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All About Andre: Fellow players assess Agassi 

What did Andre Agassi mean to the game? Some of his peers share their thoughts.

Andy Roddick

Andy Roddick (left) and Andre Agassi (right)What’s your favorite Agassi moment?

“It’s tough to pinpoint just one because there’s so many personal moments and then there’s the moments where I remember the spandex and the mullet. And then the match with Ivanisevic [at Wimbledon in 1992]. I think that was the first time I actually sat down and watched a full five-set match. Just the way he has transformed himself. Selfishly, I’m going to miss a guy who has been a mentor to me as far as trying to carry yourself with a little bit of professionalism. You know, I’ve gotten to see the real good side of him up close and personal. We’ll miss tennis players, but I think we’ll miss him as a person more.”

Is there a piece of advice that he gave you that really had a big effect on your life?

“You know what, I learned a lot by watching. I was able to be close to him when I was 17, 18 years old, walking through the hallways. He knows every doorman’s name. Please and thank yous at the transportation area. Those things don’t get reported, but they probably make the man more so than anybody. You’d be surprised at how many guys will take off a grip and leave it in the locker room for the attendant to pick up. I’d bet my life that wouldn’t happen with him.”

Has Andre ever spoken to you about going through the normal ups and downs of a career?

“I’ve been a top player, he’s been a top player. He’s made it know that if I ever need to talk to him about anything that he’s a phone call away. I think, again, I learned just by watching. If I think dropping [in the rankings] is bad, I think about him dropping to 141 and making it back to No. 1 in the world. That puts a little bit of perspective on things. He was the ultimate guy as far as proving people wrong over and over again when they kind of stuck a fork in him.

“You know, a lot of time you feel competitive rivalry. I never once felt like he was in any way trying to keep me from doing my best. It’s hard to explain. I think he’s always had my best interests at heart. I think he showed us a way, especially the younger generation of players, on how to help each other. Now we have a pretty good base of guys who are there for each other.”

What were Agassi’s strengths on the court?

“I think the most impressive thing is his versatility, winning on every surface along with the Olympic gold medal, all the Masters Series titles. He kind of transformed the game as well. He was the first one to take full swings at returns. He was kind of revolutionary in the way he played. You can talk about all the tournaments he won, everybody knows about that, but I think to do him justice you’d probably have to look beyond that.”

Kim Clijsters

“I’ve admired him so much. It was like Agassi, Sampras. I’ve always been a very big Agassi fan. He just fought for every point.  I sometimes [got] goose bumps just by watching him play because of the attention he had in his eyes. That’s been incredible to see. I mean, he’s been just—that backhand. If I could hit just one of those backhands down the line like he hits them sometimes, I would be the happiest girl in the world.”

Amelie Mauresmo

“Agassi has done so much on the court but also off the court for kids. I mean, charities he has and everything. So it is a little bit sad to see him leave tennis, but it’s also I’m sure great for him to, you know, probably do something else. Even though I’m sure it was a tough decision for him to take. But he’s what, 35, 36 now? So, yeah, it’s about time, I guess to leave the court. I’m sure physically also he is feeling it was tougher and tougher to be prepared to be ready, you know, to be free of injuries.”

Lleyton Hewitt

Lleyton Hewitt (left) and Andre Agassi (right) “Tennis owes him a lot, purely because he is such a marketable guy worldwide. You know, he’s had a great personality for our sport, especially coming as a young kid into the tennis world, wearing all those funky clothes, the earrings, long hair. You know, it was a different image than players normally have. I think that really helped the sport.

Obviously, his rivalry with Sampras was a huge thing for our sport as well. He has done wonders for our sport around the world. Out of anyone, Andre Agassi, sort of everyone knows him around the world even if you’re not a huge tennis fan. He’s done well.”

David Nalbandian

“Seeing him play, I mean, with [his] age—it’s not normal.”
Richard Williams

“No one ever fought like Andre. No one I know returned like he did. But I think my opinion represents everyone else’s. He is a very wonderful human being.”

Darren Cahill (left) and Andre Agassi (right)Darren Cahill, Agassi’s coach

What has Andre meant to the game?

“That’s a good question. I think there has really been one Andre Agassi. He is one of the few guys that has taken tennis from the sport pages to the entertainment pages, back to the sport pages a few times around. His legacy has been well-documented and what he has done for the game and what he is doing at the moment with his charitable foundation—I think he’s one of a kind. The ability to win all four Grand Slams certainly makes him one of the greatest players of all time.”

What is your favorite moment of his career?

“I wasn’t coaching him at the time, but without question, watching him win the ’99 French Open. I just knew him as a fellow competitor at that stage and to see the joy, and the reaction after completing the fourth Grand Slam, you could sense just how much it meant to him and how much that satisfaction he got from accomplishing something very few players have accomplished.”

What has it been like to be with him and coach him day-in and day-out?

“It has been a joy for the last four or five years. He is extremely intelligent, loves to talk about the game of tennis. We’re always trying to dissect players, trying to work out where we can go, and head down the same path together as far as making him a better tennis player. Every time he steps on the court he is ready to improve. You can’t ask any more from a player than that. He is the consummate professional.”

What did you learn about him that you didn’t already know?

“How relaxed he is. How easygoing he is. I feel like he’s got a lot of Australian traits, to be quite honest. He likes to have a beer. He likes to barbecue, he likes to watch sports, he likes to get involved in conversation and debate. I feel like he is a very normal guy off the court, that is extremely busy away from home, and has set a lot of priorities to make some change back in Vegas and he’s accomplishing that everyday.”


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