, and Canyon Ranch has a spa at the Venetian.”

Speaking of your wife, is there a place the two of you go for a special evening?
“My wife and I are pretty similar. We think a great evening out together is to get some good sushi, so we go to Nobu. We enjoy sitting at the sushi bar because it’s only the two of us. We just sort of take our time and pick through a lot of different flavors and tastes.”

Any other restaurants to recommend?
“Seablue at the MGM is amazing. It’s a fish restaurant. Emeril’s is fantastic. Prime at the Bellagio is pretty amazing. There’s also an old French restaurant downtown called Andre’s. It’s in an old house and has been around for decades. We used to go there when I was young, and I still go back. It’s really clean and nice.”

Where can you get a great meal for $25 or less?
“Twenty-five dollars would be an expensive meal at most of the casinos. There are some nice restaurants now; we have so many five-star restaurants it’s crazy. But as far as being able to fill your stomach as cheaply as possible, there’s probably no city in the world that offers more. I have heard speakers at colleges talk about when the kids travel in and out to compete, whether it’s a tennis team or what have you, that Vegas is the only place in the country that they can eat on the per diem. You can go to all of these $3.99 buffets, where their only goal is to get you in the door.”

Which shows do you like?
“You’ve gotta see O. It’s incredible. O is a Cirque du Soleil show, but it’s done in water. You find it so amazing that you are sitting in the middle of a showroom with a stage basically made out of water. The showroom is in a casino, and the casino is in the middle of the desert. It just blows you away that you’re watching this. Another show I love is Danny Gans. He does impersonations of hundreds of legendary performers and singers. The show is really nostalgic; it almost brings to life these characters that you always used to think about so fondly — the Frank Sinatras, the James Deans, and scenes from movies.”

Where can you go to hear some great music?
“Vegas gets more music acts coming through than any other city in the world. We have concerts nonstop. So the options for music are endless. The MGM Grand Garden is a concert hall here. They use it for a lot of things. Mandalay Bay has the tenors there; it’s a big, 14,000- to 15,000-square-foot indoor hall. The Joint at the Hard Rock always has musical acts there. But I’m a family guy. I don’t quite go out and hit it like I used to.”

What do you remember about growing up in Vegas?
“When I was a boy, my dad used to work from 4:00 in the afternoon until like 2:00 in the morning, and my mom worked from 8:00 in the morning until 4:00 in the afternoon. So we were with my dad all day and my mom all night. A lot of times when I was with my mom, whether we were going to go get dinner or go shopping, we needed some money from Dad, who was working. So we would pull into the old MGM Grand Hotel, and at like eight years old, I would go running through the casino to the Jubilee showroom, where they had all the naked dancing ladies, the follies kind of chorus line type stuff. I knew all the captains and maitre d’s and used to just wait for my dad to come through his little turn there in the office. He would give us some money and I’d go running back out, go to the grocery store, and go home. As a little boy, it felt strangely normal.”

Could you ever live in a normal town?
“The thing is, excluding the slot machines at grocery stores, there’s nothing about living here that would seem any more or less odd than living anywhere else. We have an industry here: the gaming and tourism industry. We have a few casinos that have popped up in different areas of town, but we also have more churches per capita than most of the cities in America. That’s not wedding chapels; that’s real churches. We have 27 high schools here. It’s a very narrow perspective to think that a person who was born and raised here had an abnormal upbringing. It’s like thinking if you live in New Orleans, that you’ve gotta get drunk every night.”

So, how did growing up in Vegas affect you?
“Caesars used to have the Alan King Tennis Tournament, and I was a ball boy there. The top 32 in the world played there. I played tennis hard almost as soon as I could walk. I was competing at seven years old, playing tournament after tournament. But being a ball boy really got me in tune to what the players might or might not be thinking or feeling, and being up close, watching the concentration and seeing the sweat, hearing the movement and the grunting. Caesars would give $50,000 to the winner. They would pay you in silver dollars that they brought out in a wheelbarrow. Obviously, that was for show and you would get a check. I remember watching the greats win, and they would bring the wheelbarrow out. It was sort of symbolic: This is a dream world, a dream life. But it only happens if you have the backbone and strength to dream it. Las Vegas made me feel like I can dream.”

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post #78 of 731 (permalink) Old 10-18-2004, 02:56 PM
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A Smash Hit at the Bren
It was a fun-filled night at the Bren as top tennis players competed at the WTT All-Star Smash Hits. by: Marissa Botello
Staff Writer

Professional tennis player Andre Agassi entertained the crowd at the Bren by taking his shirt off to screaming and adoring fans.

Professional tennis player Andy Roddick takes a quick break before resuming play against veteran tennis star Andre Agassi at the Bren on Oct. 11.

On Oct. 11, World TeamTennis hit the Bren Events Center for its 12th annual All-Star Smash Hits. The event, benefitting the Elton John Aids Foundation, included a star-studded lineup of professional tennis players hosted by Billie Jean King and Sir Elton John.

The WTT has traveled across the country for over a decade and finally decided to make it’s mark in Irvine, Calif. John commented that a reason they decided to come to Irvine was because “Southern California’s always been good for support for tennis,” and because the Newport Beach Breakers won the WTT Pro League this year.

The night proved to be a success. The Bren was packed not only with tennis admirers, students and families, but with a great tennis game and lighthearted fun.

Andre Agassi, who has become a regular in the event the last few years, likes “to see a lot more involvement with the fans.”

This is one of those events where there is interaction between the players and the crowd, which is uncharacteristic of sporting events. But Agassi also feels that the event is also about bringing “tennis to places who don’t see this level [of play] ... It’s a great way to expose it.”

Before the event, a silent auction of sports memorabilia, including an autographed picture of Anna Kournikova and an autographed piano chair from John, were ready for bids.

Andy Roddick, Tracy Austin, Billie Jean King and John made brief appearances at the auction to greet the crowd and answer a few questions. Afterwards, the Bren began to fill up for the highly anticipated event.

The occasion was marked by the traditional competition between two coed teams. Team Billie Jean King included Agassi, Agassi’s current coach Darren Cahill and Kournikova; team Sir Elton John was made up of Roddick, Roddick’s own coach Brad Gilbert and Austin.

First, there was a celebrity match with John and Roddick versus Agassi and Kournikova. The tennis rules were also tweaked a little for the event. The match proved to be a warm-up for both the players and the crowd.

“I’m living a fantasy tonight by being on the court,” John said.

It was the only time he would play for the night and he performed well considering the company he was in. Team Elton won the match, but the score would not count toward the final team score.

Next, in one of three matches which would count toward the final score, was the men’s doubles. It featured Roddick and Gilbert against Agassi and Cahill. It ended with Agassi and Cahill taking the match to put Team Billie in the lead.

Next was the mixed doubles match. The players let loose and had fun with each other and the fans. Gilbert and Austin started out against Cahill and Kournikova, but the score once again started to go towards Team Billie. Agassi came in to substitute for Cahill and Roddick followed his lead by substituting for Gilbert.

Agassi was poking fun at Kournikova regarding all the attention she was receiving from the male audience members, but that’s not to say that Agassi didn’t have a lot of female fans rooting him on.

At one point he even took off his shirt to take some of the limelight away from Kournikova and everyone loved it.

Roddick also got into the action by showing off his dance moves at one point and imitating the way Kournikova yells after she hits a ball back to her opponent.

But after everyone calmed down and got back into the game, not even Roddick’s dance moves were enough to overtake Agassi and Kournikova who won the match and kept Team Billie in the lead.

The final match was two sets of play from men’s singles players Roddick and Agassi. This powerhouse match-up proved to be one of the night’s highlights as fans gasped with amazement and clapped in admiration for the competitors.

During the match, one fan even yelled a comment at Roddick saying that his serve looks faster on TV. Roddick answered by getting the fan to come down to the floor and receive a few of Roddick’s lightning serves.

Agassi lent the fan his racket, which was his only form of protection against Roddick’s 135 mph serves. It was entertaining and both Rodick and the audience member were good sports about it.

Roddick was making a good comeback for Team Elton and won the first set, but in the second set it was Agassi who took a commanding lead and went on to win the match.

Overall, the final score for both teams was 12-17, with another win for Billie’s team, making it three years in a row and the seventh overall win during the event’s 12 year history.

It was a memorable night for tennis fans and players who, in the end, all helped a good cause, the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

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post #79 of 731 (permalink) Old 10-19-2004, 01:52 AM
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Madrid absences boost Ferrero, Henman, Agassi
MADRID, Spain (AP) -- Defending champion Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain will not have to face the world's top three players to retain his title at the Madrid Masters, which starts Monday.

Roger Federer, Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt all pulled out of the euro2.4 million (US$3 million) tournament citing injury, fatigue or personal reasons.

The absence of those players should also help Tim Henman of Britain and Andre Agassi of the United States, who are trying to earn enough points to qualify for next month's Masters Cup.

Federer, Roddick, Hewitt and Gaston Gaudio of Argentina have already qualified for the Masters Cup. Carlos Moya of Spain and Guillermo Coria of Argentina are next in the points race, but they are also skipping the Madrid Masters.

With the withdrawals, Henman is seeded first in Madrid, followed by Ferrero and Agassi. The top 16 seeds have byes until Wednesday.

The winner gets euro360,000 (US$450,000) and 100 points in the Champion's Race.

The weeklong event was to start at 11 a.m. (0900 GMT) Monday with Robin Soderling of Sweden facing Florian Mayer of Germany in the opening match.
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post #80 of 731 (permalink) Old 10-29-2004, 04:47 PM
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Agassi says drug cheating impossible in tennis

2 hours, 25 minutes ago U.S. National - AFP

STOCKHOLM (AFP) - After undergoing an estimated 20 drugs tests last season, tennis icon Andre Agassi says there's no way anyone playing the sport can cheat the system.

Despite the earlier 2004 furore over the Greg Rusedski positive Nandrolone test - successfully appealed - and the continuing mystery of trace elements of the banned, performance-enhancing substance which have shown up in repeated ATP player tests, Agassi maintains his faith in the system.

"It's an incredibly strict (anti-doping) policy we have," the 34-year-old said as he bids for a title at this week's Stockholm Open.

"Last year I was tested 20 times, maybe eight times blood, possibly more. You don't have opportunity in tennis to take time away to use drugs to enhance your performance.

"We play all the year around all over the world. If there are any positive tests that come around it is more likely that it is a function of international teenagers - people are giving them something, maybe they think it's vitamins."

Agassi admitted: "The issue of ignorance is a high possibility."

But the holder of 59 career trophies is firm in his belief that the sport is clean.

"To actually think that with our policy and testing it's possible to cheat and get away with it - it's absurd.

"It's a question of when, not if you get caught."

Agassi said that the anomaly of the spate of tiny, but positive Nandrolone tests remains a scientific puzzle.

"It makes you wonder if there some vitamin or whatever that have some contamination in it (supplements) that are showing signs. For somebody to cheat in our sport, (it) would be a miracle if you get away with it."

He added that the safeguards and due process which allowed Britain's Rusedski to successfully prove under law that his positive didn't come from illegal ingestion, are a critical part of the equation.

"As a player with your livelihood, your life and career - everything you've worked your whole life for - (can be destroyed).

"We have to make sure this doesn't happen, that it's a fair and just system that we have in the testing and the due process of appealing. In any part of a free society you have to be able to count on this."
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post #81 of 731 (permalink) Old 11-16-2004, 03:52 PM
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Other type of business by Andre:

Expansion Planned Before Wynn Even Opens
Island Could Be Added To Lake Las Vegas

Rick Garman, Vegas4Visitors.com

UPDATED: 10:30 AM EST November 15, 2004

The biggest of the big new nightclubs is opening at Caesars in December. With two levels and 36,000 square feet, Pure is aiming to offer a little something for everyone.

Owned in party be Celine Dion, Shaquille O'Neal, Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, the nightclub will go into the space once occupied by Caesars Magical Empire. The main nightclub area will feature three bars, oversized beds for seating and a VIP area overlooking the huge dance floor.

The Red Room is a separate VIP area with its own bar, restrooms and dance floor. The Terrace is above the main nightclub, a four-story, indoor/outdoor club of its own with more bars, private cabanas, a waterfall, a fire pit, another dance floor and what is being billed as "incredible panoramic views of the Strip."

A few months after the opening of Pure, the Pussycat Dolls Lounge will open, adjacent to the main nightclub. It will feature a nightly, adult-flavored cabaret show and more drinking and partying space. I'm exhausted already, and the place hasn't even opened yet.
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post #82 of 731 (permalink) Old 12-03-2004, 07:54 PM
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How Brooke shook Andre's world


December 4, 2004

ANDRE Agassi began dating US actor Brooke Shields in 1993 – a relationship that caused a media frenzy wherever they went.

But, as Andre's dad, I had his reservations about the beautiful star right from the start.

Despite plenty of opportunities, by the time he was 24, Andre had been interested in only three women in his life: Amy Moss, a member of the hospitality team at a tournament in Memphis; Wendi Stewart, a neighbour of ours on Tara Street in Las Vegas who, for a time, travelled with Andre on the tour; and Barbra Streisand, who . . . well, you all know who she is. For the record, as far as I know anyway, Barbra and Andre really were just good friends.

And then he met Brooke Shields.

She wasn't as flashy as many Hollywood types. She was sweet natured, well mannered, reserved, sensitive, and rather bright.

Both Andre and Brooke are very spiritual people. Both were child prodigies. Both were powerfully motivated – some would say browbeaten – by their parents to succeed, Brooke by her mother and Andre by me. Both had high-profile careers, ones that had experienced serious bumps over the years. However, those high-profile careers limited their time together; Andre was a slave to the tour, and Brooke had movies – mainly of the direct-to-video variety – to shoot.

As nice as Brooke seemed, I did have reservations about the relationship from the very beginning.

In particular, the media frenzy their union had spawned concerned me. When their relationship became public, even Andre, hardly a stranger to the press, was stunned by the circus that followed Brooke's every move. Any time Brooke was in the stands while Andre played a match, the camera focused on her at least as much as it focused on him.

Even though Andre had decided beforehand to take it easy in 1993 it had wound up being a lousy year. He'd been left by Bollettieri. He'd endured a string of bitter losses. He dropped to No. 24 in the rankings and ended the year laid-up and overweight after wrist surgery.

In 1994, Andre proved my fears – about his game, anyway – unfounded. After five months away from the tour, during which he'd done some hard thinking about his future, he blazed back.

In April of 1995, amid a 26-match winning streak, Andre squeaked into the No. 1 spot for the first time in his career. Even better, thanks at least in part to Brooke's influence, he drastically improved his training regimen and eating habits. By clocking in 2½ hours of gym time a day (he could bench press nearly 300 pounds!) and eschewing Taco Bell and Big Gulps, Andre shed the weight he'd gained.

Perhaps most amazing of all, he cut his hair off. In one swift motion, the over-processed rat's nest that had come to symbolise Andre's flash, his flamboyance, was gone. He'd started balding anyway, so he decided it was time to bite the bullet.

In 1996, Andre called home and told us he was planning to propose to Brooke. "If that's what you want," I said, "you have my blessing."

I wasn't happy about it, but then again, it wasn't my life. And who knew? Maybe I'd be proven wrong about Andre marrying Brooke.

The wedding was to be in Monterey on April 19, 1997, 10 days before Andre's 27th birthday.

At the reception, I sat down for dinner with my family – except for Andre, of course, who was with Brooke. We ate an obscenely expensive meal after which I felt sick. Not sick physically, but sick. The stress of the day, my misgivings about Andre's marriage – it all rumbled in my gut like fish.

So I left.

In retrospect, I see that leaving your own son's wedding halfway through the reception isn't the greatest move a father could make. But I just had to get out of there, to breathe a bit. I think Andre viewed my early exit as some sort of protest statement, and maybe it was. I've never been great at hiding my feelings, especially when I see a problem. One thing I do know is Andre was terribly angry and hurt afterward, and I was sorry about that. Really I was. But it was done. I couldn't undo it.

Andre tanked in 1997.

It didn't take a brain trust to figure out the problem: Andre was torn. He loved Brooke. He wanted to be with her. Chasing the tour meant spending weeks, even months apart. He just didn't want it.

As for Brooke, she was busy with her show, with other acting jobs. She wasn't about to sacrifice that for Andre. After all, if history was any judge, she might never find work again. And so Andre made the sacrifices, following Brooke from location to location.

Andre, sometimes referred to as "Mr Brooke Shields" by the press, was not happy.

Finally, after bottoming out at No. 141, Andre had had enough. With Brooke's blessing, he re-dedicated himself to tennis in late 1997. But by then, his confidence was so shattered, he opted to play the satellite circuit instead of the ATP tour. Andre took a lot of guff for that in the press, but I was proud of him. A lesser man would have retired. Through hard work, through steady effort, Andre turned things around in 1998.

One night, in April of 1999, the phone rang. It was late. As always, Betty picked up. It was Andre.

She listened, nodded as he spoke, and then hung up the phone. "He's filing for divorce," she said, her eyes wide. The next day, just 10 days shy of Andre and Brooke's two-year anniversary, it was final. Just like that.

Andre never told us what had happened, why he'd wanted a divorce, why he'd wanted it so quickly. I had a few suspicions; at my job, I occasionally heard things about Brooke that weren't exactly favourable, but I never passed those stories along to Andre. The fact the couple had barely spent more than a week at a time together during the course of their 2½-year marriage couldn't have helped.

In any case, as far as I was concerned, the divorce was good news. Very good news.

Not long after the papers were filed, he called me. "You were right," he said. He sounded sad. "You had the vision. I didn't have it. I didn't see clearly."

"I'm sorry," I said. I knew he was hurting. "I did know." "But it's over now," he said. "It's done."

A special reader's offer: purchase a copy of The Agassi Story (published by Allen and Unwin) for only $22.95, plus $5 postage if applicable. (RRP $29.95). Call toll-free 1300 306 107, or post a cheque or money order to The Agassi Story, PO Box 14730 Melbourne, Victoria, 8001.
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post #83 of 731 (permalink) Old 12-07-2004, 07:39 PM
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December 06, 2004

Agassi foundation has helped an estimated 184,000 youths
By Ed Koch

Of the $42 million raised by the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation, $25.9 million has been spent or is being spent on projects that in the past 10 years have benefited an estimated 184,000 Las Vegas youths, project officials say.

Agassi Foundation President Perry Rogers, Agassi's manager and longtime friend, said the other $16.1 million that has been raised will go to an endowment that eventually will total $35 million and will operate the foundation in perpetuity.

"The way we designed this was for our fundraising to be intense now but only for a short time," Rogers said. "We do not want to be raising money many years down the road. Our goal is for the endowment to become large enough to sustain the foundation forever."

Rogers said his salary and the salaries of a half-dozen other foundation workers are paid by Andre Agassi from funds funneled through the charity. But no donated money is used for salaries or administrative costs, Rogers said.

"When a person donates a dollar to the foundation, the whole dollar goes to helping the children," he said.

Here's how nearly $26 million of the funds raised to date have been spent, according to foundation officials:

Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy: $17.5 million. The school serves 300 disadvantaged youths and provides an accelerated curriculum, focusing on technology and cultural activities.

Andre Agassi Boys & Girls Club: $3.5 million. About 1,600 youths per year have gone to the clubs since their opening in 1997.

Assistance League of Las Vegas' Operation School Bell: $1.2 million. More than 3,700 children received clothing from the 30-year-old program in 2003.

Boys Hope/Girls Hope of Nevada: $280,000. Since 1997, the Agassi foundation has helped 16 boys go through the program that provides disadvantaged children with nurturing homes and quality education through college.

Child Haven: $1.5 million to build the Agassi Center for Education in 1997 and the Andre Agassi Cottage for Medically Fragile Children in 2001. Child Haven is a temporary shelter for abused, neglected or abandoned children.

Class! Publication: $43,000. About 83,500 high school students have access to the 11-year-old monthly publication produced by and for Clark County students.

Cynthia Bunker and Joy McClenahan Memorial Scholarship Fund: $1 million. 25 students have received the scholarship that for 10 years has benefited students enrolled in UNLV's Fine and Performing Arts classes.

Greater Las Vegas After-School All-Stars (formerly Inner-City Games): $525,000. More than 40,000 children have participated in the athletic program.

I Have a Dream Foundation: $200,000. There are 60 students enrolled in the 8-year-old program that is designed to help disadvantaged children with tutoring and an opportunity for higher education.

Las Vegas Sun Summer Camp Fund: $125,000. More than 500 local children have been sent to summer camp from Agassi Foundation contributions to the program that was started by the newspaper 35 years ago to serve disadvantaged children.

Las Vegas Philharmonic Youth Concert Series: $25,000. About 55,000 4th and 5th graders throughout the valley have participated in the six-year-old program that encourages development and appreciation of fine music.

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post #84 of 731 (permalink) Old 12-07-2004, 07:44 PM
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December 06, 2004

Charity goals keep Agassi on his toes

Tennis star wishes he'd started foundation sooner
By Ed Koch

On the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation, the pro tennis star laments that he's not celebrating the 15th.

"The only regret I have is that I did not start the foundation sooner," Agassi said last week following an event to thank volunteers at Andre Agassi College Preparatory, a charter school he founded in 2001 to help disadvantaged youths excel in technological studies.

"Unfortunately I listened to advisers who told me that I should start a foundation near the end of my career."

The foundation, which has raised $42 million to help more than 184,000 Southern Nevada youngsters, began at a crossroads in Agassi's life -- a time when he was shedding his bad boy persona -- and much of his hair -- for a more mature, conservative image on and off the court.

Still, 34-year-old Agassi, who has more than $29 million in career match earnings, says starting the foundation was not the result of an epiphany.

"The only epiphany I had was that my hair fell out," said Agassi, who was born and raised in Las Vegas.

"As teenagers, Perry (Rogers, his agent and head of the foundation) and I discussed plans to one day help other kids. As time went by and I came to realize (in 1994) that I had to make the foundation an objective then. But by waiting so long I missed out on helping a lot of other kids who needed help."

In addition to the school on Lake Mead Boulevard and J Street, the foundation assists nearly a dozen local charities, including the Andre Agassi Boys & Girls Clubs that he opened in 1997, also in economically depressed West Las Vegas.

Still, the winner of 59 major pro titles, including eight Grand Slam events, said he has learned in his 18-year pro career that "timing is most important" and that things have fallen in place during the foundation's first decade.

Agassi vowed to the first Agassi Prep students in 2001 that the school would grow from the original third through fifth grades and, in 2009, many of those students would be part of the institute's first high school graduating class.

To accomplish that, the final phase of a $12.5 million expansion project to build the high school is under way to go with the second phase's 6th-8th grades and the original elementary school.

Today 300 students attend the school. By 2008, 500 are expected to be enrolled.

Agassi said the pressure on him to keep the school's growth on the scheduled pace is intense, perhaps as intense as any of the 822 pro singles matches he has won or the 254 he has lost.

"I made a promise to these children and they expect me to keep it -- they expect to graduate from here," he said.

Skylar Dunn, 13, a seventh grader at Agassi Prep, and, like Agassi, a native Las Vegan, has attended the school since Day 1. He says he expects the promises that were made to him and his family to be fulfilled because he is fulfilling his end of the bargain by working hard at his studies.

"Of course I will be disappointed if I put in all of the time here and then get told I have to graduate somewhere else because of construction delays or other problems," said Dunn, who wants to be a sports agent like his mentor, Perry Rogers.

"But I don't think that (delays) is going to happen, at least hopefully not."

To help ensure that there is enough money funding to finish the project, Agassi, for nine years, has hosted the Andre Agassi Grand Slam for Children spectacular.

This year's event in October raised $6.1 million, down slightly from the $6.3 million raised in 2003. The gala included an auction, gourmet dinner and a concert at the MGM Grand Garden that included performances by comedian Robin Williams and country music superstars Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.

Despite his demanding schedule on the pro tennis circuit, where he is ranked as the eighth best men's single player in the world, Agassi visits both the school and clubs as often as possible and has a deep understanding of what is lacking in his community.

"My dream is for this school to be a footprint for the nation's education system," Agassi said. "We fund this school to the national average ($7,200 per pupil, compared with the Clark County School District at $5,200).

"Southern Nevada is a leader in all of the wrong statistics -- high school student dropout rates, teen pregnancy, drugs and crime. Something has to be done to turn that around."

Agassi, who has two children with his wife, tennis legend Stefanie Graf, said the foundation already has accomplished far more than he had dreamed.

"Based on our original goals we figured we would have raised about $10 million by now," he said. "I'd be a fool to guess where this will go in the next 10 years. But I know that to be successful, we have to stay focused."

It is that focus and drive that has influenced many of the students who attend Agassi Prep to make the school and themselves a success.

"This is an opportunity for me to get a better education so that I will be somebody," said 11-year-old MeShayla Ennis, an Agassi Prep sixth grader and native North Las Vegan.

"This is much better than my old school. We had no textbooks there, just photo-copy handouts (from texts). Here we have textbooks for every subject."

Kiara Taylor, who was born a year after Agassi started his foundation, says she believes the school exists because its founder cares.

"I think Andre Agassi loves kids and wants to help us," said the fourth-grader and lifelong Southern Nevadan.

Future sports agent Dunn says that while Agassi might not be the best tennis player in the world, "he plays the best players and he always gives 110 percent" -- something Dunn says Agassi Prep students emulate.

Agassi has been recognized for his philanthropy. He won the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award in 1995 and 2001 for helping local disadvantaged youths and was honored along with pro basketball star Alonzo Mourning as the 2001 USA Today WEEKEND "Most Caring Athletes."

Rogers says when the high school is built it will have a sports program, including eight-man football, basketball and, of course, tennis.

Reminded that a large segment of the public probably would expect a school named for Andre Agassi to win a string of state prep tennis titles, Agassi laughed and said, "That's all I need -- more pressure."

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post #85 of 731 (permalink) Old 12-14-2004, 03:10 PM
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Forbes Magazine

King of the Court

Andre Agassi is nearing the end of his playing days, but marketers remain eager to pay him top dollar.

Andre Agassi burst onto the professional tennis scene at age 16 in 1986, sporting long spiky hair and Nike denim shorts. He quickly became known for his passion and ferocity, fearlessly charging the net and smacking down serves speeding toward him at 130mph.

Eighteen years later Agassi is bald and 34, and his charges to the net aren't quite as ferocious as they used to be. The world's top players are a decade younger than he is. Since miraculously rising to the number one ranking in the world a year ago, he hasn't won a single tournament; after losing in the opening round of three consecutive events, he has dropped to number nine.

Yet off the court, as a celebrity pitchman, Andre Agassi--ranked seventh on FORBES' list of the 50 highest-paid athletes--has never been hotter. In two decades he has reaped $200 million in endorsement deals. This year sponsors will pay him $28 million, the richest year of his career; only Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan will outearn him.

And though he is nearing the end of his career, in the past two years he has landed American Express, Aramis, Genworth and KiaMotors. In November his longtime racquet sponsor, Head, signed him to a lifetime deal. In March he signed a ten-year pact with 24-Hour Fitness, which will open five Andre Agassi fitness centers by year-end; the pay starts at $1.5 million a year.

Agassi is a notable exception to the overall decline of sports-star endorsement deals. A decade ago sneakermakers handed out deals like lollipops, but today the bulk of the money goes to only a few ubiquitous superstars: Woods, Jordan, LeBron James. Ten years ago the best-paid athletes earned half of their income from endorsements; since then the 50 top earners have tripled their pay--with combined earnings of $1.1 billion--but only 40% comes from marketing deals.

Yet the largesse of Agassi's sponsors has little to do with his tenacity at the net. He had a lucrative deal with a nontennis sponsor (Canon) before winning his first Grand Slam event (Wimbledon in 1992). Today's top American tennis star, Andy Roddick, earns only $5 million a year off the court. Pete Sampras won 14 Grand Slam titles to Agassi's 8 and beat Agassi four of the five times they played a Grand Slam final. Yet Sampras' endorsement income peaked at $8 million, less than a third of what Agassi will reap this year.

"Agassi has tremendous personality and charisma--in a sport that wasn't known for those things," says David Carter, founder of Sports Business Group, a marketing firm in Redondo Beach, Calif. "He can speak to a couple of generations of consumers, which gives him a great platform for deals as his career winds down."

Next year Agassi will likely turn in the highest-earning year of his career, boosted by an estimated $40 million he is set to receive in Nike stock, a final balloon payment on a ten-year, $120 million deal. Nike was Agassi's first corporate sponsor, handing him $25,000 in his first year as a pro. Riccardo Colombini, Nike's tennis-marketing chief, says the flashy star helped make the Nike "Swoosh" logo an icon. "He embodies the Nike philosophy of being both irreverent and innovative. He changed the game of tennis and certainly its dress code." But will Nike sign him again when the deal ends next year? The company declines to comment.
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post #86 of 731 (permalink) Old 12-15-2004, 05:45 PM
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The Tennis Week Interview: Mike Agassi (Andre's father)

By Richard Pagliaro

It's been said one man's trash is another man's treasure, but garbage was more than a gold mine for the future Grand Slam champion. Andre Agassi and his father and first coach, Mike Agassi, dug down deep daily into green garbage cans to form greatness from the roots of refuse receptacles.

In the backyard tennis court built by Mike Agassi with local help behind the family home in Las Vegas, father and son took the court for daily training sessions that would commence with Mike Agassi loading one of the 60 green garbage cans containing about 300 tennis balls into the ball machine. As the ball machine spit out shots at varying speeds and spins the young boy, barely tall enough to peer over the net, boldly stood on the baseline blasting everything right back with the defiance of one refusing to relinquish ground to the tireless tennis machine that showed no signs of slowing down on the other side of the net.

No shot was a throwaway.

In those backyard practice sessions, Agassi struck thousands of shots every day, sharpening his strokes, taking the ball early on the rise and refining the short back swing that made his shots so difficult to read while producing the punishing, penetrating deliveries darting deep into the corners.

He has evolved into one of the hardest-working men in tennis — a player who spends holidays sprinting up hills and his labor days patiently pounding penetrating groundstrokes to break down opponents with the force of a jackhammer jabbing jarring holes in pavement. Andre Agassi constructs points with a purpose, but the foundation for his world-class work ethic was formed in a city chiming with the sound of silver dollars streaming from slot machines and attracting tourists seeking to strike it rich with a single roll of the dice, while the boy paid his dues with old-fashioned fervor on the backyard court.

"Vegas has been the fastest-growing city in America for more than 30 years," Agassi once said. "It's a city of great vision. It's a city where the community believes that if you actually believe in something enough, you can create it and make it happen. It gets a tough rap because it's perceived as an adult Disneyland. But the community of people who actually live here is strong. It is a community that bonds together and looks out for each other. It's an incredibly inspirational city."

As a child, the eight-time Grand Slam champion found a lifetime of inspiration in his own living room. Both of Agassi's parents set an example with the work ethic he would emulate as a tennis player. His father, Mike, who grew up from an impoverished childhood in Tehren and grew into an Olympic boxer for Iran, arrived in New York at the age of 22 with $26 in his pocket and a more meager English vocabulary. He was the type of man whose idea of settling a dispute was pounding his fist in your face. Spending $22 on a bus ticket to Chicago, Mike Agassi began his journey with $4 in his pocket and a wealth of dreams in his head. Six years after arriving in Chicago, Agassi met and a shy, blue-eyed beauty, Elizabeth "Betty" Dudley and the couple soon married and moved to Las Vegas where they raised four children.

Mike Agassi worked a 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift at the Jubilee showroom at the MGM Grand Hotel and hired local workers to help him build a tennis court in the Agassi family backyard where he taught tennis to his children. Elizabeth Agassi worked at an unemployment office in the city, instilling her compassionate character in her children.

The youngest Agassi child also had the challenge of dealing with a domineering dad who drove his sensitive son relentlessly to reach his own expectations of excellence. Mike Agassi admits he was a demanding father in his autobiography, The Agassi Story, which was released in the summer.

"I know I have a reputation," Mike Agassi says. "People say I’m abrasive. Domineering. Fanatical. Overbearing. Obnoxious. Temperamental. Aggressive…People say I pushed my kids too hard, that I nearly destroyed them. And you know what? They’re right. I was too hard on them. I made them feel like what they did was never good enough. But after the childhood I had, fighting for every scrap in Iran, I was determined to give my kids a better life. I pushed my kids because I loved them."

In addition to learning the importance of hard work, Andre Agassi's experience growing up in the city of neon gave him an innate sense of showmanship he would bring to the court as a professional.

"A lot of times when I was with my mom, whether we were going to go get dinner or go shopping, we needed some money from dad, who was working," Agassi once said. "So we would pull into the old MGM Grand Hotel, and at like eight years old, I would go running through the casino to the Jubilee showroom where they had all the naked dancing ladies, the follies kind of chorus line type stuff...to just wait for my dad to come through his little turn there in the office. He would give us some money and I'd go running back out, go to the grocery store and go home. As a little boy, it felt strangely normal."

The casino culture put food on Agassi's table and the boy who grew into a Grand Slam star continues to contribute to his native city through the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation, which has raised more than $35 million for charity and the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, his charter school that offers education to 250 students.

Agassi actively promotes the city where he lives with wife Steffi Graf and their children Jaden Gil and Jaz Elle and spends some of his off season time training right next door to the house where his parents live.

The boy whose game was created in the backyard has brought his skills to the biggest courts around the world at age 34 he shows no signs of slowing down. Agassi, who beat a trio of former top-ranked players in succession — Carlos Moya, Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt — to capture his record 17th Tennis Masters Series title at Cincinnati in August is committed to playing the 2005 season and may well play a year or two more.

The Agassi Story has all the elements of a Hollywood movie and someday it might just make it to the big screen.

Mike Agassi's co-author, Montreal resident Dominic Cobello — a former concert impresario who produced rock concerts by bands ranging from The Who to Cream to Steppenwolf in the late 1960s and can be heard singing background vocals on the John Lennon classic "Give Peace a Chance" — is shopping the book around to Hollywood studios. Though no studio has optioned the rights yet, Cobello believes the recent resurgence of sports movies, both studio releases and made-for-television movies, bodes well for a future Agassi film that already boasts a built-in audience of avid Agassi fans all over the world. The author already has cast the leading roles in his head: Al Pacino as Mike Agassi and Colin Farrell as Andre Agassi.

"Andre Agassi is one of the most well-known and well respected athletes in the world and Mike Agassi's story of coming from such a tough life in Iran where they didn't have an indoor bathroom in his house and where he fought his way out of poverty to the Olympics and came to America where he raised his kids to reach their dream — that's the ultimate American success story," Cobello told Tennis Week. "I would love to see Al Pacino in the role of Mike Agassi because both are expressive, look you right in the eye and talk with their hands a lot. And Colin Farrell, if you see photos of him with his head shaved, he looks very much like Andre Agassi and has a bit of the presence Andre has. People have loved the book and I think the interest will be there for this project."

Shortly after publishing his life story, Mike Agassi sat down with Tennis Week in the shadow of Arthur Ashe Stadium during the U.S. Open for an extensive interview. Reader response to the first Mike Agassi interview was positive, with many readers requesting another interview with Mr. Agassi.

In this second interview, Mike Agassi discusses why he believes Andre may play two more years, what former No. 1 player most reminds him of his son's style, coaching advice he would offer to Andy Roddick and the Williams sisters and changes he advocates for improving tennis. To read the interview, please click this link: The Tennis Week Interview: Mike Agassi, December 2004.
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The Tennis Week Interview: Andre's father, Mike Agassi (December 2004)

By Richard Pagliaro

Tennis Week: Andre has said he plans to play the 2005 season and we've been hearing, if his health holds up, he could play even two more years. How much longer do you think he will continue playing and what motivates him after all he's achieved in the game?

Mike Agassi: He could play another few years, another two, three years or more. He is in pretty good shape. He is top five, six, seven in the world. All these people who are top 50 in the world want to play another five, six years. There’s no reason for him to retire, that’s one (reason not to). Rosewall played to age 39, Connors played well at 39. Some good players played into their 30s and he (Andre) has proven that he is just as good, maybe better, and so there is no reason for him to retire.

Tennis Week: Andre showed in Cincinnati that at his best he can still beat some of the best players as he beat Moya, Roddick and Hewitt in succession to win another Masters title. Andre almost always gives Federer a tough time, he took Federer to five in that windy U.S. Open match and Federer has told us he considers Andre to be his toughest opponent. Do you agree?

Mike Agassi: He has always given Federer more trouble than anyone else. Yes, I agree. Why should he retire? That’s my idea. His physical shape is fantastic. You know he works out at the gym every day and he loves the game.

Tennis Week: Do you think Andre will focus on the Grand Slams and play a limited schedule basing his season around the majors or do you think he’ll play a full schedule?

Mike Agassi: He has to play all Grand Slams and many of the Masters Series for sure. But the other ones, it’s a business, you know what I mean? It depends on other things.

Tennis Week: Patrick McEnroe has told us he asks Andre to play Davis Cup before each tie. I know Andre has said repeatedly his Davis Cup career is over, but he is friendly with the captain and guys on the team and he has a tremendous Davis Cup record. Do you think he will ever play Davis Cup again?

Mike Agassi: I talked with the new president of the USTA, Franklin Johnson. I had a nice talk with him. He wanted Andre to play at least one Davis Cup (tie), which was the last one. I talked with Andre, but my daughter was getting married on the same day, which was on the Saturday. He said, "I have to go to the wedding."

Tennis Week: Family comes first.

Mike Agassi: Yeah, that was exactly what his answer was. He didn’t answer whether he would play or not, but he said he had to go to his sister’s wedding.

Tennis Week: Do you think we will see any small adjustments in Andre’s game this season? Or will we see the classic Agassi style, taking the ball early, taking control from the baseline and playing high percentage shots to punish opponents?

Mike Agassi: I had a talk with him. I said: "When you are playing the backhand to backhand (rally) too long, they make a change of direction…"

Tennis Week: Right, they take it down the line.

Mike Agassi: Yes. I said: "Try to think about it, get a rhythm yourself and make a change.". He said, "Yes, but that’s not that easy." But he’ll try it — if that’s what he wants to do.

Tennis Week: I want to ask you about Brad Gilbert in light of Roddick’s recent dismissal of him. What are Brad’s strengths and weaknesses as a coach?

Mike Agassi: Brad is a constant talker, you know. If you can sit and listen to him continuously, after a while, he repeats himself. If you can take it, he’s OK. But if you cannot take it, then it’s annoying. Myself, I had such a little problem with Brad. He used to work with Andre’s serve. He would tell Andre to serve 115 miles an hour to the T then next serve, the second serve, would be 92 miles an hour wide to the backhand. From 115 you go to 92, I would say try to between five to nine mile differences in the serves. Brad is a good talker. He always had answers. He once told me: "Everybody is two or three inches taller than Andre, that’s why they serve that big." I said: "Then here is a racquet two inches longer and it’s gonna give Andre a longer reach.". And his answer was: "Yeah, he’s gonna have a better serve, but he’s gonna lose seven and a half percent of his forehand and nine and a half percent on his backhand." And once you listen to someone and believe in him, then you believe in him. That’s the way it works.

Tennis Week: Roddick’s still number two in the world, so it's not like he's had a dramatic drop in results, but if you could coach Roddick what would you tell him?

Mike Agassi: If you talk to him, let me tell you what you say to him: forget about the 150 mile an hour serve, forget about the 140 mile an hour serve. Serve 130 mile an hour first serve on the corners and serve a 122, 123, 124 mile an hour second serve hitting the corners and I’ll bet you if he served 130 mile an hour first serve a lot more are going to go in, but he can place it better. People are acing each other with 115, 120 mile an hour serve so you need to use your placement and not just go for the fast serve all the time.

Tennis Week: Do you see anyone out there who can challenge Roger Federer, long-term, for No. 1?

Mike Agassi: There is a (player) who needs to be able to serve and volley, not necessarily serve and volley together, but they need to serve and be able to come in and put away the volley during the point. For instance, if someone out there had the game Sampras used to have, he had the first and second serve almost the same speed and he placed them so well in both corners. And his first volley was very effective, so if someone had that game they could do it (challenge Federer). But the way it goes, everybody knows he’s gonna lose before they play Federer so it’s like they give up before they go play the guy. He only loses when he doesn’t play his best and the other guy plays over his head.

Tennis Week: The last time you and I spoke you said Federer was proving something you always said: that a champion doesn’t need a coach to be successful. Do you believe Federer can continue to dominate the game without a coach?

Mike Agassi: Can I ask you a question?

Tennis Week: Sure.

Mike Agassi: What is your job?

Tennis Week: Journalist.

Mike Agassi: Do you need a coach to do your journalist job?

Tennis Week: No, but I get a lot of unwanted coaching at home anyway.

Mike Agassi: Let me say one thing: if a person does not have a coach then he needs to have enough time to study the tapes himself. You follow me? He has to study his game and other people’s games. When I learned tennis, I didn’t learn tennis because someone told me how to hit the ball. I watched and I took one point from this player, one point from that player and one point from the other player and I put that together and I made a package gift for Andre. You follow me?

Tennis Week: Yes, you took the best quality from each player you saw and passed it on to Andre.

Mike Agassi: I taught Andre to take the ball on the rise because I saw Boris Becker once do that. I taught Andre to hit swing volleys because I once saw Lendl do that. He did that once in a year or two years, it was very rare, but he did do that. I saw players hit the inside out forehand and I did that with Andre. Play inside the court, I did that with Andre. Go to the ball and pick up the ball on the rise, I did that with Andre. Get on the guy’s serve with a short back swing on your return, I did that with Andre. Once in a while, players will do something that they don’t know they just did. They don’t realize it. And if you’re outside the court and you can study the game and see that and you can work on it the kid becomes a hell of a player.

Tennis Week: Do you see any player out there whose style reminds you of Andre? You know, who can take the ball early, take command from the baseline, punish returns?

Mike Agassi: Rios was like that. He reminds me of Andre and in one way he was something better than Andre: you couldn’t read his contact point and direction of the ball. Do you know the beauty of a mirror? If you throw light at a mirror at five degrees, then the light comes back five degrees the other side, correct? Now if the ball comes at your hand and if you meet the ball with an angle on the racquet then they cannot read your shot and where the ball is coming. Do you know what I’m talking about? Do you understand?

Tennis Week: Yeah, I understand what you’re saying. You’re saying the angle of the racquet face can be deceptive to the opponent and make it tougher to read the shot?

Mike Agassi: Yes, you can change the angle of the racquet head, some players. But if Roddick hits the ball crosscourt, before he hits, you know he’s hitting crosscourt. If you have the same swing and you meet the ball with the angle, then the guy crosscourt cannot read if you’re going to his backhand or forehand.

Tennis Week: Yeah, but that takes incredible timing and technique to do that.

Mike Agassi: Yeah, listen the guys who can do it are making a hell of a lot of money. You wanna do that? Go work on it. That’s what you have to work on it. My practice was the ball machine. I couldn’t give him 5,000 balls like that. I would put the ball machine on serve and ask Andre to change the direction on his return without telegraphing where the ball was going.

Tennis Week: How many balls would Andre hit a every day when he was growing up, training with you in the backyard?

Mike Agassi: I had somewhere around 60 garbage cans and there were around 300 balls in each garbage can and he would go through many of those garbage cans each day. Maybe 3,000 to sometimes 5,000 balls he used to hit.

Tennis Week: When did you know "My son is going to be something special. He’s going to be one of the best in the world?"

Mike Agassi: When he was two or three years old. When he was three and a half years old he gave a hell of an exhibition with Bobby Riggs. Then when he was four or five years old, he was playing with Jimmy Connors, Roscoe Tanner, Brian Gottfried, Vitas Gerulaitis, Panatta. You name it, he probably played with them. All those pros, when they used to come through Las Vegas, they’d say "Where is Andre? Where is Andre?"

Tennis Week: Andre is such a popular presence in tennis, probably one of the most popular players in the history of the sport, with that in mind would you like to see him keep playing as long as he can? His presence generates interest in tennis.

Mike Agassi: It’s not what I like, you follow me? As long as he’s happy, that’s the main thing. I’ll tell you something: the key of his drive is his wife (Steffi Graf). Because she understands the game of tennis, she knows what a tennis player goes through and she makes his life comfortable for him. Because he has to live from suitcases and she knows how it is and what that life is.

Tennis Week: Remember when Andre won the Australian Open and there was talk of Andre and Steffi playing mixed doubles? Will that ever happen at any point?

Mike Agassi: Steffi’s knees — she’s had three times knee surgery — and now that she has the kids and (pain in) her knees I don’t know if that will happen. Maybe some exhibitions, you know what I mean. Some exhibitions to play Andre and Steffi against Hewitt and his girlfriend if they hadn’t broken up. It could be, yes, but as far as playing together on tour, I doubt it.

Tennis Week: Steffi has told us their son, Jaden, loves sports. Would you like to see your grandchildren get into tennis in the future?

Mike Agassi: The little kid is already hitting balls, follow me? But very few great players have had their kids become great tennis players. Very few, like Taylor Dent is one, and a couple other people. But anybody else, like Pancho (Gonzalez) had five or six boys and none of them played tournament tennis. They played OK tennis. May I say something?

Tennis Week: Sure.

Mike Agassi: Behind the success of all the children are parents. If the father spends time with the kids, takes them to practice, take them here and there and show the kid to like the game, then the kid becomes a good player. But like if a pro's son plays tennis, big deal? So do my neighbor's son. These kids grow up and some live off the name of the parents, you follow me?

Tennis Week: Yes, and I'm sure there's a lot of pressure on the kids of accomplished athletes, there's a lot to live up to when you carry that name.

Mike Agassi: Well imagine if you're the son of a famous player saying "My father did this, he did that." Well what the hell did you do? Nothing. That's the problem.

Tennis Week: For his fans, Andre's character and charisma may be as much of an appeal as his tennis. Why do you think Andre has been able to connect with so many people around the world and emerge as such an influential person, not just in terms of tennis, but in terms of his work with charitable causes, education and children?

Mike Agassi: The story goes back to the childhood. I didn't send him to school, I took him to school. I drove him to school. I brought him home. I took him to church. Spend time with your kids, that's number one. Second of all, he brought the game of tennis a unique style of game, which people started copying him. He used to have a few thousand people following him around the world to see him play. You follow me?

Tennis Week: Yes. He's an attraction.

Mike Agassi: Yes. Mentally, you develop a unique personality and then whatever you do, they see it. Now you have to think: I can do good and they (will) see that and think good about you or you just don't give a damn.

Tennis Week: Your co-author, Dominic Cobello, told me he's interested in turning your book into a movie with Colin Farrell cast as Andre. What do you think about that?

Mike Agassi: I don't know that. I tell you the truth, I don't know if he has read the book yet.

Tennis Week: Would you like to see the book become a movie of your family story?

Mike Agassi: I don't care. Listen, I'll be 75 this December 25th.

Tennis Week: Wow. I thought you were in your 60s?

Mike Agassi: No, I'll be 75. My book is not yet complete. If I knew I would write the book two years ago, I would have just kept taking notes every day. There is more to the story.

Tennis Week: Andre has had some of his greatest success at the Australian Open, winning four titles including three of the last four years he's played there. How do you think Andre will do in Australia in January and will you go to watch him there?

Mike Agassi: There is a chance I will go with a lawyer we have in town. I may go with him and his son for a few days, there's a very good chance.

Tennis Week: You've been in tennis — either as a player, student of the game or coach — for six decades now. You've seen and studied some of the greatest players of the game, including your son. If there is anything you could change about tennis to make it better, more popular, more enjoyable for players and fans, what would you change?

Mike Agassi: I am so happy you asked me that question. I am so grateful you asked me that question. Thank you. I have talked to several presidents of the USTA and a lot of tennis pros about that question. The first thing I would do is bring the service line a foot and a half in closer to the net. You follow me?

Tennis Week: Right. You want to create a shorter service box to theoretically reduce the impact of the big serve?

Mike Agassi: Yes. Doing that, you see, you're not changing the game. The people that are watching cannot see that the service box is smaller so they don't even know or notice. Players like Roddick and someone else may not like it, but a lot of players did not like the tiebreaker when they started it. But they had no choice: take it or leave it. You have to have the service box shorter because the tennis game is becoming too much serving and people are losing their interest. The sponsors (are losing interest), on television, not too many people are watching it. If you are going to have the game just bang! — you hit the big serve to win, I can set the ball machine that serves 175 miles an hour and whoever returns more serves is the world champion.

Tennis Week: Right, but that's not playing tennis. That's a serving contest.

Mike Agassi: That is the truth. This is why women's tennis is more interesting now than the men's to many people because they enjoy seeing the ball going back and forth like they see in the women's game. But when you're serving so hard and the ball is out and they call it in because no one can see it, then you have lost the glory of the game, the excitement of the game, you have lost a lot. That's the one thing people want to see. Then some people say "how about we make the net higher?" Then still the short man has no advantage, you know? Plus you are changing the game. But bringing the service line in would help and everything is still symmetrical. Why not make it all equal for everyone? It took the British people years to go from the white ball to the yellow ball. Why are we so stubborn? Let's bring the service line in and let's have tennis be tennis again.

Tennis Week: If you were coaching Venus and Serena what would you do? I believe in Serena's game; what would you do to help her get back to the top?

Mike Agassi: I would love to have them both over my house. Let me ask you a question: why is the depth of men's tennis so great? The guy who is 112 in the world can beat the guy who is number 3 in the world, right?

Tennis Week: Right. Federer's losses were all to guys outside the top 10 this year.

Mike Agassi: Why? Because they always practice against men and they hit the championship ball the men hit and therefore they are used to the pace of the top 10 men and they can return their ball. I was talking with Serena's father and I said: "the reason your daughters are losing is because they are practicing with men." With the men, they hit the big shot that would be the winner against the women, but the men return it. You hit the big serve and the man returns, hit bigger and the men still returns it. You try to hit bigger and bigger until the ball goes out. Then you lose your serve and you lose your confidence. You hit crosscourt big ball and the man is going to return it, you hit another big ball and the man returns it again and the third ball you try to hit even bigger and it goes out. Why? Because you are muscling it. That's the way your game goes down. Their game has gone down. They hit, once in a while, great balls, but their game has gone down a bit. The Russian girls compete against each other and you see Russian girls win three of the four Grand Slams this year. They are absolutely not half of the talent of Serena Williams and Venus Williams. Serena Williams and Venus Williams don't have their confidence on their shots anymore.

Tennis Week: But doesn't that confidence come from success on the court? Winning matches gives you confidence, right? So what's the solution?

Mike Agassi: Stop practicing with the men. Serena and Venus, stop practicing with the men. Most of our American girls think if they practice with the men, he's a better player, then I'll get better. In some ways, yes, you get better playing with the better player. But you have to hit the ball — not just the big ball, but other shots (angles) — to see if the women can return it or not. I would like to see them play one women, Serena or Venus, against too good players on the other side in practice. Practice against two of them and if you can make the point against two good women then you can make the point against any of these girls in the world. I have told Andre and Brad Gilbert a hundred times: play one against two to improve your volley, but no, Brad Gilbert goes there and hits against Andre. I said: "Brad, if you were good enough to play against Andre, you would go on the tour and make more money." He always had answers. He hit one ball, he talks 10 minutes. He hit one ball, he talks 10 minutes. Then in two hours, Andre has only hit 30 balls.

Tennis Week: Last question: is there anything you want to share with the readers we haven't covered? Anything about your life or your book?

Mike Agassi: The book is easy reading. It's honest. It's very honest and whatever I get out of the book, my share, goes to charity.

Tennis Week: Has Andre read your book yet? If so, what does he think?

Mike Agassi: I believe he has read it, but we have never sat and talked about it.

Tennis Week: Maybe around Christmas — it's the holiday, it's your birthday — it's a time to be together and celebrate family.

Mike Agassi: Yeah, I would like to (talk), but I don't know.

Tennis Week: Listen, I really appreciate you taking this time to talk to me. It's always a pleasure to talk to you and I appreciate your honesty and your willingness to share your thoughts.

Mike Agassi: Thank you. Good luck to you.

Related story: The Tennis Week Interview: Mike Agassi September, 2004

Andre Agassi forever
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post #88 of 731 (permalink) Old 12-15-2004, 07:10 PM
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Re: ** Andre Articles & Interviews !! **

Thanks for that interview, Gigan!

Last of the moon-and-volley specialists.

I believe in luck. How else can you explain the success of those you don't like? ---Jean Cocteau
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post #89 of 731 (permalink) Old 12-17-2004, 06:29 AM
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Re: ** Andre Articles & Interviews !! **

other sort of articles:

Armstrong and Agassi are part of 2004's best.

Ten sports commercials that delivered and delighted

By Don Steinberg

Inquirer Staff Writer

What makes a great sports commercial?

A successful ad, of course, has to sell something - a shoe, a financial service, the image of a brand. But the unforgettable ones transcend mere commerce. They connect with fans on a gut level. The best sports commercials of 2004 - as ranked by us, here - reminded us why we love to play sports, and why we love to watch great athletes compete.

They're about intensity, determination, adrenaline, heroes and virtuosity. They get us riled up. They're about how insane and funny and agonizing it is to be a fan, and how much we realize we're being crazy.

"The emotion of sport is what most of the people who work in this business respond to," says Mike Byrne, creative director at Wieden + Kennedy, an ad agency that happened to create six of this year's top 10 commercials for Nike, ESPN and Powerade. (We chose the top 10 without knowing who made them.)

Byrne, a mastermind at perhaps the most influential sports advertising firm, is a Narberth native whose sports passion began right here.

"I grew up in a family that was diehard Eagles, Sixers, Phillies, Flyers," he says. "And, you know, any fan can tell you: There's not many businesses in the world where a guy can go out one day and pitch in a game, and be hated by everyone in an entire city or state - and then the very next day be the ultimate hero, and never pay for another meal again."

The best sports commercials make us gasp and delight - and make us want to grab a glove and get in the game. Here are our picks for 2004.

1. "Makeshift" (Client: ESPN, Agency: Wieden + Kennedy)

Watch this ad, part of ESPN's self-promotional "Without Sports" campaign, and you immediately want to run outside and play. In a series of quick cuts, backed by crazy, driving percussion, scruffy kids do whatever it takes to get neighborhood ball games going: They draw white lines on pavement using rocks, use pizza boxes for home plate, crush soda cans for use as hockey pucks, and use lawn chairs as baseball backstops, laundry baskets as hoops, and garage doors as soccer goals. It's intense, nostalgic and funny.

2. "What if" (Nike, Wieden + Kennedy)

A sports fan's dream sequence, but these athletes really did this stuff: Lance Armstrong boxes against a real opponent. Andre Agassi plays for the Red Sox at Fenway, slapping a hit to right field. Serena Williams is a volleyball pro, Marion Jones an Olympic gymnast. Randy Johnson bowls against, and beats, Pete Weber. Michael Vick and Brian Urlacher skate as hockey teammates on the Colorado Avalanche. Wow. Don't wake us up.

3. "Laila" (Adidas, 180TBWA)

Digital effects create a father-daughter boxing match: Muhammad Ali, in his prime, against his daughter and current boxer Laila. The creators spliced together segments from historic Ali fights, including the 1960 Rome Olympics and 1974 Rumble in the Jungle versus George Foreman. Laila then mimicked the moves of her father's opponents, and technicians pasted her into the vintage films.

4. "Every Day Is Sunday" (MasterCard, McCann Erickson)

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is an excellent comic actor, especially when gently mocking fans.

"Cut that meat!" he cheers for a worker behind the deli counter. "Tommy, please, you're my favorite worker!" he yells while begging to get a high-five from an accountant.

5. "Magnet" (Nike, Wieden + Kennedy)

It's Lance Armstrong's America, serene and beautiful, as the cyclist pedals through deserts, winding mountain roads and crowded cities, backed by acoustic guitar and heart-tugging piano. Along the way, he's also accompanied by migrating birds, a buffalo stampede, joggers, a motorcycle gang, fellow cyclists, and lots of happy kids.

6. "The Squeeze" (Miller Brewing, Ground Zero)

This touching, wry, six-minute film, spread over four 90-second spots on ESPN, was made before the miracle Red Sox season. It presents the dilemma of a pair of blue-collar Boston guys when their beloved Uncle Mac, a lifelong Sox fan, dies just as the Sox win Game 6 of the World Series. Guess when the funeral is scheduled for? Where would Uncle Mac have wanted the guys to be during the game?

7. "Michael Vick Experience" (Nike, Wieden + Kennedy)

An amusement park ride simulates, for a screaming rider strapped into a mechanical seat, what it's like to be Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, scrambling furiously around would-be NFL tacklers. His terrifying 360-degree flip into the end zone is hilarious.

8. "LeBron Practice" (Powerade, Wieden + Kennedy)

A TV announcer preps for a broadcast while LeBron James warms up on the basketball court behind him. James sinks a half-court shot that hits nothing but net, then backs up again and again to make one shot after another, each from farther back, until he swishes a soft jumper from the full length of the court. Yes, LeBron is amazing, but special effects were used.

9. ":24 to Live" (ESPN, Wieden + Kennedy)

This music video for the NBA playoffs on ESPN captured a cool vibe, featuring nonstop graphics and movement by people of all shapes, shades and uniforms, to the tune of the funky "Let's Get it Started" by the Black Eyed Peas with guest star Carlos Santana.

10. "Tennis Kid" (Genworth Financial, Klamath Communications)

Tennis tour pro Taylor Dent is frustrated as he gets thrashed by an opponent who is a toddler. Then a minivan pulls up, with parents Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf inside, and Andre calls to his son: "Hey, buddy. You ready?" The idea is that the little Agassi has good genes, just like this financial firm, a spawn of General Electric.

But the kid in the ad isn't the real Jaden Gil Agassi; he's an actor.

Andre Agassi forever
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post #90 of 731 (permalink) Old 12-17-2004, 06:32 AM
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Re: ** Andre Articles & Interviews !! **

Agassi To Headline Benefit
By EDUARDO A. ENCINA eencina@tampatrib.com
Published: Dec 17, 2004

TAMPA - Former world No. 1 tennis player Jim Courier likes to joke about how he's washed up, always finding time to fit in a self-deprecating jab about how he's ranked No. 1 on the senior circuit, or as he calls it, ``The old-geezer circuit.''
Courier is five years into retirement, but the love for tennis is still there, and so are the connections. So when Courier needed a headliner for his annual tennis benefit event, he needed to make just one call - to Andre Agassi.

Agassi, a winner of eight grand slam titles, will highlight the second annual Mercedes-Benz Classic on March 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Proceeds will benefit the Raymond James Courier's Kids Foundation, which funds an after-school tennis program for underprivileged youth at the St. Petersburg Tennis Center. Last year's event raised $335,000.

``It's phenomenal,'' Courier said of drawing Agassi. ``He's the biggest draw in tennis.

``Andre has never failed to step up to help someone he's close with,'' Courier said of the fellow 34-year-old. ``There weren't any questions other than, `What date is it? When do I need to be there? What do I need to do? OK, I'm in.' ''

The event will mark Agassi's first appearance in the Tampa Bay area in nearly 15 years, since he played in the Davis Cup in December 1990 at Tropicana Field.

Courier coined the event ``The Battle of the Ages'' because he will team with Agassi to face young bloods James Blake and Mardy Fish in doubles play. The players will also participate in singles matches.

Fish is coming off a season in which he won the Olympic silver medal and was pivotal in the U.S. Davis Cup team's ride to the final. Blake didn't have as memorable a year. Injuries have held him out of all but three tournaments since July.

Three years ago, owners of the St. Petersburg Tennis Center organized an after-school youth tennis program. Nearly two years ago, Courier was invited to the tennis center to do a clinic. It captivated Courier so much that he dreamed up last year's first Mercedes-Benz Classic.

The program began with six children, but has grown to 250 registered participants, said Rick Crockett, the program's director. On any given day, 70 to 100 young players fill the courts. Other than tennis, the program offers academic tutoring and computer training.

``To me it's kind of a recycling of the opportunity that I've had,'' Blake said. ``I started in a program similar to this in the Harlem tennis program, where the goal is to raise good citizens. ... For me just to be able to help out is just amazing.''

Andre Agassi forever
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