March 24, 2005
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Andre.
Q. How are you feeling for another title? I heard you had problems with your toe. Is that going better?
ANDRE AGASSI: Better, yeah. It's probably only 30% bigger than my other toe now, which is a big step forward.
Had an MRI. Structurally, everything was sound. It just showed a tremendous amount of fluid in it, which is good to know, because I can push through it if I do feel anything.
But, yeah, doing better.
Q. Obviously, you're looking forward to come down here?
ANDRE AGASSI: I always look forward to playing here. It's a great environment to play in. The fans are enthusiastic and love their tennis and the conditions are one that I enjoy playing in ‑ the Florida sun and heat, humidity, wind. It's all good.
Q. If it were not this tournament or a major, with the toe situation, would you have taken it easy instead of coming?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, my biggest question two weeks ago beyond the pain that I had in it was, "I have the pain for a reason and I don't want to do anything that could jeopardize the rest of the year, or at this stage of my career, even more."
So I had to take the precautions I did, because I would have been half of myself out there anyhow. But the pain is considerably better, and knowing that structurally nothing is going wrong with the bone or tendon, it gives me the freedom to push through anything I might feel.
Certainly this tournament gives me more motivation to come here and to push through it. But I'll be in a position to hopefully play well.
Q. When you hear Greg saying this is your 19th Miami, I guess you're coming up to the 20th US Open and stuff, do you say, "Jeez, that's impressive," or, "Jeez, I'm getting old"? Or both maybe?
ANDRE AGASSI: I don't know if it's impressive to play that much. You want to sort of ‑‑ you want to ‑‑ I mean, I don't know, really. I have mixed emotions on it. Sometimes statistics hit you oddly. That would be one of many statistics that would make me go, "Wow, I've been doing this a long time."
Probably more old than proud.
Q. Do you allow yourself at this stage in your life any sentimentality? Do you walk these grounds and allow yourself any kind of nostalgia? Is it always just "business as usual"?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I try not to lose sight of keeping myself in position to be at my best. A lot of that's mental. A lot of that's your approach towards a tournament.
I don't allow myself too much luxury at this stage because I'm trying to focus on being better than the guy I'm playing against.
With that being said, there are just a lot of times where sort of nostalgia hits you. I mean, you can't avoid it, really. You see the same faces, you know, years later, and you realize that in between all these tennis matches life is happening, and it's a pretty amazing feeling.
Q. Roger just paid you a very nice compliment a few minutes ago when he said you were a role model for other tennis players as a tennis player, but also for your social engagements with children and so on. I think that's great after playing so long tennis to hear that.
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, it is. It is a big compliment. I mean, I think really all of us are role models, and that includes everybody here in this room and everybody here watching. I believe a role model is somebody that should accept additional responsibility in their lives for anything that they can make better ‑ people, especially.
I think we all have that responsibility. It's great to see other athletes start to accept that themselves.
Q. When you first came here as a teenager, did you know right off the bat that this was going to be a tournament you would enjoy playing, or has it grown on you over the years? Were you successful right away?
ANDRE AGASSI: No, not really. No, I came here at 16 and lost a tough five‑setter to Muster on the back court 6‑4 in the fifth, down two sets to Love, lost my serve at 4‑5 in the fifth.
The next year I had a default. I played Krickstein in the second round. Default with cramps.
I had a first‑round exit, I believe in '89, to Charlie Steeb. Pretty routine three sets.
1990 was real good, yeah. Lost to Edberg in the finals of Palm Springs and then beat him in the finals here. I suppose that's when it really started.
It took me a number of years to enjoy most of the cities I travelled to, to be quite honest ‑ especially the European cities. It was never something that came quickly to me. It took some years of sort of growing up to enjoy the cultures and the things they had to offer. Same way here in Miami. It wasn't a place that I responded to immediately. But I certainly am thankful that I saw the light (smiling).
Q. Do you remember all your events like that, the stats?
ANDRE AGASSI: No, no. I have selective memory. There's a lot of them I forget.
Q. You mentioned about ‑ which I agree with ‑ about you being a role model for the players. But also where you come from, the city of Las Vegas, it seems the city changed and your foundation has helped a great deal. If you look back on what Vegas was like many years ago when you started, and the way it is today with the booming real estate and the fact that entertainment now drives economy and not gambling, do you feel you've made a very, very big difference for the life of your city?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I think for sure I was ahead of the curve on Las Vegas. I was lucky enough to be born there. If you replay all my press conferences through the years you'll see these random questions about Las Vegas, and the answers I always gave about it. The one thing that wouldn't be recorded in those press conferences would be the chuckles that sort of happened as I talked about what a great city it was because it just never seemed like a place that people would ever consider living in.
But it has been the fastest growing city in America for well over 30 years. But as any city can grow at that pace, so does the inner city. I mean, along with the good comes the not‑so‑good. That's what I've tried to focus my attention on, is making sure that as we thrive as an industry, that we can use some of those relationships and platforms to make a difference to those children that need it the most as that part of the city grows.
I hope I've made a difference. I don't sort of rest on that because I find myself very focused on changing as many kids' lives as I can, regardless of what kind of impact it's having in the big picture or not.
Q. I read in the last year or two the biggest headliners in Vegas ‑ I don't know if they're involved in your foundation ‑ are Celine Dion and Barry Manilow. I heard you were a big Barry Manilow fan, to the point that when you had an injury, you had them play, "I Made it Through the Rain."
ANDRE AGASSI: (Laughing) Well, it sounds like that story was embellished a little bit.
But, you know, yeah, I've ‑‑ I have a pretty wide spectrum of appreciation for music. You mention Celine, and she was very gracious to play my event one year, which certainly was a big asset for us.
But I think the community itself is one that really embraces all those people that have that sort of giving spirit, and Celine certainly has it. I don't know Barry so well, but it's great to see people come into our city, set up their home there, be embraced, but also give so much to it.
Q. We talked about tennis lessons with you. He told me once he doesn't know the difference between a tennis club and a tennis racquet.
ANDRE AGASSI: Who was that?
Q. Barry Manilow.
ANDRE AGASSI: I never was on a tennis court with him. I'd have fun doing that, but I wasn't.
Q. A slightly different tennis level, do you miss playing with Sampras at all?
ANDRE AGASSI: No (laughter).
Q. Why is that? The losses?
ANDRE AGASSI: Part of me does. It's certainly an amazing chapter in my career and hopefully a stage in tennis that was appreciated because you're never guaranteed those rivalries, and that's something that I've always felt blessed to have, you know.
So I do, yeah. There are a lot of times I do. The sides of it I don't, it's just the way he would have a knack for playing his best tennis in some of the most important situations. A lot of times I was on the receiving end of that. But it also was a challenge for me that when I could rise to that level and win those big matches against him ‑ one being here ‑ makes it even more special.
Q. How much longer do you think you can keep playing, and when will you know that enough is enough?
ANDRE AGASSI: I don't know, and I don't know. That's the simple and short of it, to be quite honest.
Q. Jim Courier is going into the Hall of Fame. You've known him for a long, long time. When you were back in Bradenton, when you were both very young, did you have a sense that he would be in the Hall of Fame one day?
ANDRE AGASSI: Not when we were at the academy together. When we were at the academy together, I mean, Jim was pretty much a good second‑round draw. I mean, if you had to play him second round in a junior tournament, you felt, like, okay.
He got my attention when I was 15 years old as far as what his potential was. We grew up together from 8 years old. There were a number of years there when I was playing at a much different level than he was and never considered him to be a threat. And then all of a sudden, I played him in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Boy, he just dropped a match on me that I'll never forget.
While I broke into the pro tour before him, the first time I played him professionally I realized that, "This guy's the real deal here." It was pretty clear to me then. But I wouldn't say that was till about 16, 17.
Q. Do you know anybody who got more out of what he had than him?
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I think that does exist. Jim was somebody that certainly always pushed the boundaries of his own abilities, there's no question about it. I think a lot of guys have, maybe guys that not everybody would always be so familiar with.
But Jim had a great work ethic, and he had an ability to punch in the clock every single day. You know, there's still room for guys on the tour that are just willing to work, and he did it with a fair bit of talent to say the least.
He pushed the standard of the game. He started hitting the ball bigger than other guys, he was more physical than other guys. He got as much out of himself as any person could hope for.
Q. Can you elaborate on my question about how much longer you think you might want to play, what factors you consider, whether it's still fun, whether you're playing well.
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, you know, I don't really know how to sort of answer that anymore, you know. I mean, I can't box myself into a perspective because I couldn't be convinced of it, you know.
This sport has given me so much that my hope would be to give back as much as I can for as long as I can. Sort of how long I consider it to be something of a useful effort is hard for me to say. I would hope to believe that when I'm playing my best tennis, that I still believe I can win any match that I'm playing. You know, that would be my hope, that when I'm convinced that I just can't quite play to the standard or, you know, do it in a way that I'm proud of, in a way that I've been so used to over the years, then that would be sort of my time.
But I do have a lot of fun out there ‑ occasionally (smiling).
Q. Are you a sentimental person?
ANDRE AGASSI: I'm not so sure.
Q. At some point, whether it's now or five years from now, you'll be playing at these places for the last time. When you come to a place like Miami, do you allow your thought process to go there at all and get at all reflective? Is that something you don't want to do?
ANDRE AGASSI: Maybe I'm more sentimental than I realize because maybe that's the reason why I could never say, "This is the last time I'm going to play here." I feel like being here, I owe it to this tournament, to the game, to the fans, to be focused on trying to win, and it would be a very hard thing for me to do to sort of acknowledge that this is the last time I'm going to be somewhere.
Life changes quickly, you know. You never know what's in store for you so I don't want to speculate on any of that. I don't want my story to be something that I tell; I'd rather it sort of be revealed to me. It's not for me to say this is the last time I'm going to play here or anywhere. It's not something I'm capable of saying because that's not how I function. I function by pushing myself every day, and one day I won't do it on the tennis court anymore.
Q. You've won this tournament no less than six times during the course of your illustrious career. You've beaten some of the best players around ‑ Sampras and Federer included. If you could pick one particular year that stands out most in your memory, what would it be winning here?
ANDRE AGASSI: Wow...
I'm convinced I can remember every match here.
Q. In terms of the win...
ANDRE AGASSI: A special moment for me was winning the semifinals and the finals ‑ 7‑6 in the third against Magnus Larsson, 5‑6 in the third serving against Larsson, 30‑All, I hit an overhead from behind the baseline for a call deep which would have put me down matchpoint. Ended up winning that in a breaker. Then beat Sampras in the final 7‑6 in the third, then we jumped on a plane together, flew over to Palermo, Italy, to play Davis Cup.
Q. Which year was that?
ANDRE AGASSI: '95.
Q. Did you have a chance to watch when Tiger and Phil played together in the final round at Doral? Like you and Pete meeting in the final, it isn't as common as people think it is; it's still a rare thing. You're one of the few people that could understand what was going through their mind in that final round.
ANDRE AGASSI: I didn't see it, no, but I certainly follow both of them emphatically. I enjoy watching it every chance I get.
I'm inspired by all sorts of athletes that push themselves and focus in an environment that might lend for a lot of distractions, you know.
When I see the deal that's made of them coming down, you know, the final few holes on the last day to win a tournament, that's when I marvel most at what it takes to remember that this is about the fundamentals and keeping that focus. They both do that incredibly well.
Q. You played a pretty epic match against Johansson in Australia. Is his game all about power, or is there some strategy behind what he does?
ANDRE AGASSI: You know, I don't know. I can't look through the lens of being nearly 6'7", serving 145 miles an hour and being able to hit through any court. For all I know, he has a lot of strategy; he just has more options than I do when it comes to the power.
You're not as worried about his strategy when you're out there as you are his power, but that probably speaks more to his power than his lack of strategy.
Q. From the rallies you got into, where would you say he needs to improve his game at this point?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, you can't have it all, right? I mean, so, you know, you can't be 6'7" and run like a deer, you know. His forehand is obviously his biggest shot. I think harnessing that power would be ideal, to be able to sort of choose your moments.
But the match I played with him was after he played 13‑11 in the fifth set, so I don't know if I was just seeing the result of somebody that was refusing to play another long match and knowing that that wasn't the best thing in his ‑‑ the best thing for him at the time. I haven't played him often enough to know that.
Q. How do you explain Federer's success? What does he have right now?
ANDRE AGASSI: There's probably not a department in his game that he couldn't be considered the best in that department. I mean, the guy plays from the back of the court, from the front of the court. You know, you watch him play Hewitt and everybody marvels at Hewitt's speed, as well as myself, and you sort of start to realize, "Is it possible Federer even moves better?"
Then you watch him play Andy, and you go "Andy has a big forehand. Is it possible Federer's forehand is the best in the game?"
You watch him at net, you watch him serve‑volley somebody that doesn't return so well, and you put him up there with the best in every department.
You see him play from the ground against those that play from the ground for a living, and argue he does it better than anybody.
So he's good.
Q. How do you see him faring at Roland Garros? He says he takes some comfort from the fact that it took you a while to win there. It's a tournament that has gotten the best of a lot of the best players.
ANDRE AGASSI: We're speaking in hindsight now because it's obviously going to be the toughest one for him to win because it's the last one. Doesn't mean it's going to be tough, just means it's going to be the toughest.
I think Paris is that way for the very reason that there are so many sort of specialized clay courters. There's a lot of guys that you have to beat with a very disciplined approach, match after match.
So no question it's going to be the hardest, but absolutely he can do it.
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Andre Agassi forever