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Écrit par Jerome   
20-09-2006

2002 NASDAQ-100 OPEN
KEY BISCAYNE, FLORIDA

March 20, 2002

An Interview With:

ANDRE AGASSI

THE MODERATOR: We're very honored to have our next speaker announce where we're going next, the first Florida FirstServe site. We saved the best for last because of the schedule. We have to serve the main course right up front today. He needs no introduction, certainly, in a tennis perspective. One of the only - I couldn't remember whether it was three or four men - in the history of the game to win the Grand Slam. But a lot of you may not know what he's doing outside of the game of tennis. It is not unusual in this day and time for icons in the sports entertainment world to have foundations. I don't know of anybody who is doing more with his foundation than Andre Agassi. He is raising and spending millions of dollars a year to improve the educational opportunities of disadvantaged children in his hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada. He has built a state-of-the-art charter school, The Andre Agassi College Prepatory Academy. I have personally visited, and they are working wonders in the lives of young kids in that community. You will find there 156 of the most well-mannered, well-behaved, quiet studious, third -, fourth-, and fifth-graders anywhere in America. All these children come from the most downtrodden area of Las Vegas. When he opened the school in September, not one student, according to previous testing, was performing at grade level. After being at the school, I can personally attest to what great things they're doing for a lot of these children. Some of you may know in a previous life I was Mayor of a city in the South. I travelled all over the country looking at different approaches to education. I've never found one as innovative as this one. I think the education of the world is going to be beating a path to the door of The Andre Agassi College Prepatory Academy to learn and emulate the innovative strategy they're performing in the lives of these young children. But it doesn't stop there - the largest privately funded Boys and Girls' Club in America, Andre built this foundation just in Las Vegas. There are some tennis courts there, some wonderful programs for the children. And when I went to visit that college prepatory school and the Boys' and Girls' Club, I came back and said, "That's where FirstServe has to go next." It's a perfect collaboration between education and tennis. I really believe that with what Andre is doing, his educational innovations, that perhaps like Arthur Ashe, in the last chapters of his life, he may well be remembered more for his legacy in terms of what he did in the lives of children than for what he did on the tennis court. So, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome a great champion. (Inaudible). As soon as he is finished speaking, if the media has questions for him, we'll take your questions and answer your questions. (Applause).

ANDRE AGASSI: Thanks for those words. They are certainly very, very kind words. I feel like it takes an effective community to make some of those things happen in Las Vegas. I certainly respect the commitment that's required of so many to make great things happen. I think this FirstServe program is just something that is -- it's needed on twofold. When I look at this program on behalf of the game of tennis, I think to myself, "What an incredible opportunity for the sport of tennis, to get the racquet in the hands of children from an early age who wouldn't be able to even afford to play." There's a lot of talent out there that never gets realized. (Inaudible) I think the game is really going to be served best by giving that opportunity to children, which this program is so good at doing. I think also, too, even beyond that, it gives these children a chance to really have hope in their lives. I think that's ultimately what it's all about - giving children a way to direct their energy and focus and (inaudible) to see how life can be and grow as human beings. The program I have in Las Vegas with the Boys' and Girls' Club kind of started on a whim. It was we'd go to the Boys' and Girls' Club and talk to them about sports and education. (Inaudible) and a tennis program, how about that. It starts as a tennis program (inaudible), and here's the deal: If the kids want to be a part of this program, they have to take care of the equipment, they have to take care of the courts, they provide them with courts and equipment. They have to string racquets. The parents have to donate three hours of volunteer work a week. They'd have to be involved and learn how to respect others, which starts by respecting themselves. This program, in three and a half years, has had phenomenal results. We have one little boy who has won our Sectionals in Las Vegas. These are kids who never even knew how to hold a tennis racquet, literally. In three and a half years, he's winning our Sectionals. He won in five states - Idaho, Utah - five different states. There is another young lady that won a National Doubles Title and just got a scholarship to California of Bakersfield to go to school and play tennis on the tennis team. So this is really about changing people's lives. I'm honored to be a part of it, and I'm honored that I was considered. (Inaudible) for this program and given a chance to change the lives of other people. (Inaudible). Thanks for all of your work, and I look forward to many years. (Applause). I don't know if there are any questions.

A SPEAKER: (Inaudible).

ANDRE AGASSI: I can attest that coming to your place builds a life (laughter).

THE MODERATOR: This is the face of FirstServe in Florida. This gentleman's name is Doc Thorn (phonetic spelling). For 40 years he's been teaching kids the game of tennis in Gaines Park, West Palm Beach, Florida, where the Williams' sisters play when they're in town. He's one of the pied pipers in tennis and does FirstServe work all over the country (applause). Questions?

 

Q. Not really a question, kind of a comment, can you turn to the side a little bit. You look trim. You were fat (laughter).

ANDRE AGASSI: I guess that's a good thing, right (laughter). What do you have in that cup anyhow (laughter)? Now for any questions (laughter).

 

Q. Questions I don't like, March 14, 1920 (laughter)?

ANDRE AGASSI: You're very young, yes.

 

Q. Andre, I know you get asked the same question every time you come here, but what is it about this venue that you play so well here?

ANDRE AGASSI: I think it's great conditions. It's usually pretty hot. It's a hardcourt, medium-paced (inaudible). It tends to be a little windy here, which wind is always a big factor in guys that have small pockets of being able to strike the ball. One of my strengths in my game is that the ball's up or it's down, I can still take a pretty clean swing at it. The serve, it's not like I (inaudible). I hold myself responsible for the motivation. I mean, I think you need expertise around you, that they don't take your motivation and your eagerness away. (Inaudible). That's why I think he's been great over the years. He's always taken my eagerness, my abilities and he has kept me jumping out of my shoes as opposed to ever getting tired or injured or pushing myself (inaudible). I think Darren has been an incredible addition. I think he's got a phenomenal work ethic. I think he has a tremendous amount of experience. He is able to look at the game through the lens of my tennis, which is a huge asset when you're talking about somebody that played the game a different way. Sort of kind of a fuller package in many ways.

 

Q. Can you contrast this year's event with having won Indian Wells last year and coming in to this event with fewer matches right beforehand?

ANDRE AGASSI: I haven't played a whole lot in the last five months, excluding the past few weeks. And I went in to the last few weeks playing ten minutes to a full day. So it's a lot better than I was expecting to start. I feel like I've had enough matches now where my game is close to coming alive, and really being at a level that I expect to win at. You know, it's great to be here. I needed the rest last week. My body was a bit dinged up. I felt like, you know, a few days off, sometimes a few days off is the best preparation. So in this case that's what I think.

 

Q. With the great success of your school in Las Vegas, we want to incorporate your curriculum into our schools in Florida. Would you mind sharing some of your curriculum.

ANDRE AGASSI: The charter school, it's pretty all-intensive. I mean, I will say this - ultimately, it starts with parents and people a lot smarter than you, and people that are committed to these children's lives in a daily sense. And, you know, you can't hide from your accomplishments as a teacher, as an educator. And we have a gentleman by the name of Wayne Tanaka (phonetic spelling), who is literally committed to these children by the day. And he's not only committed to teaching them education, but he's committed to teaching them self-respect. The children walk up to you, they look you in the eye, and they introduce themselves. I really believe a child can't be successful in life until they learn how to respect themselves. So it's pretty intense, but it's a lot more than can be discussed immediately. But the fundamentals are finding the right people who are really committed to the child as an individual.

 

Q. Is the baby at a point in its life where it's learning something new every day?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I have a lot of learning to do (laughter). I've got a lot of learning, yeah. It changes by the day.

 

Q. What has it been like having a child?

ANDRE AGASSI: I'm putting a lot of shirts in the laundry (laughter) after he eats, after his mom (inaudible). It's been exciting (inaudible). I mean, I don't know, but he's an amazing boy (applause).

 
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