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Andre's exclusive confessions

The date on the t2 calendar was November 4, 2009 when we posted our first mail to Andre Agassi’s media contact Francisco Aguilar. Our hearts said we would get a reply, but our heads said we might not. Our target was after all mr most wanted.

But Aguilar replied promptly and put us on to the Open publishing team at Knopf. our request was turned down. We decided not to give up. This time Francisco held out hope of an email chat. weeks passed. finally, on March 6, andre agassi landed in our inbox. and with a note saying, “apologies for the delay”!

Ladies and gentlemen, we bring to you Mr Andre Agassi!

What was your wife Steffi Graf’s reaction when she came to know about the contents of Open?

Our relationship has been built on transparency and honesty since day one. One of the most beautiful periods of my life was the early days of our relationship, talking and listening to each other’s stories, so nothing in the book came as a surprise to her. Stefanie’s reaction to some of the lowest points in my life caused her to ask how much pain I must have been in to do things so far from my character and my standards. She also understood more than anyone, what is required to succeed on the tennis tour.

Who have been the most supportive during this phase?

First my wife, for creating the space for me to focus for 18 months on creating this book. She did the heavy lifting with the children and shared me with my collaborator for thousands of hours. Next my kids [son Jaden Gil, 8, and daughter Jaz Elle, 6], who knew daddy was working on something very important and in their way showed real respect for my need to be obsessed with words and paper. I should also mention J. R. Moehringer, my collaborator, who was tireless in his work ethic and came to understand my process of communicating. He knew how and when to draw all the information and emotion out of me that he needed.

Faced with so much criticism, have you even for a second regretted being so ‘open’?

I value honesty, openness and the power of truth. I couldn’t be more proud of this book and I believe those very revelations will inspire and encourage people for years to come. I wrote this story with my children in mind first and foremost. I hope that when they are old enough to read it that it will be a star to steer by. My fans may only know a small slice of my life and so I am happy to shatter any myths and replace it with reality. I consider this an opportunity to really bond with fans and I hope they see this book as a gift.

And now that it is all out, do you feel better?

I never took into account my feelings doing this project. This is not about me feeling better, it is me hoping millions of others will feel better after going on this journey with me.

Which part of your life had you had the most difficulty, emotionally, to record?

The hardest part was retelling my childhood in the present tense. It forced me to erase the lessons I’ve learned since and the perspective I now have regarding my childhood. I had to look at myself through a seven-year-old lens and communicate my life as I understood it in the moment.

Let’s return to the good times. Looking back on a wonderful career, which victories would you say made you the most happy?

That’s a tie. Winning an Olympic gold medal was the fulfilment of a dream, and winning for your country is a special kind of thrill. Also my father boxed in the Olympics and it slipped away from him, so this felt like a gift for my family to enjoy. My personal peak was in winning the French Open in 1999. I knew winning all four majors on four different surfaces would put me in rare air. That was my elusive goal for so long. Winning all four meant so much more to me than my ranking or my stats.

If you had a chance to change the result of one match in your career, which would that be and why?

In the heat of battle, that moment when you know you’re going down in flames, you would do anything to change the score. But now being removed from it for a while, who is to say that I learned more or grew more from my wins more than my losses. Whether you get the W or the L, it is all part of the road that leads you to who you are and where you are. That being said, the finals of the 1995 US Open against Pete left the biggest mark. [Agassi lost 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5]

Your thoughts on your greatest rival, Pete Sampras?

Pete was great for my game and our rivalry was good for tennis. We never really knew each other that well off the court, but we came to rely on each other on the court to stay at the top of our game. I have a lot of respect for his work ethic and discipline. You could not count on Pete losing his focus, if you wanted the win, you were going to have to take it from him.

What makes Steffi Graf special?

When I introduced Stefanie at the International Tennis Hall of Fame I said the truest words of my life: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I introduce to you the greatest person I’ve ever known, Stefanie Graf”.

Her most memorable victory, for you?

1992 Wimbledon. The first of many sweet moments we were to share together.

Do you want your kids to take up tennis?

I want to give my children the tools to make strong choices, and the platform to experience many things early in life. I want to open up options for them and see what they are attracted to and where they excel.

How much of tennis do you watch these days?

I watch tennis often but in a much different way now. I watch as a fan and let myself enjoy the competition without the stress that comes with being on the tour. I have built long-time friendship through my years in professional tennis and I enjoy watching someone I care about compete well.

Who are your favourite tennis players?

Steffi Graf, Steffi Graf and Steffi Graf.

Finally, your comments on Calcutta boy Leander Paes?

There is so much to like and respect about Leander on and off the court. He represents his country with class, is the son of competitive athletes and is one of the most feared doubles players in the world. He has built a solid record at the Olympics and Davis Cup, making his country proud. I also respect how much he has done to raise the profile and interest in tennis in India.

 


a man in many moods

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