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Écrit par Jerome   
18-09-2006
By Tom Tebbutt

My first memory of Andre Agassi would be watching him on television playing John McEnroe in the Stratton Mountain quarterfinals in 1986. The next was at the 1988 French Open when he made it to the semifinals wearing his denim shorts. I recall that it was a rainy day and he showed his flair as a showman by grabbing an umbrella and, holding it, pretended to return serve against Mats Wilander.

Maybe my most vivid French Open memory was sitting down by the court during his 1990 final against Andres Gomez. I recall him turning around and saying to his then coach Nick Bollettieri, who was seated behind the court, something like, “this guy (Gomez) is playing out of his mind.” Andre was favored and probably should have won that match but he was a little over-confident and Gomez did play ‘out of his mind.’

The following year, I remember feeling sorry for him because he was again arguably the better player but lost the final to Jim Courier after leading by a set and 3-1 before rain interrupted the match. Things were not the same when played resumed and Courier won in five sets.

It has always seemed ironic to me that he probably should have won Roland Garros in both 1990 and 1991 but did not win it until 1999 when he probably shouldn’t have won – Moya had him a set and 4-1, Clement had him two points from defeat and Hrbaty was beginning to get to him in damp conditions in the semifinal when the match was put over until the Saturday.

My favorite personal memory occurred that same year when I got him to autograph a small French Open poster during the Canadian Open in Montreal. I waited outside where he would take tournament transport one night. When he came out with Brad Gilbert, I asked him to sign the poster, indicating that I would get Steffi Graf (the women’s champion) to sign opposite him.

I’ll never forget how he was somehow exaggerated in saying, “It would be an honor for me to sign beside Steffi.” About a month later, after he won the US Open and their romance became public, I laughed to myself about how he had kind of put one over on me in Montreal.

A final thought, somewhere in the 2000s, his press conferences became almost like college tutorials. He was able to explain, in a way no other player did, the intricacies of match strategy and emotion that determine the outcome of matches. I’m convinced that ability, and his natural enthusiasm for the game, will make him an excellent television commentator in the not too distant future.

- Tom Tebbutt is the leading tennis writer in Canada. He writes for the Toronto Globe and Mail and has been covering the sport for more than 30 years.
 
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