Andre Agassi

Birthdate: April 29, 1970
Birthplace:
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.
Residence: Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A

Turned Pro: 1986
Retired: 2006
Career Summary: Captured eight Grand Slam titles and one of five players to win all four in his career (as of May 2007)…Ranked in Top 10 for 16 years (most along w/Connors) and oldest to rank No. 1 (at 33 years, 13 days) in 2003 in history of ATP Rankings (since 1973).

CAREER IN REVIEW
A player of irresistible flair, appeal and shotmaking ability since appearing on the professional landscape as a 16-year-old in 1986, Andre Kirk Agassi, was the first Nevadan to make an impact on the game. And what a tremendous impact, although it took longer than expected for him to make the predicted leap to his first major championship, Wimbledon, 1992—and even longer to re-dedicate himself to his profession so that he was solidly established at the heights. At age 33 he was playing better than ever, winning his fourth Australian championship, his eighth major.

Despite a seemingly disastrous slump during which he plummeted to No. 141 in 1997, and finished the year at No. 122, Andre rebounded sensationally to rise to No. 6 in 1998—a record turn-around—and nail down five of his majors. The piece de resistance was his French triumph in 1999, evicting the defender Carlos Moya in the fourth round and finishing in a dazzling recovery over Russian Andrei Medvedev. The win catapulted Agassi into the select company of Fred Perry, Don Budge, Rod Laver and Roy Emerson as only the fifth man to own all four majors.

ATPtennis.com Agassi Tribute Feature

Andre’s first title major, Wimbledon, came after he’d failed, as the favorite, to beat Pete Sampras for the U.S. Open title in 1990, and Andres Gomez and Jim Courier for the French in 1990 and 1991. After a quick, unhappy thrashing by Henri Leconte at Wimbledon in 1987, Agassi had assiduously avoided the grass until 1991, a successful reappearance ending in a quarter-final loss to David Wheaton. Realizing the greensward wasn’t that forbidding, he returned a year later to take it all, his twelfth seeding making him among Wimbledon’s lowest regarded champions at the starting gate. “This was not the one people looked for me to win,” he said correctly, after his buzzing groundies outdid the missile attack of 36-ace-serving Goran Ivanisevic in the final, 6-7 (8-10), 6-4, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.

Ranked low again in 1994, No. 20, he became only the third non-seed to win the U.S., raking it on his ninth shot, over Michael Stich, joining Mal Anderson (1957) and Fred Stolle (1966) in the exclusive unseeded club. He had also made excuses for skipping the long trip to Australia, yet won it on his first try, 1995, spectacularly over Sampras, the defender.

Following his French title, Andre won his second U.S. title—and fifth major—in a five-set battle with Todd Martin in 1999. He then won the 2000 Aussie over Yevgeny Kafelnikov after being two points from defeat in a fourth-set, semi-final tie-breaker against Sampras. His third and fourth Aussie tides were both in straight-set finals, over Frenchman Arnaud Clement in 2001 and German Rainer Schuettler in 2003. (He missed 2002 with a wrist injury.)

A brilliant shotmaker and thoughtful attacker from the baseline who takes the ball so early that he seems to be playing ping-pong, Agassi needed time to sort out whether being a commercial success was enough. As the most widely marketed player of all-time—’image is everything’ was one of his sales pitches—he has made more millions off the court than on it. Fortunately, he decided to utilize his gifts to attract as much attention by winning. Never has there been such a controversial figure so broadly associated with the game, thanks to TV commercials. His ever-changing hairstyle, brightly hued attire, and such items as black shoes, and denim shorts, considered garish by traditionalists, lured countless buy­ers as hip or avant-garde. His engagement to actress Brooke Shields (granddaughter of Hall of Famer Frank Shields), whom he married on April 19, 1997, didn’t hurt Andre’s visibility that transcends the sports page. That marriage was short-lived, but he made another high-profile pairing when he wed Steffi Graf in 2001 (they have a son, Jaden Gil, b. Oct. 26, 2001 and daughter, Jaz Elle, b. Oct. 3, 2003).

But beneath the peacock and the pop idol is a tennis player whose timing, anticipation, coordination and determination enable him to deliver withering, top-spinning barrages with flicks of the wrist. “When Andre’s on, forget it,” says Sampras. “He does practically everything better than anybody else.”

Agassi was born April 29, 1970, in Las Vegas, and lives there, although he was farmed out to Nick Bollettieri’s Tennis Academy at Bradenton, Fla., at age 13. His father, Mike Agassi, an Iranian immigrant and naturalized U.S. citizen, was a strict taskmaster who was determined that Andre would be a top tennis player. Papa pushed the kid from cradle onward, then gave the prodigy over to surrogate father Bollettieri. An Olympic boxer for Iran in 1952, Mike fell for tennis and taught Andre “the new game, based on the way a fighter throws punches, plus a two-handed backhand for added power” A right-hander, Andre is 5-foot-l1, 170 pounds.

It all worked, and led Andre to his own Olympics, 1996 in Atlanta, where he made off with the gold medal by thumping Spaniard Sergi Bruguera in 78 minutes. Again, it had taken him an inordinate amount of time to put his act together. He had declined taking part in 1988 and 1992.

By lifting the Australian crown from Sampras in 1995, Agassi also took Pete’s No. 1 jersey, and they dueled throughout the year for the top. But Pete ended Andre’s excellent summer streak of four tournaments and 26 matches with a four-set, final-round defeat to regain his U.S. Open title and top ranking. That loss seemed to deflate Agassi, and 1996—other than the Olympics—was a downer, his worst in the majors: Ghastly first- and second-round losses respectively at Wimbledon (No. 186 Doug Flach) and the French (No. 73 Chris Woodruff), and desultory semi-final losses to Michael Chang at the Australian and the U.S.

His was an uneven course through the first 11 years, up one year, down another (four first-round losses at the U.S. Open for instance), but the sheer firepower within makes him a threat to blast anybody off any court at any time. A world top ten 14 times between 1988 and 2002, Agassi was No 1 for 30 weeks in 1995, two weeks in ‘96 and 52 weeks in 1999-2000.

Bollettieri, feeling Andre didn’t work hard enough, severed their decade-long relationship in 1993, but he won six majors with Brad Gilbert as coach. Plunging to No. 24, his lowest adult ranking then, after losing the first round of the 1993 U.S. Open to No. 61 Thomas Enqvist, he required surgery to repair a damaged wrist— “I thought my career was over.” But he came back strong. Aussie Darren Cahill became his coach in 2002, and his fitness guru, fellow Las Vegan Gil Reyes, has overseen Andre’s superb physical condition.

In 1988, as one of the youngest U.S. Davis Cup rookies, he won all his singles on Latin clay (historic trouble ground for gringos) at Peru and Argentina to spearhead his fallen nation’s recovery from the perdition of relegation. He became a valuable hand in the Cup triumphs of 1990, 1992 and 1995 with a 22-4 record, but played sporadically thereafter. Registering four singles wins in 3-2 decisions over Zimbabwe and the Czech Republic in 2000, he bowed out after 10 years of Cupping and a 30-5 singles record, second among Americans only to John McEnroe’s 41 singles wins.

Andre made his first splash at Stratton Mountain, Vt., in 1987, beating Wimbledon champion Pat Cash on the way to the semis. Shortly thereafter he took his first title, Itaparica (Brazil), over Luiz Mattar. His most productive season was 1995: Seven titles on 73-9 in matches, but two of his five titles in 1999 were the French and U.S. During a 17-year pro career, through 2002, has won 60 singles (of 90 finals), one doubles titles and $31,152,975, second only to Sampras’s $43,280,489. His career singles W-L was 870-274 (.760)

In establishing the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation, he has shown responsibility and concern, donating millions to such worthy projects as building the Agassi College Preparatory Academy and Agassi Boys and Girls Club in the troubled sector, West Las Vegas.

MAJOR TITLES
(8)—Australian singles, 1995, 2000, 2002, 2003; French singles, 1999;
Wimbledon singles, 1992- US. singles 1994, 1999. OTHER U.S. TITLES (2)—Indoor singles, 1988; Clay Court singles, 1988. DAVIS CUP—1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1998, 2000; (48-5), French (51-16), Wimbledon (46-13), US. (79-19).

 

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