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Andre Agassi and his tryst with tennis

Andre Agassi will always remain one of the most gifted tennis players and also one of the most decorated champions of the game. Here a look at the Andre Agassi tennis journey and his tryst with tennis.

Last updated: 11.03.2021
Andre Agassi and his tryst with tennis | Sports Social Blog

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Andre Agassi will always remain one of the most gifted tennis players and also one of the most decorated champions of the game. His popularity was unmatched, his antics were reported on the daily and his fashion is era-defining. In his career, he was able to win 60 career titles with 8 grand slams and won 17 masters titles. During the Open Era, Agassi was the first male player to win four Australian Open titles, a record that was later surpassed by Novak Djokovic when he won his fifth title in 2015, and then by Roger Federer in 2017. 

Agassi is 2nd of five male singles players to achieve the Career Grand Slam in the Open Era after Rod Laver and before Federer, Nadal and Djokovic and fifth of eight in history, the first of two to achieve the Career Golden Slam (Career Grand Slam and Olympic Gold Medal, the other being Rafael Nadal), and the only man to win a "Career Super Slam" (all four majors, plus the Olympic gold medal, plus at least one title at the ATP Tour World Championships). Agassi was the first male player to win all four Grand Slam tournaments on three different surfaces (hard, clay and grass), and the last American male to win both the French Open (in 1999) and the Australian Open (in 2003). He also was part of the winning Davis Cup teams in 1990, 1992 and 1995. His comeback from world no.1 to world no.141 and back to world no.1 is forever etched in tennis folklore. He had an interesting relationship with tennis to say the least. He never liked playing it. He for most of his career, hated the very game he was the best in the world at.

In his autobiography, Open Up, Agassi explained his disdain and hatred for tennis which stemmed from his relationship with his father.   Andre Agassi wrote: “My father yells everything twice, sometimes three times, sometimes 10. Harder, he says, harder. Hit earlier. Damn it Andre, hit earlier, Crowd the ball, crowd the ball. Now he’s crowding me. He’s yelling. It’s not enough to hit everything the dragon fires at me: my father wants me to hit harder and faster than the dragon. He wants me to beat the dragon.” Andre was seven years old, in 1977, and the dragon was a ball machine his dad, Mike – a former Olympic boxer from Iran – turned into a beast. “Nothing sends my father into a rage like hitting a ball into the net. He foams at the mouth … My arm feels like it’s going to fall off. I want to ask: How much longer, Pops? But I don’t ask. I hit as hard as I can, then slightly harder.” The words echoed by Agassi could be very clearly seen in his game. In his tennis career, he was one of the hardest players to hit the ball. Sometimes he would hit so hard that shots would knock the fluff of the ball and take all the pressure out of it. 


There are certain qualities to his game that remains unique till and helped him to reach world no.1 were:

  • How early he would take the ball. He would always hit the ball on its apex and on the rise.

  • By taking the ball on the rise, he could manipulate the angles on the ball whilst sending it back with interest.

  • He is regarded as one of the best returns of the game, if not the best. What made his returns so lethal were his early preparation and his powerful two-handed backhand.

His early grand slam success came at French Open and US open, where he reached the final and semi-final respectively. Early in his career, he refused to play Wimbledon and Australian Open. He thought Wimbledon was too traditional for him. Ironically, he won his first grand slam title at SW19 in 1992. He defeated Goran Ivanisevic in a 5 set final. Along the way, Agassi overcame two former Wimbledon champions: Boris Becker and John McEnroe. No other baseliner would triumph at Wimbledon until Lleyton Hewitt ten years later. But soon after that he was unable to replicate his success and injuries started to creep.

With new coach Brad Gilbert on board, Agassi began to employ more of a tactical, consistent approach, which fuelled his resurgence. He started slowly in 1994, losing in the first week at the French Open and Wimbledon. Nevertheless, he emerged during the hard-court season, winning the Canadian Open. He then became the first man to capture the US Open as an unseeded player, beating Michael Stich in the final. Along the way, he beat 5 seeded players. In 1995, Agassi shaved his balding head, breaking with his old "image is everything" style. He competed in the 1995 Australian Open (his first appearance at the event) and won, beating Sampras in a four-set final. Agassi and Sampras met in five tournament finals in 1995, all on hardcourt, with Agassi winning three. Agassi won three Masters Series events in 1995 (Cincinnati, Key Biscayne, and the Canadian Open) and seven titles total. He compiled a career-best 26-match winning streak during the summer hard-court circuit, with the last victory being in an intense late night four-set semi-final of the US Open against Boris Becker. The streak ended the next day when Agassi lost the final to Sampras.


Agassi reached the world No. 1 ranking for the first time in April 1995. He held that ranking until November, for a total of 30 weeks. Agassi skipped most of the fall indoor season which allowed Sampras to surpass him and finish ranked No. 1 at the year-end ranking. In terms of win/loss record, 1995 was Agassi's best year. He won 73 and lost 9 matches, and was also once again a key player on the United States' Davis Cup winning team—the third and final Davis Cup title of his career. 1996 was a less successful year for Agassi, as he failed to reach any Grand Slam final. He suffered two early-round losses to Chris Woodruff and Doug Flach at the French Open and Wimbledon, respectively, and lost to Chang in straight sets in the Australian and US Open semi-finals. At the time, Agassi blamed the Australian Open loss on the windy conditions, but later said in his biography that he had lost the match on purpose, as he did not want to play Boris Becker, whom he would have faced in that final. The high point for Agassi was winning the men's singles gold medal at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, beating Sergi Bruguera of Spain in the final. Agassi also successfully defended his singles titles in Cincinnati and Key Biscayne.


1997 was the low point of Agassi's career. His wrist injury resurfaced, and he played only 24 matches during the year. He later confessed that he started using crystal methamphetamine at that time, allegedly on the urging of a friend. He failed an ATP drug test, but wrote a letter claiming the same friend had spiked a drink. The ATP dropped the failed drug test as a warning. In his autobiography, Agassi admitted that the letter was a lie. “The real tragedy in my decline was happening during my success – it was the disconnect I felt from the game. Despite being good at it I had a deep resentment and even hatred of tennis. That disconnect after getting to No1 was even worse because you believe being the best will fill the void. I felt nothing. Every day is Groundhog Day and what’s the point? I declined in different ways. In some cases, it was a lack of work. In others it was the self-inflicted damage of drugs. I found many ways to hurt myself.”

But 1999 was a fairytale season for Agassi and a year that will be remembered in history. Agassi entered the history books in 1999 when he came back from two sets to love down to beat Andrei Medvedev in a five-set French Open final, becoming, at the time, only the fifth male player (joining Rod Laver, Fred Perry, Roy Emerson and Don Budge—these have since been joined by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic) to win all four Grand Slam singles titles during his career. Only Laver, Agassi, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have achieved this feat during the Open Era. This win also made him the first (of only four, the next being Federer, Nadal and Djokovic respectively) male players in history to have won all four Grand Slam titles on three different surfaces (clay, grass and hard courts). Agassi also became the only male player to win the Career Super Slam, consisting of all four Grand Slam tournaments plus an Olympic gold medal in singles and a Year-End Championship. Agassi followed his 1999 French Open victory by reaching the Wimbledon final, where he lost to Sampras in straight sets. He rebounded from his Wimbledon defeat by winning the US Open, beating Todd Martin in five sets (rallying from a two sets to one deficit) in the final. Overall during the year Agassi won 5 titles including two majors and the ATP Masters Series in Paris, where he beat Marat Safin. Agassi ended 1999 as the No. 1. This was the only time Agassi ended the year at No. 1. From 2000-2006, Agassi stayed at the top of the game with winning a couple more grand slams and master’s titles. There was no further drama in his life and career as he settled with the Greatest player of all time, 22-time grand slam champion Steffi Graf. He also continued his philanthropic work with his foundation which provided education to underprivileged kids in Vegas. Speaking on the importance of education, Agassi said, “But I got to a point where I realised that just because I didn’t choose my life doesn’t mean I can’t take ownership of it. That was the epiphany. But epiphanies don’t change your life. It’s what you do with them that changes your life. That’s when I saw children whose lack of choice was far worse than mine. I found myself feeling pretty blessed but compelled to confront the unconscionable reality of these kids – which is that, without education, there’s no hope, no choice, no breaking the downward spiral. Once I started to focus on that, tennis became a vehicle for me. I started to appreciate it. I learned a lot when trying to get back to No1 as it’s much harder. I realised you had to plan your work and work your plan. That became my mantra.” The fact that he didn’t have the opportunity to pursue education and learn that is why his reason for working towards providing education is so significant.

Andre Agassi’s life is a cautionary tale and yet short of a miracle. The bad boy image of a hungry brat to sport’s one of the decorated and loved champions is a story worth telling and reading. Fun fact: Andre Agassi is the only player to defeat the world no.1 after they have reached the pinnacle of sport. 

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