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just some news and pic :wavey:

Andre Agassi Prep Sports Solar Array
June 2011




The Andre Agassi Foundation is developing what will be the largest rooftop solar project in the state of Nevada, while also partnering with Canyon Capital Realty Advisors to launch a fund to help develop best-in-class charter schools in urban areas while embracing environmental responsibility.

The Foundation is currently installing a 465 kilowatt solar/photovoltaic energy system in two phases to provide electric power to Agassi Prep school, using the existing utility feed-in meters at the school. The first phase is over 230 kilowatts and the second phase will be 235 kilowatts.

The partnership of Canyon Capital Realty Advisors (CCRA) and Andre Agassi Ventures (AAV) will form an innovative new real estate fund – the Canyon-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund (CACSFF) – and will help charter schools overcome the biggest impediment to growth by facilitating the development of more than 75 urban school sites for best-in-class charter school operators. The Fund will create new seats for approximately 40,000 students over the next three to four years.

The Fund will invest in new charter schools by constructing new facilities or retrofitting existing properties with a focus on providing high quality educational facilities for urban communities and embracing environmental responsibility. This new partnership combines CCRA’s and AAV’s substantial resources, development expertise and passion for educational excellence to assist the charter school community in securing academically friendly, environmentally sustainable school facilities for students and teachers. Charter schools are growing at a 14.5% annual rate, and operators routinely cite securing suitable learning facilities as one of their greatest challenges.
 

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On eve of induction to Hall, Agassi points to off-court feats
NEWPORT, R.I. — For many tennis players, induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame is a capstone to their careers.

For eight-time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi, it's a platform for his work toward reforming public education.

Agassi has raised $150 million through his foundation, opened a tuition-free public charter school in an at-risk Las Vegas neighborhood, is close to opening another in north Philadelphia and envisions a network of 75 throughout the country.

This is the Andre Agassi of the "image is everything" TV commercials?

Hardly.

"Our dreams are so much broader than" Agassi being inducted, Steve Miller, CEO of the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education, said Friday as he and others in the Agassi entourage were at the grounds of the Hall of Fame on the eve of Saturday's ceremonies. "As a result, to have a platform to tell our story, you couldn't buy that" opportunity.

"Andre is the kind of person who doesn't waste the opportunities."

Agassi, 41, was always making the most of his opportunities in the sport he was pushed into by his father, be it with his stunning return of serve and power game off both wings or by stirring up the fashion scene with attire not normally seen on the court.

"I hope I have opened the sport up to people who otherwise wouldn't be interested," Agassi said Friday. "I hope I brought people to the game. I hope I inspired kids who are out there now doing it better than I ever did. …

"You don't realize at the time, when I wore jean shorts on the court, a lot of people said that was the wrong thing to do. I thought I had the ability to impact more people" that way.

He has made an impact at every stage of his life. In his best-selling autobiography Open, he was not shy in revealing his frustrations and even hatred for how his father treated him as a commodity to be packaged and delivered as a tennis prodigy. Agassi wrote about using crystal meth — and getting around a failed drug test to eventually revitalize his career and set him on the path that brings him to Newport for a celebration of an extraordinary career.

"I really wanted to show the difficulties of our sport, to have people identify more with tennis athletes," he said of writing the book.

And now that the Hall of Fame has recognized his tennis accomplishments?

"This is one of the rare times in my life that I truly come in with no expectations," Agassi said Friday. "I've seen everybody be fooled by what (the induction) is — and surprised by the emotions they feel. It should be an important moment for me."

But tennis has always been secondary. It has "given me my school and given me my wife," Agassi said of his marriage to tennis legend and 2004 Hall of Fame inductee Steffi Graf, a love affair clearly integral to his well-being.

"The first time Steffi came into our lives, she came to watch our (legendary) training sessions," said Gil Reyes, Agassi's longtime trainer, who teared up several times at the Hall on Friday in talking of his friend as a "good man, a good boy. He was like one of my boys."

On the way home from Agassi winning the gold medal in Atlanta at the 1996 Summer Olympics, Reyes recalled the champion saying to him, " 'How soon can we get a house for your mother?' which was always a dream for me. A month later, she had a house."

Agassi is passionate to his core about making life better for others, especially children. Where others celebrate that 500 children are on a waiting list for his schools, Agassi sees only failure.

"I've always tended to revel in my failures rather than (enjoy) the achievements," he said, downplaying his leadership in education.

"I hope I've changed a lot of lives that otherwise wouldn't have a chance of choosing" the direction to go, he said of his work with inner-city and underprivileged youth.

"I'm always thinking outside of the box. There's not a shortage of money (for education). We've just got to figure out ways to solve problems not by governmental means."

He made millions on the court — still ranking fourth on the sport's all-time money list ($30 million-plus) — and millions off it in capitalizing on his rebellious ways.

So how would the legendary figures who fill the showcases of the museum at the Hall of Fame think about someone so contrary as Agassi getting inducted?

"I think they would be shocked by the state of the world all-around! And then," he laughed, "me being in the Hall of Fame."

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/tennis/2011-07-08-andre-agassi-hall-of-fame_n.htm
 

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ESPN has a sepcial section on Andre, liked all of them, esp this one and the one by Bodo.

Andre Agassi's triumphs are his own By Joel Drucker
Special to ESPN.com
Archive

The other-directed person wants to be loved rather than esteemed.
--David Riesman, author, The Lonely Crowd

There has always been a degree of honesty to Andre Agassi that is as engaging as it is disarming. Tennis fans saw him transform from a boy to man, tennis' elder statesman. Few skeletons could emerge from his closet when he is inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on July 9 as no tennis player in history has been more dissected or has been more willing to be explored. It is only fitting that his autobiography is titled "Open."

For a man who made millions in a one-on-one form of competition, Agassi possesses a rare empathy. He began life and conducted much of his tennis career as more of a lover than fighter, less attuned to the pursuit of victory and more disposed to pleasing others. In one sense, Agassi is a survivor and a student. In another, he is a chameleon, shaping himself along the contours of those who most strongly exert their gravitational pull.

Can you blame him? If certain aspects of Agassi's nature led him to hit a tennis ball extremely well, nurture took leave amid the dictatorial reign of Agassi's father, Mike -- the driven immigrant who turned tennis from a wholesome activity into what Andre has often described as forced labor. To placate Mike, young Andre complied. Thus, lesson one in the art of pleasing others. Only upon victory was the boy given a few crumbs of acknowledgment.

By 13 years old, Agassi was shipped off to what he regarded as yet another Gulag, the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy. But while if at some level Agassi rebelled against the life of a tennis prodigy by trying new hairdos, painting his nails and even engaging in seemingly rebellious acts, he was compliant in carrying out his sentence.

Whether he cared to or not, Agassi was indeed on his way to a pro career. And though Bollettieri -- an ex-Marine who regarded himself as a lord of discipline -- sought to harness Agassi, once it was clear the boy was a star, Bollettieri and Agassi grabbed tennis by the throat. Colorful shirts, denim shorts and enough glitzy ad contracts to make a race car driver envious.

In the orbit of Bollettieri and other handlers, Agassi let himself be deployed in a way that was lucrative, despite it being cynical in its artifice -- all perhaps in the name of acquiring the affection from the suntanned and hearty Bollettieri that no one else could provide. If the price of love was a few ad campaigns, so be it. Rip the ball and let the chips fall where they may.

Fortunately Agassi, circa 1989-90, commenced an engagement with the man who became the central figure in his journey toward authenticity. Gil Reyes assumed the roles of trainer, security man, buddy, spiritual adviser and de facto father-brother.

In mythical terms, he is the Obi Wan Kenobi to Agassi's Luke Skywalker, as it was Reyes who kept Agassi balanced, focused and attuned. Trust your feelings. Use the force. No person has been near and dear to Agassi longer (even Perry Rogers, his best friend from childhood, vanished from Team Agassi in 2008 in the wake of a lawsuit and conflict that will likely never be cogently articulated).

So to restate the question: Has Agassi always been wise enough to find what he needs or is he some sort of cult follower, attaching himself to the apron strings and verbal constructs of his latest guru?

His 1994 union with tactical-coaching genius Brad Gilbert was an inspired hookup. No longer was Agassi simply a ball striker unleashed. Where once it had been Bollettieri cruising the periphery of the practice court urging Agassi to keep striking big, Gilbert entered Agassi into an interactive tennis seminary.

Though during this time Agassi continued his relationship with Nike, what he wore rapidly took a back seat to his new-and-improved tactical mind. He and Gilbert would commence hitting and in due time, but at first Agassi began to ape Gilbert's talk-radio patter with seasoned and clever staccato-like comments about 97 mph kick serves; how to hurt guys; and, of course, Gilbert's trademark phrase, "winning ugly." Small wonder that Agassi referred to a five-set win at the U.S. Open over Michael Chang as "my bar mitzvah in tennis, the match that made me a man."

All along there was Reyes, carefully honing Agassi's frame, but even more, shaping his heart, truly blossoming as his "bodyguard." Through the '90s, as Agassi's commitment to the sport floundered, Reyes stood loyally in his corner. Fitting also that Agassi and Reyes referred to his turnaround win at the '99 French Open as the day they at last slew the dragon.

From colorful ad campaigns to religious rituals to mythical creatures, Agassi was the biggest box-office star in the history of tennis, a magnet for the camera, the microphone and the notepad.

Steffi Graf made her way into tennis history in precisely the opposite way Agassi has. She enjoyed an epic career of conquest built on the dedication of a monk, ceaseless performance and a near Garbo-esque resistance to interviews, profiles and ad campaigns. Although Agassi hailed from the desert city, Graf was the real creature of the sand: a sphinx, a powerful monument and testimony to diligence that is concurrently compelling and unknowable.

As so many had, she too shaped Agassi. As their romance blossomed and they eventually married in 2001, Agassi took on many of Graf's understated qualities. His clothes became increasingly muted in color. He became increasingly business-like in his approach to matches, utterly no-nonsense in everything from the arrangement of his courtside chair to interactions with officials to the simple and powerful construction of points with exquisite discipline to the point of, believe it or not, craftsmanship bordering on deliberate boredom -- a galaxy away from the neon-attired shot-maker from the Bollettieri era.

The truth is Agassi's triumphs are his own.

Andre Agassi has built his legacy in the way that makes sports such a genuine form of meritocracy: performance. Still, is it possible to know a man who has covered so much territory as Andre Agassi?

Perhaps the fact that we think we can understand him any place beyond the lines proves both the power.

http://sports.espn.go.com/sports/tennis/columns/story?columnist=drucker_joel&id=6695878
 

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Andre Agassi: A true poster boy for tennis

Tennis shaped Andre Agassi, just as he shaped the sport.

Andre Agassi enters the Hall of Fame this weekend, and he isn't exactly backing in -- the way he might have been, had he not undergone that late career transformation into a great competitor, then doubled-down by becoming a leader in the nation-wide fight to improve educational standards, particularly for the disadvantaged.

Once again, history proves that even the most controversial and seemingly irredeemable tennis player (think John McEnroe or Andrea Jaeger) is not just capable of becoming a successful, happy, much-admired adult, but may get there partly because of his or her experience in tennis.

It's an easy thing to forget, long after the Open revolution ended that amateur-era notion that the game was most useful to promote good health and build character. Once the floodgates of professionalism were opened, it was assumed that the real role of tennis was to drive local economies and make a small, elite class of pro players fabulously wealthy.

Tennis does those things, but Agassi's personal history suggests, even if nobody talks about it, that the old amateur-era vision of why tennis matters is still relevant. Something about this game has the power to educate, inspire and elevate, even if it has to educate in the proverbial school of hard knocks, inspire with a swift kick to the backside or elevate by the scruff of the neck.

Agassi is the ultimate poster-boy for the idea that tennis can help shape a young man or woman for a productive future. As he made clear in "Open," his extraordinarily frank autobiography, he loathed and rebelled against the demands of the game almost from Day 1, yet a combination of his talent and (I think) some latent, instinctive understanding of himself prevented him from ever quitting. That essentially forced Agassi to become something he was not, early in his life: honest with himself.

Tennis is an especially good tool for teaching that kind of honesty, because if there's nobody with whom to share the glory, the way there is in a team sport, there's also nobody on whom to pass the blame. In tennis, it's always you taking that 12-foot jumper when you're down by one at the buzzer. Over time, the high-grade accountability in tennis shapes you.

The degree of personal responsibility required to succeed in tennis is noteworthy, and it helps explain why for all the horror stories generated by human failings in other athletes, you rarely read about tennis players doing really stupid or illegal or even anti-social things. You don't survive in this lonely game without learning to take care of yourself, and that opens doors to wisdom.

One of the major undercurrents in Agassi's book is how much he hated to lose, which is also code for "screw up." He was a rebel alright, but a less visible part of himself -- the part that demanded accountability -- just couldn't tolerate his chronic underperformance. And that helps account for his longevity; Consciously or not, Agassi stuck around in tennis until he got it right.

Once Agassi realized that the power he had, especially in the public arena he was forced to inhabit, came from tennis, he was on his way to the finding the clarity and sense of purpose he enjoys today.

One of the obvious lessons in this bears repeating, because it's almost always forgotten in the heat of the moment: Great tennis players tend to be become high achievers and therefore famous by the age of 19 or 20. Our perception of them is created and shaped at a time in their lives when, much like any post-adolescents, they still have no idea of how the world works, what it wants, or how to answer the most basic questions and challenges life throws at them.

It has been said that a reputation is the easiest thing to acquire and the most difficult thing to shed. Early in his career, Agassi got saddled, somewhat unfairly, with that "image is everything" reputation (other aspects of his horrible reputation, like the "choker" label, were legitimately earned). I don't think any other player, except perhaps Marcelo Rios, was as roundly despised and criticized in the tennis community-at-large since the heyday of McEnroe.

It took Agassi nearly a decade to recover from the injuries inflicted (often by his own hand) on his reputation during his youth, and we should never forget that his makeover into a beloved icon of the game would not have been possible had he not experienced that terrific late-career surge, the flashpoint of which was Agassi's victory at the French Open of 1999.

Without that win and subsequent run, Agassi probably would not have become the man he is today; it triggered in him a sense of gratitude, a feeling of thankfulness for second chances, that helped drive the next step in his transformation into a great citizen.

Call it the education of an educator.

http://espn.go.com/sports/tennis/blog/_/name/bodo_peter/id/6747001/true-poster-boy-tennis
 

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Special Delivery: Agassi's Hall Of Fame Address Poignant and Profound
By Cindy Shmerler - Saturday, July 9, 2011
NEWPORT—To Andre Agassi, a perfect day would include sleeping late while still hearing the distant murmur of his kids, nine-year-old Jaden and seven-year- old Jaz, playing in the background. It would allow for a workout of some sort and would end with a backyard barbecue with family and friends jumping in and out of the swimming pool. In might even include an oversized proclamation trumpeting his long-awaited induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

The splash of the swimming pool was replaced by multi-million-dollar yachts lounging on nearby Narragansett Bay and, instead of hotdogs and hamburgers, the bill of fare included champagne and wide-brimmed straw hats. But the mood was both buoyant and poignant as the 41-year-old Agassi joined 66-year-old Fern “Peachy” Kellmeyer as the 219th and 220th members of the Hall of Fame, the highest honor bestowed in the game of tennis. The ceremony, under an azure sky dotted with sporadic marshmallow clouds, took place Saturday afternoon on the Hall of Fame’s long-sold-out Bill Talbert Stadium Court before 3,710 fans.

Kellmeyer, the first employee under founders Gladys Heldman and Billie Jean King of the Women’s Tennis Association in 1973, is credited with helping the WTA grow from 23 domestic tournaments to more than 50 worldwide and expanding prize money in women’s professional tennis from an early $300,000 to nearly $89 million today. But perhaps her greatest accomplishment, often overlooked in women’s sports history, is her early push for Title IX of the education amendment which guarantees equal funding for men and women in high school and college sports. While a college coach in Florida, Kellmeyer sued for the right to offer athletic scholarships to her women tennis players and, in winning the suit, paved the way for all women athletes to received scholarships. She also fought for women professionals to receive equal prize money at the major championships, a dream realized when Wimbledon and the French Open offered equal purses to the men’s and women’s champions in 2007.

"This is the happiest day of my life,” said Kellmeyer, whose award was presented by WTA Chairman and CEO Stacy Allaster and celebrated by family, friends, colleagues and former players from her 38 years with the tour, where she continues to serve as a consultant. “For me, being here today doesn’t get any better."

Then, as a nod to her co-inductee, Kellmeyer, humble as ever, sheepishly admitted, “I know I’m not the main attraction but, Andre, I’ll be your opening act anytime.”

Agassi, dressed in a fitted charcoal suit and coordinating tie, hardly resembled the brash, long-haired, denim-clad teen who stormed into the game in 1986, ultimately claiming eight major championships (four Australian Opens, two U.S. Opens, one Wimbledon and one French Open), an Olympic gold medal in Atlanta in 1996, two Davis Cup championships, 60 ATP Tour titles, an 870-274 match record and the No. 1 world ranking. Somewhere along the way he went from a kid characterized by the “Image is Everything” moniker to a adult who, despite dropping out of school in ninth grade, now says that “Education is Everything” would more appropriately describe his current vision of the world.

“My goal has always been to leave the sport better off for having had me,” said Agassi just before his induction. “Tennis has given me the gift to change the life experience of others. That’s just flat out a real fun thing to do and more rewarding than anything that can happen on a tennis court. But it’s because of tennis that I have my life’s work.”

Despite his on-court accomplishments, Agassi may well be remembered more for his education reform than his reform-school behavior that, early on, included mocking opponents, tanking matches, spitting at umpires and using illicit drugs. After hitting what he called “rock bottom [in 1997 when he plummeted to No. 141 in the world], a place that really isn’t so bad because it gives you a chance to look up,” Agassi said he finally stopped playing for others and decided to enjoy the game for himself, ultimately going from Challenger matches where he had to shag his own balls and turn his own scorecard to regaining the No. 1 world ranking and winning the 1999 French Open to become, at the time, only the fifth man in history to capture a career Grand Slam. (He has since been joined in the feat by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.) But, more importantly, his athletic transformation worked in sync with her personal development which had become increasingly philanthropic.

In 1994, Agassi founded the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education. Together with his wife, fellow Hall of Famer Stefanie Graf, he has raised $150 million to help at-risk youth in his hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada. The Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, which opened its doors in 2001 and now educates kindergarten through 12th graders, has proven to be model of how students can excel even in a city’s most distressed areas.

In a nod to the success of the Academy, Agassi students took center stage at the Induction ceremony. A.J. Green, an 18-year-old Agassi Prep grad, delighted the crowd with his rendition of the National Anthem. The honoree was then introduced by 18-year-old Simone Ruffin, the 2009 class salutatorian, current student at Concordia University in Irvine, California and budding clinical psychiatrist, who excitedly and eloquently gushed over her “hometown hero,” who she said gave her and her fellow students, “the tools to build our own lives” and the incentive to “never forget to look back and help others.” Ruffin ended her remarks by telling Agassi, “I am the voice of so many children whose lives have been changed by one.”

After giving Ruffin one of his trademark bear hugs, Agassi took to the podium and wrote virtual love letters to everyone from his parents, Betty and Mike, to his big brother Phil (sisters Rita and Tami weren’t present), his trainer/mentor/ friend Gil Reyes, his coaches Nick Bollettieri, Darren Cahill and Brad Gilbert and to “the woman who still takes my breath away,” wife Stefanie (whom he emotionally introduced when she was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004) and kids Jaden and Jaz. He also gave nods to influential heroes Arthur Ashe (who was inducted in the Hall of Fame 25 years ago) and former South African leader Nelson Mandela whom, he said of their one meeting, taught him to “be careful in his decisions.”.

Agassi told a particularly charming story about his father, a task-master and former Olympic boxer for Iran who fought in two Olympics but never won a medal. Despite the sometimes contentious relationship between the two that Agassi wrote about in his book, Open, it is clear that the bond between them is ever-strong. “From the day I was born my dad described to me the feeling I would have when I stood up here so it’s kind of déjà vu right now,” said Agassi, smiling at his father nearby. “I was always here in my father’s imagination.

“Last year, I was giving a speech in Las Vegas and a man in the first row put up his hand to ask a question,” Agassi continued, bringing many in the crowd to tears. “He said, ‘How do you know when to stop telling your kids what to do?’ I looked down and realized the question was coming from my father. Dad, when I was five, you told me to win Wimbledon and when I was about seven you told me to win all the Grand Slams and get into the Hall of Fame. Then, when I was 29 you told me to marry Steffi Graf and that was the best order you ever gave me. So Dad, please don’t ever stop telling me what to do.”

Rarely has an athlete so dramatically and so completely reinvented himself, but Andre Agassi has clearly done that. He has made amends with himself, his foes and the game that he at one point loathed. He says that, at age 27, he gave himself permission to quit and that, only then, did he begin his love affair with the game. That respect and admiration is now mutual between Agassi and his fans and Agassi and his protégées. His membership into the game’s most prestigious club only accentuates that.

"I fell in love with tennis later in life but it gave me everything that I ever had,” said the newest Hall of Famer. “You always hope to be perfect and you want to be perfect. But when you’re out on the court you realize that you can be far less than perfect. You just have to be better than one person that day.

"I didn’t always show tennis the respect it deserves but I now realized that it’s our responsibility to find our limits and push through them,” added Agassi. “It’s not too late to change. We are here to do good quietly and shine in secret.”

Then, in a nod to both Dr. Seuss and the children’s book, Goodnight Moon, Agassi concluded by telling all of those assembled, “Thank you tennis for my life, thank you tennis for my wife. And thank you tennis for enabling me to find my life’s work.”

http://www.tennis.com/articles/templates/features.aspx?articleid=13176&zoneid=9
 

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Agassi: 'I fell in love with tennis far too late'

NEWPORT, R.I.—The long hair is long gone, the denim shorts have faded to memory, and there was Andre Agassi accepting induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Saturday with an overdue affection for the sport he once resented and a rejection of the "Image is everything" attitude that helped propel him to stardom.

In a tender tribute to family and philanthropy, Agassi was introduced by a student at the charter school he opened in Las Vegas and joined on center court by his wife, fellow Hall of Famer Steffi Graf.

Gone was the self-styled, long-haired rebel who rose to the No. 1 ranking in the world but, it now seems, didn't enjoy a single moment of it. Instead, Agassi turned his speech into a love letter of sorts for tennis and even the father who pushed him -- not always gently -- to play, commanding him, at the age of 5, to someday win Wimbledon.

"I fell in love with tennis far too late in my life. But the reason I have everything I hold dear is because tennis has loved me back," Agassi said. "If we're lucky in life, we get a few moments where we don't have to wonder if we made our parents proud. I want to thank tennis for giving me those moments."

Sprinkling his comments with gratitude for fellow Hall of Famers Billie Jean King, Arthur Ashe and "the woman who still takes my breath away every day, Stefanie Graf," Agassi also recounted a meeting with Nelson Mandela in which the former South African president told him, "You must live carefully."

"I didn't always live carefully. I didn't always pay tennis the respect it deserved," Agassi admitted. "I didn't know myself, and I didn't realize that my troubles were of my own making."

Also inducted into the tennis shrine was contributor Fern "Peachy" Kellmeyer. The first woman to play on a men's Division I college team, she paved the way for Title IX by fighting the system that prohibited athletic scholarships for women. She played in the U.S. Open at 15 and was the first employee of the WTA, sticking around for 38 years as it grew from a tour with $309,000 in total purses to one that paid out more than $89 million.

"Any women who have college scholarships should give thanks to Peachy Kellmeyer," said Stacey Allaster, the ninth person to serve as the CEO of the WTA under Kellmeyer's guidance. "She has been the glue of women's tennis, holding the WTA together as CEOs and players come and go ... never letting us forget that our past is our future."

But even Kellmeyer knew she was just the opening act.

Next came Simone Ruffin, a student at the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy from third grade until she graduated as salutatorian in 2009. After a gentle dig at Agassi for "the mullet-wig thing," she called him her "hometown hero" and thanked him for helping at-risk and forgotten children in the adult playground of Las Vegas.

Agassi has helped raise $150 million for education reform with his foundation. Another of the school's students, A.J. Green sang the national anthem, leaving "America the Beautiful" to blues singer Keb' Mo'.

"He gave more than just money, or material things. He gave us the tools to build our own lives," Ruffin said of Agassi. "Because of him, I will never forget to look back and lift up others."

An eight-time Grand Slam champion and 1996 Olympic gold medalist who was No. 1 in the world for 101 straight weeks, Agassi plummeted to No. 141 in the rankings and by '97 was using crystal meth "a lot." (He also admitted in his 2009 book "Open" that he wore a wig to combat premature baldness.)

Deciding to rebuild his career, he turned to tennis' minor league tour and in 1999 he won his second U.S. Open, finished second at Wimbledon and won his only French Open to complete the career Grand Slam. The women's winner in Paris that year was Graf; they started dating shortly after the winners' ball and married two years later. (Agassi's first marriage, to actress Brooke Shields, lasted less than two years.)

He reached No. 1 again in 2003 at the age of 33 -- the oldest player to reach the top ranking -- and held it for 12 more weeks.

"Rock bottom's an interesting place. I moved in and spent some time there," Agassi said. "Going from 141 in the world back to No. 1 was not an accomplishment; it was the reflection of an accomplishment. It was a symptom of good choices."

Working on the school has been a second life for Agassi, at the same time providing him with a life's goal and a vehicle to pass it on to others. At the end of his speech, he turned to his own children and the others in the crowd and told them to look at the nurses and teachers "win their own, personal Grand Slams."

"They know already what it took me decades to find out: To shine in secret, and to give when there's no one applauding," he said. "It's not to late to be inspired. It's not too late to change. It's not too late."

http://www.boston.com/sports/other_sports/tennis/articles/2011/07/09/agassi_thanks_sport_for_life_wife_at_tennis_hall/?page=full
 

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Agassi left humbled by Hall of Fame induction

08:47 PM EDT on Saturday, July 9, 2011

MIKE SZOSTAK
Journal Sports Writer
NEWPORT — The boy who once wore denim shorts, multicolored shirts and bandannas became a man who dressed in a conservative gray suit, white shirt and gray tie for his induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Andre Agassi, eight-time Grand Slam champion, Davis Cup champion, Olympic gold medalist and humanitarian, is the 220th player or contributor inducted since the Hall of Fame was founded in 1954.

Fern Lee “Peachy” Kellmeyer, the tomboy from Charleston, W. Va., who grew up to become the behind-the-scenes power of the Women’s Tennis Association, joined Agassi on a sunny, hot afternoon on the stadium court at the Newport Casino before a capacity crowd of 4,000. Fans who could not secure tickets watched in the recently renovated Casino Theatre.

“I’ve stood at this podium twice before,” Agassi told the throng that included his parents, family members coaches and friends. “Once was to introduce my beautiful wife, Stefanie Graf. I was so much more comfortable that day because I felt the recipient to be far more worthy.”

Graf was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004.

“The second time was in my father’s imagination,” Agassi said.

Agassi then paid tribute to his father, Mike, who drove him hard as a youngster and who set lofty goals such as winning Wimbledon and being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

And he thanked tennis, the sport that defined his life, gave him his wife and provided him the platform to change lives through his foundation and the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas. Simone Ruffin, salutatorian of the first graduating class in 2009 and a student at Concordia College in California, introduced Agassi Saturday as “my hometown hero … a game changer … a humble, generous man who played tennis.”

Agassi was touched.

“I look at Simone and the thousands of young people she represents today, and I say under my breath, ‘Thank you, tennis.’ I look at my wife and my children, who I live for, and I say, ‘Thank you, tennis.’ ”

Graf and the couple’s children, Jaden and Jaz, sat at the end of a row of family and friends. Ruffin sat nearby. Another Agassi Prep alum, A.J. Green, had sung “The Star-Spangled Banner” to open the ceremony.

Agassi spoke in a measured tone for 19½ minutes. Only when he mentioned Graf did he choke up.

Tennis gave him much as well as taught him much, he said. Its lessons are the lessons of maturity, its terminology the terminology of life. Serve. Advantage. Love. There’s nothing like a tiebreaker to teach the lessons of high risk and high reward, he said, and on the court he learned that he did not have to be perfect, just better than one person.

Agassi cited the humanitarian contributions of Hall of Famers Arthur Ashe and Billie Jean King. He cited his parents, Mike and Betty; his brother, Phil; Gil Reyes, his “friend, protector and trainer”; his coaches Nick Bollettieri, Brad Gilbert and Darren Cahill;, and his wife, “who still takes my breath away every day.”

He has written love letters to each, he said, and will post them on his foundation website.

Agassi also described a life-changing meeting in 1997 with Nelson Mandela of South Africa. It was the low point of Agassi’s career, and Mandela advised him that “we must live our lives carefully.” Agassi acknowledged that he did not always live life carefully and did not always “pay tennis the respect that it deserved.” Only then did he realize that his problems at the time were his doing and only he could solve them.

“I grew up,” he said. He embraced tennis and welcomed the chance to start over. He climbed from No. 141 back to No. 1, “the result of being careful.”

“We can always begin again. It’s not too late to be inspired. It’s not too late to change,” he said.

Agassi, 41, concluded by saying, “I am living proof that no dream, no journey is impossible.”

Earlier, he told reporters that the Hall of Fame museum gallery dedicated to his career put into perspective “the road traveled” and illustrated “how much of my life was given to this great sport.”

Agassi grew introspective as he reflected on his 20 years on the ATP Tour; reaching No. 1 in 1995, falling to “rock bottom” in 1997, when his ranking dropped to No. 141, resurrecting his career and winning the French Open in 1999 and enjoying his last nine years on the tour after he found his own reasons to play.

Career highlights include the eight Grand Slam titles, especially the French Open in 1999, which completed his career Grand Slam. Red clay was his most difficult surface, and his divorce from model-actress Brooke Shields had become final only 40 days earlier.

He also mentioned the 2006 U.S. Open, when he bid tennis farewell after his third-round loss and 23,000 New Yorkers cheered for eight minutes.

Responding to a question about Stratton Mountain in Vermont, he smiled and reminisced about the old Volvo International, tournament director Jim Westhall’s Wimbledon of the Woods. He qualified in 1986, his first summer as a pro, beat the New England favorite Tim Mayotte and lost to John McEnroe in the quarterfinals after fans revolted and insisted their match be moved from an outside court to the stadium.

He returned to Stratton in 1987 and defeated up-and-coming Luke Jensen and Wimbledon champion Pat Cash. Ivan Lendl beat him in the semifinal. Agassi finally won the tournament in 1988.

“A lot of memories,” he said. “I cried when they moved it to New Haven.”

He skipped the Olympics in 1988 because he didn’t want the pressure and because older American players such as Mayotte and Brad Gilbert might not have had a chance in 1992. He passed on Barcelona because he did not want to play on clay in Spain in the summer. He went for it in Atlanta in 1996, even though “it was not a great time in my life. I was slowly becoming disconnected with tennis and myself.”

Fifteen years later, on a hot July afternoon at the Hall of Fame, Andre Agassi was more connected than ever, with tennis, with his fans and with himself.

http://www.projo.com/tennis/content/projo-20110710-agassi-hall-of-fame-induction.c735382.html
 

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Agassi's 'wonderful speech' scores with family, friends
NEWPORT, R.I. -- Andre Agassi managed to hold his emotions in check during his induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Saturday.

His family and friends weren't as unflappable.

Agassi's words moved some of them to tears, and those who didn't cry fought back the urge.

"It was a wonderful speech," said his father, Mike. "I was so proud of him. It was a great day.

"I always believed this day would come. From when he was a little boy, I told him that one day he would be here (in the Hall). It was everything a father could want, seeing this day."

His mother, Betty, said of the honor her son received: "It doesn't happen every day. It was beautiful."

Members of the Agassi entourage -- which in addition to his parents included his wife and fellow Hall of Famer, Steffi Graf; their children, son Jaden, 9, and daughter Jaz, 7; Agassi's older brother, Phil; strength and conditioning coach Gil Reyes; and coaches Brad Gilbert, Darren Cahill and Nick Bollettieri -- were subjects of affection during the 20-minute speech.

Afterward, several expressed appreciation at being able to play roles in Agassi's journey to the Hall of Fame.

"It's never been about me," Phil Agassi said. "To do something you love for someone you love, it's such a blessing.

"It's the pinnacle of things from a tennis perspective, but he doesn't need to be in the Hall of Fame for me to be proud of him."

Reyes, who has been like a big brother to Agassi during their partnership of more than 20 years, said: "As I was listening to the speech, I thought about all the years I always hoped he would be the player and person who would one day get to this point. And for him to reach this particular point in his life, I'm not sure I can describe my feelings. I'm still overwhelmed. When he talked about the long road back and winning the French Open in '99, I broke down and I started to cry.

"There were many times there was this sense of being outside, not knowing if he was good for the game. But you saw today what he meant to tennis."

Gilbert admitted it was hard to keep his emotions in check.

"It's so satisfying to see Andre take his rightful place among the game's greatest," said Gilbert, who coached Agassi for eight years and helped him regain the No. 1 world ranking in 1999 after Agassi had free-fallen to No. 141 in 1997. "I thought right away he would start bawling, but he held it together. And I was able to do the same thing. But it wasn't easy.

"We had a great journey, and I'm just happy to have been a small part of it."

One of Saturday's nicest moments came late in the program when Agassi presented Graf, a 2004 inductee, with her Hall of Fame ring. They shared a hug and kiss as the sellout crowd of 3,710 stood and applauded.

Graf didn't stay for the post-ceremony festivities or speak to reporters, instead returning to the hotel with her children. Missing from the celebration were Agassi's sisters, Rita and Tami. No explanation was given for their absence.

But virtually everyone else who is part of Agassi's life was in attendance.

As he was leaving the ceremony, Mike Agassi said of his son, "For a guy with an eighth-grade education, he speaks better than guys with Ph.Ds."

http://www.lvrj.com/sports/agassi-s-wonderful-speech-scores-with-family-friends-125285303.html
 

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Agassi fans happy to get up close, personal
By Paul Grimaldi
Journal Staff Writer

NEWPORT –– Tennis star André Agassi worked and waited for a quarter century to reach center court at the International Tennis Hall of Fame; it took Montrealer Yanik Delaney just a nine-hour drive and 400 miles.

“Our time was really tight,” said Delaney, a tennis instructor and high school teacher.

Delaney and his wife, Annick Bussieres, left Montreal around 3 a.m., after attending a U2 concert that ended around midnight. They drove through the early morning to reach Newport in time for this year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which began at 12:30 p.m.

The couple joined the hundreds of people Saturday who jammed the hall’s grounds off Bellevue Avenue eager to applaud Agassi on his induction and perhaps snatch a close-up look at him and his wife, Steffi Graf, herself a Hall of Famer.

Unlike the vast majority of the fans and officials who sweltered in the heat of a blazingly sunny day, Delaney, his wife, and about 150 others caught a break that even Agassi had to applaud –– air conditioning.

For the first time, people shut out of tickets for courtside seats could watch the annual induction ceremony in the newly restored Casino Theatre. Built in 1880, the theater had been closed for 30 years before the tennis organization and Salve Regina University joined in a $5.2-million renovation project, which included that new climate control system.

Tennis fans paid $75 to watch the ceremony on closed-circuit video transmitted from the hall’s center court. The price included a promised visit by Agassi and Peachy Kellmeyer, the other inductee.

Kellmeyer was the behind-the-scenes power of the Women’s Tennis Association.

“You people look so cool,” Agassi said.

Agassi’s bald head glistened with sweat after the hour-long outdoor ceremony –– even after he had stripped out of a dress shirt, conservative tie and blazer offstage and into a T-shirt.

Seated onstage with Kellmeyer and hall chairman Christopher E. Clouser, the beaming Agassi was every bit as humble and gracious with the fans in the theater, taking their compliments in stride, answering questions for about 15 minutes and signing autographs.

Like Delaney, many had come to Newport for just this chance, with some waiting more than two hours in their reserved theater seats.

“I’m excited because we may get more of a personal meeting with him,” said Joanne DeGregory before the induction ceremony.

Sitting front and center with her daughter, Lindsay Cassidy, the New Yorker said she became a hall member just to get tickets to witness Agassi’s induction.

Sandra and John Merenda drove from Andover, Mass., for the ceremony. They paid an additional $45 to see Agassi play an exhibition match Sunday morning.

Both tennis players, the couple have followed Agassi since his early career, watching him play in tournaments in Boston.

Sandra Merenda said she particularly admires Agassi for his efforts off the court.

“Tennis is such a small part of his life,” she said, referring to Agassi’s education foundation and philanthropic work.

As the event concluded, many in the audience thronged the stage for autographs and keepsake photos with the tennis star, but not Myra McCready.

The woman from Morristown, N.J., hung back in her seat.

“This was great,” she said. “I really liked the idea that we had this time with him.”

And for Yanik Delaney, the tiring drive from Montreal was worth it.

“To be part of this historic event was perfect,” he said.

[email protected]

http://www.projo.com/news/content/ANDRE_IN_NEWPORT_07-10-11_CJP3IE0_v12.403ff.html
 

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TRANSCRIPT: Interview with Andre Agassi for CNN’s Open Court

COLLINS - Congratulations Andre, you’re in the Hall. I don’t know just what it means to you but you’ve spent a major portion of your life on a tennis court. When did it come to you that the Hall exists?

AGASSI – As a young boy, my father gave me a lot of orders in life and one of which was to make it here so my dad…

COLLINS - Parental order: “Hall of Fame”

AGASSI – Yeah, it was a mandate. So we, you know, I knew that as a young boy but obviously you don’t really dwell on it, you don’t keep it on your mind. I’ve always looked at the Hall as some form of a bigger score board right? It basically says, “you’ve done this” and “you’ve either succeeded or you haven’t”. So like any score board in tennis, you don’t pay attention to it. The most important points are the next ones and you keep your head down and you keep plugging along and then one day you can’t believe it.

COLLINS – It is unbelievable.

AGASSI – It is. It really is. You know, I shocked myself and as hard as this is to believe, every time I won anything, it was amazing to me. I couldn’t believe this was my life, I couldn’t believe it was me. You know, the amount of out of body experiences I would have in the middle of a tennis match was too many to count. You know, and then I’d get over the finish line and it was like “wow”. It would surprise me and then here, to have the accumulation, the body work of your career be recognised in the Hall is like even harder to believe.

COLLINS – It’s incredible. There’s no doubt about that. You’ve had in your career more ups and downs than an elevator operator. I mean, it’s just “He’s there, he’s wonderful, he’s the greatest player of all time… He’s down here, what’s he doing? He’s 141 on the ATP ranking.” How did you dig yourself out from that. Why did you?

AGASSI – You know I did because I needed to choose and take ownership of my life. You know, I felt like my father chose the game for me when I was young. I continued it out of necessity, of not having an education, nothing else to turn towards. I stayed with it out of fear. Fear of what this would mean to walk away from something I’ve just known my whole life but I’ve always had that slight disconnect with it until I was about 27 years old and when I was 27 years old, 141 in the world, I gave myself permission to quit. And I remember that moment like an epiphany. I gave myself the permission to quit and within seconds of doing that, I said “what if now, now that I finally internally can walk away from the game because I don’t want to do it anymore, what if I actually choose it? What if I actually find reasons to care about this game? What if I actually find my reasons? Not my father’s, not my coach’s, nobody’s except me” and at 27 years old, I started to grow up.

COLLINS – Can you mark that time?

AGASSI – I can mark that time – Stuttgart. I took a wild card into the indoor tournament in the fall in Stuttgart. I was completely unprepared. I got beaten very bad first round. We walked back to the hotel, drove back to the hotel, walked up to the room, Brad takes me (my coach) into his room, shuts the door…

COLLINS - Brad Gilbert, your coach?

AGASSI – Brad Gilbert locks the door, sits me downs, says, “I love you too much to watch you go through this. We’re going to make a decision before we leave here tonight. You’re either going to quit or you’re going to start over because I think you’ve got more tennis in you.” And I never resented tennis more than I did at that moment but I resented myself even more than that and I remember looking out the window at the Stuttgart traffic wondering how many people are going to lives that they didn’t choose but they found reason to do it. Going to jobs that they don’t want to go to but they have a family and they find reasons to care about what they do. I gave myself permission that night to quit and then I said, “You know what? I can’t. I don’t know how to quit. I’ve never quit in my life.” I should say I’ve quit a thousand times in my life but I’ve never allowed myself to stay away and I said, “I’m going to choose it for myself” and that’s when I started to think about the school. I started to build my own team. You know, something that I was connected to but yet it was much larger than me, my academy in Las Vegas. I started to play tennis to change the lives of these children and I started to find out that gee this is really fulfilling me and tennis is a reason why I can do this and this life is a reason why I can do this. And then all of a sudden, tennis gave me my wife and the next thing you know, I’m going “wow, how misguided must I have been for so long?” and from that day forward, I started a love affair with it.

COLLINS – Wow, you should have a calendar with that date circled on it. And go to… I wouldn’t say go to Mass but thank a little prayer for that happening. But it must’ve been a tremendous temptation because you were a wealthy man. I mean, you didn’t have to work if you didn’t want to.

AGASSI – Yeah, from an achievement perspective, I’d won three slams, I’d won a number of tournaments. I don’t know 20, 30, maybe more, who knows? I certainly had plenty of resources to continue my life and to be fine but it has never been about that. Although my life would’ve looked that way at times, that I was living one way, I rebelled in a lot of ways and you know, I’ve experienced a lot of things but at that moment, I could not accept myself if I didn’t make the hard choice of starting at the bottom again.

COLLINS - Well I say congratulations and I say I’m selfish about that because we wouldn’t have seen a lot of Andre Agassi if you had quit. And we wouldn’t have thought much of you. We would’ve thought flash in the past.

AGASSI – Yeah, interesting. Yeah I don’t know what I would’ve been left with had I quit that day. Who knows where my life would’ve gone but I had a feeling I was making… It always seems like the hardest choices are the right ones and I, everyday I had a goal. My goal was just to get one day better. That’s the only thing I knew. I didn’t know if I had it in me to do anything else. I didn’t know if I’d ever win again. Many people told me I wouldn’t, at times I believed I wouldn’t. The doubts were always there. I had to fight through them day after day. But I knew, the only thing I did know and the one thing I stood on is I can be better today than I was yesterday and I can be better tomorrow than I am today. I didn’t know when that was going to stop. I didn’t know if it was going to stop when I got to 100 in the world, when I got to 50 in the world but I just kept going.

COLLINS – What was it like there? Out in the boonies, you were chasing your own balls and things like that.

AGASSI – On yeah, down in the Challenger’s circuit, flipping my own scorecard and being my own ball boy again. You know what’s funny is that people say that I was reading at that time in my life, that I’m out there being humbled and it wasn’t that at all. I’d already been humbled. I’d already hated who I was, I’d already done things I wish I never would’ve done. I actually felt great about being out there and I love Brad Gilbert for coaching me as if he was coaching me at Wimbledon. We were in the Challenger’s circuit in my own backyard, at the University courts of UNLV, of the familiar ground where I met my trainer and friend and protector, Gil Reyes. I was a three wood away from where I met him and this wonderful future that laid ahead. And here I was, backed on these college, university courts scrapping it out and proud. Proud to be out there and with a coach who was coaching me as if I was playing the finals at Wimbledon. It was one step at a time.

COLLINS - And what did Gil mean to you? Gil Reyes?

AGASSI – Gil has meant everything to me. He’s been my… I call him my life guard, you know. He has always known when to push. He’s always known how to lead and not push and he’s also known when to just flat out tell me when to go home. When to just… “You know what Andre? You need to go home right now” and he’s had a finger on my pulse emotionally, intellectually, physically. He knows the body better than anyone I’ve ever met. Knew how to prepare me when we had the time. Knew how to keep me healthy with real, inherent issues with my body throughout the years. Kept me playing till I was 36. He taught me more than I can… He’s been one of the most influential people in my life. My father, Gil and my wife. How funny that the three most influential people in my life, you know, English isn’t their first language but we found a way to communicate.

COLLINS - That’s tremendous. When you started coming back and you of course had a book which tells us all about your relationship with your family, your father. And it was tough with your father, we all know that. He loved you in his own way, you loved him, I think but you had to get away from him. Is that correct?

AGASSI – I think so and I think he knew better than me. I think that’s why he sent me away. He saw what tennis had done and relationships with my other siblings. I think he’s a man that came from the old country. He’s a man that fought his whole life. He’s a man that wanted the American dream from his kids. He held down two jobs and raised four children. He’s a man that was passionate about tennis and believed tennis was the fastest road to the American dream. Held us to the highest standards every single day. I describe him as very intense. I believe a very loving, honest portrayal of him. But he also came with… that intensity came… he had a lot of pride in me. It was always us against the world. Like never questioned that. He used to…talk about his generosity. You know, the way he used to tip because he lived on tips, working in the casinos. The way he would take care of others. You know he’s a complex person like we all are. And I had to learn a lot. I had to grow to understand him and reconcile with him which we’ve done.

COLLINS – Why did you resist playing in the Olympics for a while? You finally won a gold medal but you had other chances.

AGASSI – Yeah. You know there was a lot of times in my life when there was a lot of pressure for me. My father always wanted me to redeem his lack of medals.

COLLINS – Yeah he did, he did.

AGASSI – My father boxed in two Olympics. I could’ve played in 5 or 6 Olympic games I believe. I was…Back in the first one in ‘88, I was ranked 3 in the world and I qualified for it but we had a few other Americans – Tim Mayotte and Brad Gilbert who were seasoned veterans of the tour and I was taking their spot and I thought I’d have another chance later. And ‘92, I just wanted to live without the pressure of getting back out there on a clay court after some disappointing French Opens and Barcelona and you know, then finally I settled up in ‘96 in my home country in Atlanta and you know, needed won chance at it, thank God.

COLLINS – That’s a wonderful performance. And then, let’s go back to Wimbledon. A place I remember, I didn’t know you at all though. I met you after you had been beaten very badly by Leconte on the grass. You hadn’t played on the grass before and I said to you “Andre, it’s ok, you’ll get it” and you looked at me and said, “I’m not going to get it. I’m never coming back.”

AGASSI – Yeah, you know, there was a combination of a lot of reasons for that in my life. I mean first of all, I felt very overmatched by cultures. I didn’t understand the English culture. I felt very intimidated, very overwhelmed. I didn’t like being treated like an intruder in the very tournament I was playing in, you know. It was one of those where I couldn’t even hit on the grass courts. I never understood that. It rained that week, I had to go practise indoors and even when it stopped raining, I wasn’t allowed to get out there on the grass to get a feel for it. And I walked out there and it just felt like it was a graveyard court – Court No. 2. And I just felt like I was playing in an overgrown doll house or something. Just none of it seemed familiar to me. The court itself, felt like I was playing on ice. I couldn’t stand, I was tiptoeing around, worried about falling down, wondering why I couldn’t size up to hit… to size up any shot. And before I knew it, it was over with and before I knew it, I was back at Heathrow on a plane heading home, convinced that this is probably the last time I’m coming across the ocean for this.

COLLINS - But you stayed away for three years, then you came back, had a pretty good Wimbledon. And then the next year, your first Major Championship, everybody said, “There’s no way his first Championship is going to be at Wimbledon.”

AGASSI – Yeah, I like to just kind of be the underdog I guess. You know, it’s interesting because I lost three grand slam finals leading up to that win but I did come back to Wimbledon in ‘91, got to the Quarters, up two sets, two breaks against David Wheaton and to play Becker in the Semis to play Stich in the Finals who I had a dominating record against. I actually believed I had a real good shot at winning in ‘91 so I came back in ‘92 believing that I could really win. Still thinking I had a long way to go and then I got out there and just one match started falling after the other and the lessons I learned in those first three finals. I was always favoured in those three finals and I got really nervous to not lose so I played really safe and when I got to the Finals at Wimbledon, I was the underdog against the big Serbian Croat, you know, Goran Ivanišević. He served 38 Aces that day. I knew I was up against it and I said, “If I’m going to win, I’ve got to play a perfect match but more importantly, I gotta go for it. I can’t just sit here and hope something happens.” I think playing against him freed me up and I started to let my shots fly and I think learned that day that if you really want to win a big one, you can’t hope that your opponent loses and you can’t hope not to lose, you’ve got to go out and take it and I learnt that that day.

COLLINS - Let’s go to 1999, Paris, French Open. You’re playing pretty well. You get to the Final against Medvedev and you lose the first two sets. What was going on?

AGASSI – Scared out of my mind. I mean, here was me – 29 years old, a tournament I should’ve won 10 years earlier, could’ve won 10 years earlier. Twice favoured in the finals there, the last of the four grand slams for me to win. I never thought I’d have another chance at it and then all of a sudden, here’s my chance. I couldn’t even eat the night before I was so like a deer in the headlights, I was so scared. And I walked on that court frozen stiff and Medvedev was serving… sometimes the ball looks like a golf ball out there, you know. Other times it looks like a watermelon. It just looks so big and that day it looked like a pinball. The ball was bouncing all over the place. My feet weren’t moving and I didn’t know what to do. I saw this chance slipping away. Here I am coming back from 140 in the world and here I am old enough to know I’ll probably never have this chance again and I just was frozen stiff and thank God for the rain because…

COLLINS - The rain saved you.

AGASSI - The rain cost me 10 years earlier almost, 9 years earlier and the rain came in and returned a favour that day. Gave Brad a chance to give me one of the most famous lectures he has ever given me in my life in the locker room and I went back out and said, “You know what? If I’m going to lose, I’m going to lose on my own terms, I’m not going to lose like this”.

COLLINS - What was the essence of that argument?

AGASSI – The essence was he never raised his voice to anybody, and especially me. He had a great deal of regard. Our relationship, we had a great deal of regard for each other but he…I looked at him and he didn’t say a word for a minute and I said, “Really Brad? You’re going to pick this moment in our entire relationship to stop talking? That’s all you ever do is talk. All you ever do is tell me what to do out here and now you’re not saying a word” and he slammed the locker, I’ll never forget it. He looked at me and said, “Andre, I don’t know what you want me to tell you right now. You want me to tell you that this guy is better than you? That you can’t beat this guy? That he can hit the ball better, that he can move better, he can do anything better than you?” He goes, “You’re not going to hear that from me. What you’re doing out there right now is on you and you only.” He goes, “If this is all so complicated, let me just simplify it for you – if he hits a backhand cross court, you hit a backhand cross court.” He says, “If the ball is over there, run and go get it.” He goes, “But don’t sit here and tell me that I can watch you for 13 straight days, absolutely lay everything you have out there on that court and now all of a sudden now you’re not capable of it.” He says, “Get out there and if we’re going down, go down with guns blazing. Go down with your heart on that court and show these people what it is you can do and I promise you, you’re going to come off this court with that trophy.”

COLLINS - And you did. And then soon followed your romance with Fräulein Forehand.

AGASSI - Yeah you know, Paris was a Holy Grail for me and Steffi was of the sorts so I figured after winning Paris, maybe I’m now worthy.

COLLINS – Now she beat you to the Hall of Fame. She has more Major Singles titles than you do. Is there domestic problems there?

AGASSI – You know, I can’t beat her in anything. That’s fine. I don’t mind being second in my house, it keeps me humble.

COLLINS - But by winning that tournament in Paris, you became one of a very select seven guys that have won all four Major Championships. Well now let me ask you this – you had all these ups and downs and everything but when you were at your best, were you the best player in tennis?

AGASSI – At my time?

COLLINS – Yes.

AGASSI – No. I don’t think so. I think Pete was better than me.

COLLINS - Sampras?

AGASSI – Yeah. You know, I think that we both felt that if we both played really well, each of us could lose to the other one. We had that regard and respect but the truth is, he always found that half extra gear in the biggest of moments, more than I did so I have to call that for what it is as it relates to our match up. You know, I mean, I never beat him in Wimbledon or the US. He never beat me in Australia or Paris but he did beat me a couple of times on clay and I just think at the end of the day, what he did was remarkable. I mean, I’m glad that somehow the first four that I won were one of each and I knew that day that I would never have a regret but he deserved his accolades of being the best in his generation.

COLLINS - Are there any regrets?

AGASSI – I have many regrets… I have many regrets. You know, I have regrets for the way I’ve made a lot of people feel at times when they didn’t deserve it. I feel regretful for in some cases, my lack of respect for the game. Certainly I have regret for the lack of respect I had for myself at times but ultimately, that journey has taught me a lot and I know the ending to that journey which is I’m a very lucky, blessed, happy man.

COLLINS - Well you’ve made everybody happy at Flushing Meadows, playing James Blake. Fifth set tie breaker, you were going to lose but you didn’t lose, you won and everybody in the congregation stood up and that’s a good way to leave it Andre, I stand up to you, thank you very much.

AGASSI – Thank you Bud, thank you.
 
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