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US Open dealing with some crazy amount of heat: Agassi

The tennis great makes us wistful as he opens up in his signature style
Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf

Saionee Chakraborty   |     |   Published 22.09.18, 05:50 PM


Back in 2010, Andre Agassi had us smitten, with his candid talk, revealing a down-to-earth man behind the flamboyant superstar. His eye-opener of an autobiography, Open, had hit the stands and the tennis great chatted with us on email. A second opportunity to catch up with him came our way just as the US Open got underway. An email chat landed in our inbox a few days ago, this time as Lavazza’s global ambassador. Once again, here was Andre Agassi, opening up in his signature style.

My connection with India

India is a place I’ve been to a handful of times and I will go back as soon as I expand what we’re trying to do with education via a business I started called Square Panda, to help kids in their early childhood learn to read, to be literate. Also, to teach English and as a result India is a big marketplace that we’re moving into at the start of the new year... actually opening up towards the end of this year. But I will have many more reasons to go back to India.

Why the 50th anniversary of the US Open is special for me

We have four pillars in our sport, obviously, with the Grand Slams and I think each one, in its own right, has an epic place in not just tennis, and not just in culture, but also in the lives of all these athletes, and to get over the finish line, in all these slams requires something unique.

I am not sure anything can ask more of you than the US Open. I mean, this year we’re dealing with some crazy amount of heat as well and that only adds to the obstacles in the way of accomplishing the goal of getting over the finish line. So if you can, like the song — If you can make it here/ You can make it anywhere (New York New York) — it actually applies in tennis. I mean, if you can win this tournament, you can pretty much accomplish whatever your dream is.

The key to a successful marriage

We do not play tennis together, but there are times we do charity auctions, items or tennis lessons... that kind of thing. But how do you give general advice? My advice is simple, you know you got two people, you need to make sure that each of you individually are a whole and entirely complete human beings without each other and then you come together and then there’s work. Because you have to mould your life with one another, help each other to be better at what makes each one who they are and help each other be stronger in areas that aren’t so much of a strength. So, it starts with not needing somebody to make yourself full and praying to God that you’ve found a person that actually has the same perspective.

If I wish my kids (Jaz and Jaden) had taken up tennis?

Well, I do not wish my kids had taken up tennis. It’s too late to ask what I wish because they’re older; they’re 16 and 14. My goal: We all try to break the cycle of dysfunction in our childhood. And I’ve done my best to do that in areas that I feel that I was denied, and I try to be the person that my father was to me in areas of offering strength. But you do a lot more learning as a parent than you do teaching, and I am always trying to learn.

My relationship with Lavazza

Lavazza (a global coffee company) and my relationship (as its global brand ambassador) started about a handful of years ago, but it’s been one that’s made a huge impact on, in my estimation, so many children in my home town of Las Vegas... on their education. Their commitment to what I am doing personally, what I value, has been remarkable and appreciated. Their commitment to tennis is only growing. It also provides another level of desire, commitment to make a difference in a sport that’s given me a hell of a platform in life. As a result, our relationship, I think has multiple wins for so many.

I wouldn’t be doing this interview at 8 o’clock in the morning if it wasn’t for Lavazza, because I would still be sleeping.

I would pick Steffi Graf (as a tennis great to have a cup of coffee with) because that means I would be home in a real world, living a real life and I am so thankful for it.
- To t2oS in 2018
When I introduced (in 2004) 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.”
- (To t2 in 2010)

My favourite coffee

I like about three espressos just to start the day. You know just to remind me that every day it’s buzzing and let’s get after it. And then I don’t mind a little shot of cappuccino somewhere in the afternoon, but it’s been a healthy part of my life for a long time, and Lavazza’s commitment to the game that has given me a great platform in life leaves me thrilled about this relationship on multiple fronts.

The work my foundation is doing

I am just expanding on my foundation (Andre Agassi Foundation for Education), with the help of so many, Lavazza included. We have gone from building a school in Las Vegas to building 83 across the country and expanding as we speak. So, it’s been a great journey, and I never could have dreamt that it really would lead to this, but when you bring good people together, you know, great things happen.

They (Lavazza) have designated resources to what I believe in. They’ve given opportunities for our kids to experience epic trips and learning experiences over summers. They have been there first hand in expressing to our children the multiple opportunities that they have in their future if college or something isn’t necessarily a part of their future, which will not be for everybody.

The ability to be a real partner on ground level is unquantifiable and that’s what’s Lavazza has been.

Not having social media when I was playing

I think social media is a double-edged sword. If you have access to promoting yourself in a positive way, or be self-inflicting, you have an opportunity to do either. So choose wisely and be careful. I am very thrilled that I picked a hell of a time to be famous. Because if social media was around when I was less aware of the consequences of my words or actions, I think people would think a lot less of me.

My strength and weakness

My biggest strength in my career was probably my perseverance, my attention to detail. I mean, everybody’s strength is their weakness, so that worked against me also, right? So, I do feel like I am an underachiever, in the sense that I could’ve done more. But I think any perfectionist always feels that way. But the ability to fight through adversity and come out the other side with a level of self-respect — that takes something that is hard-wired. I am not sure that you can teach that. But I definitely believe that adversity reveals character more than it develops it.

I always had a look in the mirror, and the person I looked at in the mirror came with a lot of strengths and a lot of weaknesses. So, depending on what day you’re talking about, my greatest threat was myself, my greatest strength was myself as well.

My career highlights

If I had to point out the highlights of my career, you point to all the majors, plus the gold medal, plus the Davis Cup, plus my wife saying ‘Yes’.

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