Andre Agassi: Once A Fighter, Now Beloved At 50

WASHINGTON, April 29, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

As Andre Agassi turns 50 today, it’s amazing to look back 17 years this week, in which he recaptured the No. 1 world ranking in 2003. Agassi became the oldest man in the history of the sport (33 years, 13 days) to be ranked No. 1 in the ATP Rankings.

On Monday evening in the U.S., NBC Sports Network aired a replay of Agassi’s remarkable five-set thrilling victory over Andrei Medvedev to win the 1999 French Open championship. No American male has won the French Open singles title since. The final score line of 1-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 in Agassi’s favor over Medvedev enabled him to become the second man, after Rod Laver, to complete a career Grand Slam in the Open Era. It was the fourth of his eight major victories.

Known as a first-strike hitter on court, Agassi would go on win 60 ATP singles titles, earn an Olympic gold medal in 1996, and was a runner-up in seven other Grand Slam tournaments. He earned his first No. 1 world ranking on April 10, 1995, and would spend a total of 101 weeks ranked No. 1 during his remarkable career.

After the Roland Garros title match on June 6, 1999, during an on court interview with NBC’s Bud Collins, Agassi described how he won:

“I have no idea, Bud, I have no idea. It was not a great start, but I just hung in there enough for a couple of good things to happen. Then, I just started fighting.” 

Asked how he reconstituted himself after losing the first two sets, Agassi said, “I knew my game wasn’t gone – it’s not like it disappears overnight – but, sometimes, with the nerves and everything, sometimes, your feet stops and you don’t even realize it. You feel like you’re running hard and you’re not moving. The ball just gets away from you and you’re taking high-risk shots. It was embarrassing.” So nerves did effect Agassi at first. “Oh, yes they did,” he said.

At the end, as Agassi recalled, “I was just telling myself to keep executing (my shots). I knew the one thing from experience that would be the worst was if I felt I had a chance at winning it and I didn’t go for my shots. So, the last game, I just kept executing my shots.”

By winning, Agassi joined Fred PerryDonald BudgeRod Laver and Roy Emerson – turning what Collins described as a quadrilateral into a quintessential quintet. “I get to live my life with that honor. I can’t even believe I’m part of that company,” said Agassi with great candor.

Agassi retired from professional tennis on September 3, 2006, following a third-round loss to Benjamin Becker in the US Open. In a farewell speech on Arthur Ashe Stadium, a tearful Agassi spoke: “You have given me your shoulders to stand on, to reach for my dreams, dreams I could have never reached without you.”

The beloved Agassi was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2011. He is the founder the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation for at-risk children in southern Nevada. In 2001, Agassi’s foundation opened the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas, a kindergarten-12 public charter school for at-risk children. He’s been married to fellow Hall of Fame great Steffi Graf since 2001. They have two children.