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Écrit par Jerome   
18-09-2006
By Joel Drucker

When it comes to memories of Andre Agassi, there’s tons to be said about his visible highlights, particularly all those Grand Slam campaigns. So let’s go elsewhere.

Let’s go to San Jose, to the SAP Open, an event Agassi has played virtually every year since 1990. Held indoors at the H-P Pavilion, this tournament is played on one court. Obviously, practice time is at a premium.

One of my favorite Agassi memories has been watching him arrive to the court to practice prior to his evening match. He’d pull up in his limo, tumble out with Gil Reyes and walk the halls with an eager bounce. On evenings when he was less rushed or waiting for the day session to end, he’d take a few minutes to shoot the breeze with some of us tennis folk – reporters, tournament staff -- he’d known for a while.

Over the years I’ve become increasingly fond of talking with Agassi about the nitty-gritty details of how the game is played. Since recreational players usually play points that last no longer than two or three shots, the tactical approach is pretty much like checkers: hit to the guy’s weak side. But with the pros it’s more like chess. To hear Agassi discuss how he’d build a point with seven to ten shots proved to me once and for all that this was a man who’d matured into consummate student of the game.

Then he’d get on the practice court, waiting patiently while another peer, such as his rival Michael Chang, finished up his session. I’ve always enjoyed watching the way players interact with one another on practice courts. It reminds me of an office, with executives shuffling in and out of conference rooms, waiting in line at the employee cafeteria no matter what the rank in the organization. Agassi here was no superstar but just another ballplayer.

The arena would be virtually empty, and I’d often take a seat courtside. Music would blast its way through the arena. And there would be the best forehand-backhand combo in tennis history, pounding away one drive after another, his eyes in rapt attention, his racket and body in perfect harmony. The tempo of Agassi’s balls would accelerate rapidly. This wasn’t a match cluttered with notions of outcome. It was merely the essence of tennis: one man, hitting one ball, for one moment. How lucky we are that Agassi’s moment has lasted so long.

- Joel Drucker is one of the U.S.A's most respected tennis writers and commentators. Last year he interviewed Andre for an exclusive story in DEUCE Magazine. He is also the author of the book Jimmy Connors Saved My Life.
 
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