Who Is Andre Agassi?
Former professional tennis player Andre Agassi won several USTA junior national titles before turning professional at the age of 16. In 1992, Agassi won his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon. More victories soon followed with a U.S. Open win in 1994 and the Australian Open in 1995. After a career slump, Agassi returned to top form in 1999 with wins at the U.S. Open and French Open. He retired from competition in 2006.
Born on April 29, 1970, tennis legend Agassi first picked up a racket when he was a toddler at the insistence of his father. His father, an immigrant from Iran and a former Olympic boxer, served as his first coach, making Agassi practice for hours at the family's Las Vegas, Nevada home.
In his mid-teens, Agassi abandoned his education to train full time. He moved to Florida where he went to the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy. Agassi proved to be one of the top junior players in the sport, winning several U.S. Tennis Association national titles. At the age of sixteen, Agassi decided it was time to compete in the big leagues. The young tennis player turned professional in 1986.
Young Tennis Star
When he first arrived on the tennis scene, Agassi turned heads and raised eyebrows with his wild hair and bright clothing. The boisterous athlete quickly had an endorsement deal with Nike before even winning a title. Some wondered whether there was any substance behind of his youthful good looks and flashy style. While Agassi won his first competition in 1987, but he failed to clinch a major title during his early career. In 1992, Agassi silenced his critics with a win at Wimbledon, his first Grand Slam title.
After his Wimbledon win, Agassi had several more Grand Slam victories in the early 1990s. He took the top spot at the U.S. Open in 1994. He was victorious at the Australian Open in 1995, which helped him climb to the top of rankings that year. At the top of his game, Agassi won a gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta, Georgia. Off the court, charismatic Agassi's personal life became a popular topic in the tabloids. He was romantically linked to singer Barbra Streisand before marrying actress Brooke Shields in 1997.
Beginning in 1997, Agassi went through a difficult patch, both professionally and personally. He failed to win any tournaments that year, and the former number-one player dropped significantly in the rankings. According to his autobiography Open, Agassi had been introduced to crystal meth by a friend. He tested positive for drugs in 1997, but he told the Association of Tennis Professionals that his drug use had been accidental. Agassi claimed that he had "unwittingly" drank a drug-laced beverage belonging to a friend. Speaking about his drug use, he later told People magazine that "I can't speak to addiction, but a lot of people would say that if you're using anything as an escape, you have a problem."
Eventually turning his life around, Agassi launched an impressive comeback in 1999. He won two Grand Slam titles that year—the French Open and the U.S. Open. Agassi also made changes in his personal life, divorcing his wife after nearly two years. He remained focused on his game, allowing him to continue his winning ways. Agassi emerged victorious at the Australian Open in 2000, 2001 and 2003.
By 2006, Agassi's health issues had begun to limit his ability to play. He had been born with spinal abnormality and had to withdraw from several competitions that year because of back problems. Agassi fought for one more Grand Slam title, but it was not to be. On September 4, 2006, Agassi lost his last professional match to Benjamin Becker. At the end of the match, Agassi said an emotional good-bye to the game and to the roughly 23,000 people who had packed the stadium to see him play for the last time.
Life After Tennis
A dedicated philanthropist, Agassi spends much of his time these days on working educational programs and initiatives. He created the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation in 1994, which provides at-risk children in southern Nevada with educational opportunities and recreational activities. The foundation raised the money needed to start the Andre Agassi College Preparatory School, which opened its doors in West Las Vegas in 2001.
Married to fellow tennis great Steffi Graf since 2001, Agassi is devoted to his family. He and Graf have two children together. The couple has also teamed up the U.S. Tennis Association's 10 and Under Tennis Program. Agassi was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2011.
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