Re: ** Andre Articles & Interviews !! **
Win City: Vegas Continues To Inspire Agassi
Photo By Cynthia Lum By Richard Pagliaro
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.
In an interview titled "A Sure Bet" published in American Airlines' American Way magazine, the 33-year-old Agassi assesses the allure of Las Vegas and the influence the city has had on his life.
Like one of its most well-known residents in the day-glow and denim days of his youth, Las Vegas is sometimes derided as a being long on glitz, glamour and gimmicks and short on purpose, perspective and principle. But life-long Las Vegas resident Agassi points to the city as a powerful source of possibility, performance and passion.
"Vegas has been the fastest-growing city in America for more than 30 years," Agassi told American Way. "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, a former boxer who competed in the 1952 Olympic Games, arrived in the United States as an immigrant who spoke little English before making his way to Vegas. 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. Agassi's mother Elizabeth worked at an unemployment office in the city.
In addition to learning the importance of hard work, 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 told American Way. "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.
"The thing is, excluding the slot machines at grocery stores, there's nothing about living here that would seem more or less odd than living anywhere else," Agassi told American Way. "We have a few casinos that have popped up in different areas of town, but we also have more churches per capita than most 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."
Agassi recalls his first professional tournament experience came in Las Vegas while he was still a child. The young Agassi, who obsessively orchestrates the positioning of ball kids on the court during his matches now, served as a ball kid himself during the annual Alan King Tennis Tournament held at Caesars Palace. The experience provided Agassi with invaluable insight into the thoughts of a pro player during the course of a match.
"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," Agassi told American Way.
The alluring charm of the city where he was born set the stage for Agassi's dreams and taught him the importance of inner strength in transforming those dreams to reality.
"Caesars would give $50,000 to the winner. They would pay you in silver dollars they brought out in a wheelbarrow," Agassi told American Way. "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."