Agassi joins cause to fight breast cancer
By Harold Gutmann • email@example.com • July 13, 2009
NEW CITY - After seeing all the problems in the world, Andre Agassi said he was faced with a choice - sit and complain about it or act.
"Saying you care is one thing, but sooner or later caring has to become doing," Agassi said.
Andre Agassi plays an exhibition match at the
Kennedy Funding Invitational in New City yesterday.
So the tennis great started his own foundation, which built a free charter school in a poverty-striken area of Las Vegas. That philanthropic spirit also brought Agassi, 39, to Rockland County yesterday for the Kennedy Funding Invitational, a tennis event that raised $500,000 for the breast-care centers at Englewood and Nyack hospitals.
"To come here and help do something that gives back to those that have been afflicted with that disease is important to me," said Agassi, whose mother and sister are breast-cancer survivors.
Agassi defeated Justin Gimelstob in a charity exhibition match, spoke at a sponsors luncheon and hit around with high-end donors for an hour at Dellwood Country Club.
"It's intimidating," said New City resident Mark Geller, who played with Agassi. "You always want to see what the top was like, and I saw the top, and there's a very big spread between here and there. But it was a lot of fun, he's very gracious and he didn't hurt me."
Playing Gimelstob in front of 1,350 people, a good-natured Agassi lost the first set 6-3, won the second 6-3 and then took a super tiebreaker 12-10 to decide the 90-minute match.
"It's unique for anybody to see him anywhere, but for Rockland County it was extraordinarily special," Geller said.
The KFI has raised $2.5 million over the past four years, which has helped Nyack Hospital buy Rockland County's first digital mammography units and expand The Breast Center. The hospital will soon purchase state-of-the-art ultrasound equipment.
"Rockland County has probably the highest rate of breast cancer in New York state, so we're sensitive to the disease," said Geller, who is the director of radiology at Nyack. "We completely renovated our breast program by virtue of this event."
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During Agassi's press conference, he left no doubt who he thought was better, Roger Federer or Pete Sampras. Federer surpassed Sampras' Grand Slam record last July 5 at Wimbledon.
"I played Federer in the finals of the U.S. Open, and strictly from being on the court, what he brings to the table is simply unmatched by anybody I've ever competed against," Agassi said. "Pete got to the semis of the French Open once. Federer would have had five French Open championships if it wasn't for one freak of nature from Majorca (Rafael Nadal). His records and accomplishments are unimaginable for someone like myself."
Agassi also said it was clear how much better today's players are than in his era.
"Every sport that you can measure accomplishments, whether it's how much weight you can lift or how fast you can run or how high you can jump, we've seen athletes get stronger, get better," Agassi said. "I watch these guys play from my living room, and I thank God I don't play anymore."
Agassi was the third straight tennis legend to come to Dellwood for the event, following Sampras in 2007 and John McEnroe last year. Tournament director James Miller was already mulling options for next year, deciding whether to focus on the men's and women's tournaments by increasing prize money and installing hard courts, or going for celebrities such as the Williams sisters.
"But at the end of the day I'm positive we're going to come up with something that's going to knock everyone's socks off," Miller said.
Note: Melanie Oudin won the $12,500 women's tournament, defeating West Rock Tennis Club instructor Lauren Cash 6-1, 6-0. Oudin, 17, jumped from No. 124 to No. 70 in the world rankings after making the fourth round of Wimbledon.