Andre Agassi

Andre Kirk Agassi (born April 29, 1970, in Las Vegas, Nevada) is a former World No. 1 professional tennis player from the United States. During his career, he has won eight Grand Slam singles titles. He is one of only five players in tennis history to have won the men's singles titles at all four of the Grand Slam events over the course of his career.

Agassi, whose father is half Armenian and half Assyrian, was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, and lives there when not on tour. His father, Emmanuel "Mike" Agassi, was a boxer for Iran at the 1948 and 1952 Olympic Games, before emigrating to the United States.

Mike Agassi was a tennis fanatic and was determined to turn at least one of his four children into a world-class player. He hung tennis balls over Andre's crib and gave him a full-sized racket at age two. Growing up, Andre and his siblings would hit 3,000 balls a day, seven days a week. Mike had Andre practice with Ilie Nastase and Jimmy Connors. Andre's sister, Rita, finally rebelled and moved in with, and later married, tennis great Pancho Gonzales (their son, Skylar, played on Bishop-Gorman High School's tennis team). When he was 14, Andre was enrolled in the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida. Nick Bollettieri would be Agassi's coach through July 1993.

Tennis career
Agassi turned professional in 1986 at the age of 16, and won his first top-level singles title in 1987 at Itaparica. He won six further tournaments in 1988, and by December that year he had surpassed US$2 million in career prize money after playing in just 43 tournaments – the quickest player in history to do so.

Agassi hits a clean backhand from the baselineAgassi quickly developed a reputation on the tour for exceptional fitness and conditioning, allowing him to outlast most players over the course of a long match, even the best counterpunchers. He typically employs a baseline style of play, however he often makes contact with the ball inside the baseline (unlike most baseliners, who make 4-8 feet behind the baseline their home). His serve is not the fastest on the tour, but has very good placement. His return-of-serve is his strongest weapon. Many observers agree that Agassi is the best service returner in the history of professional tennis. He was the target of one of the fastest serves on record – a 149-mph (240 km/h) blast from Andy Roddick – and returned it into play.

As a young up-and-coming player, Agassi embraced a rebel image. He grew his hair to rock-star length, sported an earring, and wore colorful shirts that pushed tennis' still-strict sartorial boundaries. He boasted of a cheeseburger-heavy diet and endorsed the Canon Rebel camera. "Image is everything" was the ads's tag line, and it became Agassi's as well.

Strong performances on the tour meant that Agassi was quickly tipped as a future Grand Slam champion. But he began the 1990s with a series of near-misses. He reached his first Grand Slam final in 1990 at the French Open, where he lost in four sets to the seasoned veteran player Andrés Gómez. Later that year he lost in the final of the US Open to another up-and-coming teenaged star, Pete Sampras. The rivalry between the two American players was to become the dominant rivalry in tennis over the rest the of the decade. In 1991, Agassi reached his second consecutive French Open final where he faced his former Bollettieri Academy-mate Jim Courier. Courier emerged the victor in a dramatic rain-interrupted five-set final.

Agassi chose not to play at Wimbledon from 1988-90, and publicly stated that he did not wish to play there because of the event's traditionalism, particularly its "predominantly-white" dress code which players at the event are required to conform to. Many observers at the time speculated that Agassi's real motivation was that his strong baseline game would not be suited to Wimbledon's grass court surface. He decided to play there in 1991, leading to weeks of speculation in the media about what he would wear – he eventually emerged for the first round in a completely white outfit. He reached the quarter-finals on that occasion. To the surprise of many, Agassi's Grand Slam breakthrough came at Wimbledon in 1992 when he beat Goran Ivaniševic in a tight five-set final.

Following wrist surgery in 1993, Agassi came back strongly in 1994 and captured the US Open, beating Michael Stich in the final. He then captured his first Australian Open title in 1995, beating Sampras in a four-set final. He won a career-high seven titles that year and he reached the World No. 1 ranking for the first time that April. He held it for 30 weeks on that occasion through to November. He compiled a career-best 26-match winning streak during the summer hardcourt circuit, which ended when he lost in the US Open final to Sampras. In 1996, Agassi won the men's singles Gold Medal at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, beating Sergi Bruguera of Spain in straight sets in the final.

1997 was a poor year for Agassi. He won no top-level titles and his ranking sank to World No. 141 in November. His form was perhaps affected by the intense publicity surrounding his high-profile and turbulent relationship and marriage to actress Brooke Shields. Following this, he made a decision to rededicate himself to tennis. He shaved his balding head, began a rigorous conditioning program, and worked his way back up the rankings by playing in Challenger Series tournaments (a circuit for professional players ranked outside the world's top 50). Perhaps most remarkably, the one-time rebel emerged as a gracious and thoughtful athlete, and looked up to by younger players. After winning matches, he took to bowing and blowing a two-handed kisses to spectators on each side of the court, a gesture seen as a rather humble acknowledgment of their support for him and for tennis.

In 1998, Agassi won five titles and lept from No. 122 on the rankings at the start of the year, to No. 6 at the end of it, making it the highest jump into the Top 10 made by any player in tennis. He won five titles in ten finals, and finished runner-up at the Miami Masters.

Agassi entered the history books in 1999 when he beat Andrei Medvedev in a five-set French Open final to become only the fifth male player to have won all four Grand Slam singles titles (a feat last achieved in the 1960s by Roy Emerson). He followed that up by reaching the Wimbledon final, where he lost to Sampras. He then won the US Open, beating Todd Martin in five sets in the final, and finished the year ranked the World No. 1.

Agassi began 2000 by capturing his second Australian Open title, beating Yevgeny Kafelnikov in a four-set final. He was the first male player to have reached four consecutive Grand Slam finals since Rod Laver achieved the Grand Slam in 1969. 2000 also saw Agassi reach the semi-finals at Wimbledon, where he lost in five sets to Patrick Rafter in a very high quality battle considered by many to be one of the best matches ever played at Wimbledon [1]. Agassi entered the year-end Tennis Masters Cup locked in a tight fight for the World No. 1 spot with Gustavo Kuerten and Marat Safin. Safin needed only three match wins in the tournament to become the year end number one. However, Safin lost to Agassi in the semi-finals; Safin only won two matches. He was out of the running. Agassi then met Kuerten in the final, which would determine not only who would win the title but also who would finish the year as the No. 1 player. In the end it was Kuerten who emereged victorious with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 score. (Agassi won the tour's year-end championship once in 1990, and was runner-up in 1999, 2000 and 2003.)

Agassi opened 2001 by sucessfully defending his Australian Open title with a straight-sets final win over Arnaud Clement. At Wimbledon, he battled Rafter again in the semi-finals and lost 8-6 in the fifth set. At the US Open he lost in the quarter-finals to Sampras in what is conisdered to be one of tournament's all-time greatest matches. Sampras won 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6 in a match with no breaks of serve.

Agassi and Sampras' last duel came in the final of the US Open in 2002. The battle between the two veterans saw Sampras emerge victorious in four sets, and left Sampras with a 20-14 edge in their 34 career meetings. (The match in fact proved to be the last of Sampras' career. He did not play in an event on the professional tour again, and officially announced his retirement in 2003.) Agassi's US Open finish, along with his victories at the Miami Masters, Rome Masters, and Madrid Masters, helped him become the oldest year-end No. 2 at 32 years and 8 months.

In 2003, Agassi won the eighth Grand Slam title of his career at the Australian Open, where he beat Rainer Schüttler in straight sets in the final. On May 11, Agassi won the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships in Houston, making him the oldest No. 1 ranked male tennis player in history at 33 years and 13 days. He would hold the position for 13 weeks. At the Tennis Masters Cup in Houston, Agassi made it to the final, losing to Roger Federer, making him the oldest player to ever finish the year in the Top 5 (fourth) since Jimmy Connors finished fourth in 1987 when he was 35.

In 2004, the 34-year-old Agassi won the Tennis Masters Series event at Cincinnati to bring his career total to 59 top-level singles titles. With strong finishes at the Australian Open (SF), Indian Wells Masters (SF), Cincinnati Masters (WON), US Open (QF), Madrid Masters (SF) and Stockholm Open (F), Agassi finished the year ranked eighth, making him the oldest player to finish the year in the Top 10 (at age 34) since Jimmy Connors finished seventh in 1988 when he was 36.

Agassi has also won one doubles title (at Cincinnati in 1993, partnering Petr Korda). He is one of only five male players to have won all the Grand Slams – along with legends Don Budge, Roy Emerson, Rod Laver and Fred Perry. He is in fact the first male tennis player to win the four Grand Slams on four different surfaces. The previous players won the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open on grass courts and the French Open on clay courts; whereas Agassi won the Australian Open on Rebound Ace, the French Open on clay, Wimbledon on grass, and the US Open on hardcourts. By winning the Olympic Gold Medal at the 1996 Olympics, Agassi became the first male tennis player to win the Career Golden Slam. Agassi also helped the United States win the Davis Cup in 1990 and 1992. He was named the BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year in 1992. Agassi has earned over US$25 million in prize-money throughout his career, second only to Sampras. In addition to this, he also earns over US$25 million a year through endorsements, the most by any tennis player and fourth in all sports (first place is Tiger Woods at US$70 million a year). In 2005, Agassi left Nike after 17 years and signed an endorsement deal with Adidas.

Personal and family life
After a four-year courtship, Agassi married actress Brooke Shields in a lavish ceremony on April 19, 1997. That February, they had filed suit against The National Enquirer claiming it printed "false and fabricated" statements: Brooke was undergoing counseling, binge-eating and taking pills; Agassi "lashed into" Brooke and he and Brooke's mother "tangled like wildcats" when she demanded a prenup. The case was dismissed, but the headlines were indicative of the union. Agassi filed for divorce, which was granted on April 9, 1999.

By the time the divorce was final, Agassi was dating the German tennis legend Steffi Graf. With only their mothers as witnesses, they were married at his home on October 22, 2001. Their son, Jaden Gil, was born 6 weeks prematurely on October 26 that year. Their daughter, Jaz Elle, was born on October 3, 2003.

In 1995, when Agassi's former brother-in-law, Pancho Gonzales, died broke and nearly friendless in Las Vegas, it was Andre Agassi who paid for his funeral.