Join Date: Sep 2005
Re: ** Andre News Articles & Interviews !! **
From Best Life magazine:
Agassi grew up fulfilling a dream his father chose for him. Two decades after becoming a professional tennis the 36-year old will embark on his greatest challenge yet: retirement
The week before, Agassi had announced his retirement from professional tennis here at the All-England Club. The venue seemed an odd choice for the progenitor of power tennis, a style of play at odds with the finesse required to win on grass courts. He had won the U.S. Open twice, but Wimbledon was a place where he became a champion of a different sort. "It is the place that taught me to respect the game," Agassi says. "So going back there was important to me, the same way as finishing at the U.S. Open is important to me."
The first time he played Wimbledon as a 17-year-old, he was humiliated in the first round, losing in three straight sets to a footnote named Henri Leconte. For the next three years, he played the petulant teenager--boycotting the tournament, claiming he objected to the all-white dress code. At 21, he returned, wore all white and made it to the quarterfinals. The next year, he won the tournament. It was the first Slam in a career that would include seven subsequent Grand Slam wins. He cried, then called his father, who told him he should have won it in four sets instead of five.
It was a different Agassi who faced Nadal this past summer. Agassi had become a father of two ready to face a life beyond tennis. He had made his peace with his own dad, Mike, who hung a tennis ball over his crib and shipped him off to Nick Bollettieri's tennis academy at age 13. Agassi was aspiring to be a different kind of father to his kids, Jaden Gil, 5, and Jaz Elle, 3. He was also looking forward to spending more time with his wife of five years, Steffi Graf, and devoting himself to philanthropy-having raised $60 million for the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, a Las Vegas charter school dedicated to helping underprivileged kids receive a top-notch education.
Despite his being able to leg press over 600 pounds and bench over 300 pounds, he lost in three straight sets to Nadal. The spectacle was like watching The Terminator getting pushed around by a newer, faster model. The result of the match was in a way irrelevant: It was a triumph that Agassi, who suffers from chronic back pain, was able to remain competitive long after his peers--Michael Chang, Pete Sampras, and Jim Courier-had retired. When the match was over, Agassi thanked the fans and exited to a rousing standing ovation.
"I figured that I might as well call my shot and really end it on my terms," he said of his decision to retire. Or as his former opponent Courier put it, "He's leaving not entirely on his own terms, because his body's starting to betray him, but he is certainly walking out with his head high."
It has been no easy task figuring out what to do with the rest of his life. Unlike the court, where success or failure has been solely in his hands, Agassi is looking to a team of his closest confidantes to help him navigate the transition. (See sidebar "Ace Your Retirement," page 103.) Athletes have to confront the same retirement issues that all professionals do--just a lot earlier. But there is one difference. Stockbrokers, lawyers, and firemen have a life before they devote themselves to a particular career. Agassi never had this luxury.
As soon as Andre could walk, his father brought him to the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas, where he groomed the courts in exchange for his son's court time. Mike had learned the game as a street-fighting teenager in Tehran, and it was the sport that he decided would make a name for him and Andre's three siblings in America. Every day after school, on weekends, and on holidays, Andre would hit thousands of balls off the customized ball machines Mike had rigged in the backyard. Courier recalls seeing Agassi, then age n, at a youth tournament in San Diego. "He had a very intense father. He came in fourth place. His father took the trophy from him and threw it away. That was eye opening for me," says Courier.
Despite a sometimes fiery relationship, Agassi loved his father and missed his family after he moved to Florida to train. He looked to his best friend from home, Perry Rogers, for support. "We raised each other during our formative years, the years you decide what you're going to strive for and how you're going to go about it," says Agassi of Rogers, who currently runs the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation. The foundation started with after-school programs for underprivileged kids in 1994, but Agassi realized that these were just "sticking Band-Aids on a problem… You really have to teach a child to think for himself and how to make better choices." This insight led to the opening of the charter school, a model he hopes to replicate. Watching a basic idea--helping kids--morph into a brick-and-mortar institution was empowering for the jock, because it showed Agassi that the same momentum he had mastered on the court could be translated into the real world.
Another constant in his life has been his trainer Gil Reyes, after whom Agassi named his son, Jaden Gil. Agassi had turned pro and left Florida in 1986, at age 16. It was the tennis world's equivalent of becoming an emancipated minor. Within three years he was ranked No. 3 in the world and endorsement deals were pouring in, most notably the 1990 deal to promote Canon's Rebel cameras. The slogan was "Image Is Everything," and as Grand Slams eluded him, his competitors whispered that Agassi was just like his hometown--all glitter but no gold.
About that time Agassi walked into the University of Las Vegas training center where Reyes was the head coach of the Running Rebels football team. "When he walked into the university training room, I had never seen one point era tennis match. But he was respectful and you couldn't help but like the kid," says Reyes, who has been the tennis star's trainer for 17 years. Agassi committed himself to his workouts but still indulged in Taco Bell, burgers, Mountain Dew, and pizza. His trainer wasn't worried. "I was almost glad that he had normal teenage eating habits at that point because he needed some normalcy in a very abnormal life," says Reyes.
In 1994 he won the U.S. Open and met Brooke Shields. The beginning of the couple's romance coincided with even more wins--the Australian Open title in 1995 and the Olympic Gold in 1996. They married in r997, but the relationship was strained by their competing schedules, and he fell out of the top 100 for the first time since turning pro. Reyes and Rogers didn't push Agassi. "I said to him, 'I would prefer you miss out on some good tennis than missing out on life,'" says Reyes.
As the marriage headed south, however, Agassi was ready to do what divorced men have been doing since the beginning of time--take his fitness to the next level. "I had to become a better athlete to compete with the power coming into the game. My work ethic changed because I started paying the price [physically]," says the 5'11" and 170 lb. Agassi of his need for building muscle to return serves from giants like Goran Ivanisevic (and later, Roger Federer). (See sidebar "The Grand Slam Workout," page 100.) In January of 1999, he left Shields (after returning home from a failed attempt at the Australian Open title), and later that year won the French and U.S. Opens.
He started eating better, too. He swapped junk food for grilled chicken, vegetables, and fruits. But to this day, he has his own peculiar eating habits. Sometimes, he goes against the conventional wisdom of making breakfast the most important meal of the day. Instead he'll load up the night before because he doesn't like feeling full on court. Typically, a prematch dinner would be a large steak or three chicken breasts and some corn, followed by a big fruit salad.
This renewed commitment to diet and weight training helped him become the No. 1 player in the world at 30. His personal life was looking up, too--he had asked out the women's champion, Steffi Graf. They met for dinner in California two days before she retired with 22 Grand Slams under her belt (notably, 14 more than Agassi). They married in 2001, and she completed his inner circle. She would show him that life was about more than tennis: It is about family. "One of the great things about having children is you start looking at life through their lens. I've never looked at a beach through the lens of a 4-and-a-half-year-old," says Agassi.
Grafhelped to bridge the divide between Andre and Mike Agassi, who walked out of the reception at his son's wedding to Brooke Shields because he didn't think the marriage would last, Sports Illustrated reported last summer.
Steffi's example has shown Andre that retirement isn't for wimps, because raising kids may be tougher than fending off Nadal. Or as Agassi puts it, "She burns more calories in an hour inside the house than I do on the court."
The Grand Slam Workout
Since Gil Reyes started working with Agassi 17 years ago, the tennis star has been nearly injury-free. Here is their secret strategy
Agassi stretches his back and shoulders using resistance tubing attached to a floor rack. First, he holds one tube In each hand, facing the rack with slightly bent knees. He leans forward like he's waterskiing and gradually rotates his hands inward until they touch his ribs. He holds the position for 3 seconds, pauses, and repeats it 10 times. Then, he turns around, raises the cords overhead and leans forward, holding the stretch for 3 seconds before pausing and repeating It 10 times.
The emphasis here Is to build explosive strength for his forehand, backhand, and serve. First, he bench-presses a "reach" weight, which Is up to 315 pounds. Then, he finishes with four sets of seven to 10 reps using lighter weights. "You achieve perfect form only If you practice with lighter weights," say Reyes. To customize Andre's lifting exercises, Reyes recommends finding your ideal weight by aiming for seven to 10 reps. If you're straining at three reps, the weight Is too heavy. If you can do more than 10 reps, the weight is too light; add more In 5-pound increments.
Serving match after match can create a stronger right shoulder that overcompensates for a weaker left one when performing exercises In which both arms are moving the weight. The solution: using dumbbells to work the shoulders separately. Agassi lifts 50-pound dumbbells from his shoulders over his head for seven to 10 reps. Then, with palms down and dumbbells on the front of his thighs, he raises them with straight arms directly In front to chest level for five to seven reps. Agassi works his lats with three sets of lat pulldowns (seven to 10 reps) with 200 pounds of weight. When he moves to triceps and biceps he uses barbells or a bicep and triceps machine, finishing three sets of seven repetitions in a super set to keep momentum.
Because Agassi gets the necessary power for his ground strokes and serves from his legs, the workout Is divided with 70 percent of the time being spent on the lower body and core and 30 percent of the workout hitting the upper body. Agassi starts with leg presses, doing five sets of seven to 10 reps with 150 pounds. For the quads he completes the same reps on the leg extension machine but with slightly heavier weight (200 pounds). He finishes with calf raises on a machine, five sets of 10 reps with 400 pounds.
Agassi does three sets of 10 squats with an 80-pound bar resting on his shoulders. "Squats are so good because they involve almost every muscle in the body," says Reyes. When he's not at home and able to use his customized pulley machine for his abs, Andre takes a 45-pound plate and holds it to his chest for five sets of 10 to 20 crunches. Reyes advises starting with a 10-pound plate, and once you can do 20 to 25 reps comfortably, adding 5 pounds at a time.
Agassi runs on hills outside his training facility for even more leg strength and cardio endurance. He does a 320-yard route eight to 14 times. Sometimes he goes straight up the hill or breaks it up into short sprints. Sometimes he goes backwards or sideways. If he's already played for two hours twice that day, he might skip this step. AMY LEVIN-EPSTEIN