Andre Agassi: One of the greats in tennis pantheon

Updated on Aug 24, 2020 05:06 PM IST

This American star won eight Grand Slam titles and Career Grand Slam (for having clinched all the four major events at least once). He is also actively involved in philanthropy.

(Illustration: Gajanan Nirphale)
(Illustration: Gajanan Nirphale)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByHT Correspondent

Born to Emmanuel ‘Mike’ Agassi, a former Olympic boxer from Iran and Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Agassi on April 29, 1970, in Las Vegas, US, Andre Agassi first picked up a racket when he was a toddler. His father and first coach made Agassi practice for hours at home.

At the age of 12, Agassi partnered his friend and doubles partner Roddy Parks to win the 1982 National Indoor Boys 14s Doubles Championship in Chicago. At 13, he joined a tennis academy in Florida run by Nick Bolletieri, who later became his coach. In 1987, Agassi won his first professional tournament. He dropped out of school in the ninth grade to pursue a career in tennis.

Young star

At the age of 16, Agassi turned professional in 1986. He turned heads and raised eyebrows with his wild hair and bright clothing. He had an endorsement deal with Nike even before he won a title.

In 1987, Agassi tasted success at the Sul American Open in Itaparica. It was followed by six wins in 1988. He annoyed the traditionalists by refusing to play at Wimbledon because of the dress code at the premier event and its grass courts.

LIFE AT THE TOP

Agassi reached three Grand Slam finals between 1990 and 1991 but lost each time. In 1992 he silenced the doubters when he triumphed over Croatian Goran Ivanisevic at Wimbledon to take his first Grand Slam title.

In 1993, he won his first and only doubles title with Petr Korda at the Cincinnati Masters. In the 1994 US Open, he became the first ‘unseeded’ player to win the Grand Slam, beating Michael Stich in the final. He topped the world rankings for the first time in his career after winning the 1995 Australian Open. He also won three Masters events and seven titles in 1995. At the top of his game, Agassi won a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.

1997 was a low point in Agassi’s career. His wrist injury resurfaced and he played only 24 matches during the year. His ranking sank to 141st.

Comeback

Agassi crafted an impressive comeback in 1999, winning two Grand Slam titles —the French and the US Opens. He emerged victorious in the Australian Open in 2000, 2001 and 2003. In April 2003, he recaptured the No. 1 rank after winning the US Clay Court Championship at 33 years and 13 days to become the oldest top-ranked male player since the ATP rankings began. Agassi had a poor start to 2006 as he battled an ankle injury and pain in the backs well as the lack of match play. In September that year, he lost his last professional match to Benjamin Becker.

In 1994, he established the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation which provides works for the uplift of children from vulnerable backgrounds.

Personal life

In 1997, he married actress Brooke Shields but the couple went for divorce nearly two years later. In 2001, he got married to the tennis star Steffi Graf and the duo has two children.

Awards and honours

In 1992, Agassi was named the BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year. In 2010, Sports Illustrated named him the seventh greatest male player. On 2011, he was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Interesting facts

Andre Agassi, who was known by the nickname ‘The Punisher’, earned more than $30 mn in prize-money during his career. He also earned more than $25 million a year through endorsements.

He wore a lion mane-style wig during the 1990s to hide his baldness. The tennis legend admits, in an extract of his book that during a match he struggled to stop it falling off and lost as a result.

Agassi is the only other American male tennis player, besides Don Budge, to have won the Career Golden Slam, which is achieved when a player wins all 4 Grand Slam titles and an Olympic gold medal. At the 2009 French Open, Agassi presented the trophy to Roger Federer, who completed the Career Grand Slam by winning the tournament and joined Agassi as one of six men to complete the Career Grand Slam. Agassi’s memoirs, Open: An Autobiography, was published in Nov. 2009. It reached No. 1 on the NYT Best Seller list, got good reviews and was named the best Autobiography in 2010 British Sports Book Awards.

Source: Wikipedia, thefamouspeople.com, biography.com

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