Class of 2011
World No. 1 (1995)
Grand Slam Results
8-time major champion, 7-time finalist
Overall Record: 910-316
Singles Record: 870-274
Doubles Record: 40-42
ATP World Tour Championships
Winner in 1990
Gold Medal in Men’s Singles at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games
Member of the U.S. Davis Cup Team 1988-1993, 1995, 1997-1998, 2000, 2005
Member of the U.S. Championship Davis Cup Team 1990, 1992
Overall Record: 30-6
Singles Record: 30-6
In the late 1980s, when tennis was looking for a revival and needed a shot of adrenaline to revive its energy and excitement, along came Andre Agassi. He was more than accommodating.
Agassi brought flash and pizzazz to courts throughout the world, a star appeal the sport hadn’t witnessed since Ellsworth Vines debuted his charm, Hollywood good-looks, and supreme play in the early 1930s. True to his Las Vegas roots, Agassi was a showman and entertainer, a devastating baseline player who bashed every ball as though his life depended on it. Long before he had ever won his first tournament, Nike signed the teenager to a multi-million dollar endorsement contract and created a line of shoes and apparel that matched his playing style: loud, bold, aggressive, and confident. In 1990, when his career was just on the brink of exploding into a frenzy, Nike introduced Agassi’s Challenge Court selection, a series of acid wash denim shorts with neon yellow, pink, and purple Lycra tights underneath extending mid-thigh. The accompanying top was loosely fitted with a pull zipper instead of the traditional three button polo and featured colorful geometric shapes. Much to the adulation of the female fan base, every time Agassi pounded a forehand, reached for a serve and lunged for a volley, his shirt would raise halfway up his body, exposing his finely-toned midriff.
Agassi’s shoes were color-coordinated to match his outfit, or vice versa; flamboyant in style and simple cool for the millions who “had” to have them.
The finishing touch was a wide headband that adorned his blonde mullet, the hottest hairdo topic since the Beatles landed in the United States from Liverpool with their bowl cuts in 1964.
When the 16-year-old Agassi burst on the tennis scene straight from Nick Bollettieri’s Tennis Academy in 1986, TENNIS Magazine featured just the back of his head on the cover – the first time the magazine didn’t promote instruction to its readers. The headline – Andre Agassi: Turning Heads.
In winning eight major singles championships (tied for eighth best in history), an Olympic Gold Medal, and 60 ATP titles, Agassi did more than just turn heads, he had the entire world on a swivel following his every move. He would enjoy a 21-year professional career, one with extreme highs and lows. Agassi compiled a 870-274 career record (6th best in history upon his retirement), but more importantly won a Career Grand Slam by capturing the singles championship at all four majors, a feat only four other male tennis players in history accomplished. Had it not been for his chief rival Pete Sampras, Agassi would have added to his major title collection. He faced Sampras in five major finals and won only once. None-the-less, Agassi won the Australian four times (1995, 2000, 2001, 2003), the French once (1999), Wimbledon once (1992) and the US Open twice (1994, 1999). He was a major finalist 15 times, and earned $31,152,975 in prize money, sixth highest in history.
By his own admission in his critically acclaimed autobiography Open, Agassi was force-fed tennis as a toddler from his father Mike, an Iranian immigrant and former Olympic boxer. Agassi was taught to hit the ball as hard as he could on every shot. He obliged, becoming a devastating baseline player who won match after match without playing much at net. He was a USTA junior national champion and at age 13 began a stormy relationship with the sun-tanned Bollettieri who parted ways with his star pupil in 1993, suggesting he wasn’t working hard enough.
Agassi was originally scheduled to train in Florida for three months, but Bollettieri boasted that “Agassi had more natural talent than anyone else he had seen” and kept the long-haired Vegas kid at the Academy for several years at no cost. At age 16, Agassi turned professional.
Agassi was taught to hit the ball on the rise and as early as possible. His hand-eye coordination was exceptional and his racquet head speed produced blistering shots off both his forehand and backhand. He hit balls deep, either flat or with moderate topspin, and was a powerful counterpuncher. His return of serve has been regarded as the best in tennis history – the ball driven back harder than it arrived – and Agassi was masterful at producing winners at acute cross court angles or down the line. As he embraced training and fitness, Agassi grew stronger and resilient to his punishing style. He was a dogged ball retriever, fast laterally and would wear his opponent down with a constant barrage of penetrating shots.
It would appear that with a power game built to compete against the world’s best players Agassi would enjoy immediate success on the professional circuit, and in tournaments outside the majors, he did. He won his first tournament in 1987 at the Sul American Open in Itaparica, Brazil over Luiz Mattar, 7-6, 6-2, and at the conclusion of his first year touring was ranked No. 25 in the world. By the close of 1988, he had earned $1 million in prize money after just 43 tournaments, the fastest in history.
Manufacturers were eager to use Agassi as a pitchman, most notably camera company Canon, who created the moniker “Image is Everything” for Agassi. While the television commercial boosted Agassi’s notoriety and fandom, it also magnified that his generation of young and talented players such Michael Chang, Jim Courier, Stefan Edberg, Mats Wilander, and Sampras had all won major singles championships before him. Some wondered whether there was any playing substance behind the flash. It took Agassi five years to advance to his first major singles final – the 1990 French Open – but he fell to Andrés Gómez in four sets, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. He and Sampras staged an All-American final at the 1990 US Open – the first since John McEnroe and Vitas Gerulaitis in 1979, but Sampras won easily 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. Agassi returned to the French final in 1991 but his bid for a major title was derailed by his former Bollettieri Academy roommate Courier, 3-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4.
It wasn’t until his seventh attempt at Wimbledon in 1992 that Agassi broke through. He had chosen not to compete in London from 1988 through 1990, denouncing the pomp, circumstance and tradition at the All England Club which among other things, required players to wear predominantly white outfits, a dress code that Agassi didn’t favor. He was seeded No. 12 and had two huge back-to-back wins over Boris Becker in the quarterfinals and McEnroe in the semifinals. He faced big-serving Croatian Goran Ivanisevic in the finals and outlasted the powerful lefty, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4. After winning the match he dropped to his knees in tearful joy. His road to a Career Grand Slam had one notch in its belt.
The second notch was earned in his ninth attempt at the 1994 US Open, when he became the first man to capture the event as an unseeded player, defeating German Michael Stich in the final, 6-1, 7-6, 7-5. Along the way, Agassi defeated five seeded players. He won his third major the following January at the Australian Open – the first of his four titles in Melbourne – registering his lone major triumph over Sampras, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6, 6-4. Agassi and Sampras were as disparate as classical music and hard rock. They met 34 times, Sampras holding a 20-14 lead, and prevailing at the majors, winning the 1990 US Open (6-4, 6-3, 6-2), the 1995 US Open (6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5), Wimbledon in 1999 (6-3, 6-4, 7-5) and at the US Open in 2002 (6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4). Even in victory, Sampras had deep respect for Agassi, saying “when Andre’s on, forget it. He does practically everything better than anybody else.”
The victory at the Australian, a semifinalist appearance at Wimbledon, and a trip to the US Open finals earned Agassi the world No. 2 ranking at the close of 1995. In his career, he held the world No. 1 ranking for 101 weeks, first ascending to the top in 1992. From 1988 to 2005, he was ranked in the World Top 10 on 16 occasions. He earned a coveted Gold Medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, thrashing Spaniard Sergi Brugera, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1.
Fame and celebrity placed Agassi in the spotlight, and led to his personal life becoming tabloid fodder. He wed Steffi Graf in 2007, forming a marriage with 31 major titles and two Gold Medals..
From 1997 to 1999, Agassi hit a difficult patch in his professional and personal life, but overcame those obstacles to win two major titles in 1999. The first at the French in a colossal comeback victory over Andriy Medvedev (1-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4) and the US Open in a grueling five-setter against fellow American Todd Martin (6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 6-3, 6-2). The Australian Open proved to be his most successful major, as Agassi won the 2000, 2001, and 2003 event, knocking off Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov (3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4), Frenchman Amaud Clement (6-4, 6-2, 6-2), and German Rainer Schuttler (6-2, 6-2, 6-1) respectively. He was 33 years old when he won his fourth Australian, arguably playing better than ever with a game that didn’t rely on punishing groundstrokes on every shot. He had made modifications to his game, adding a balanced and selective shot approach that he didn’t possess in his younger days. Agassi won 26 straight matches at the Australian (second best in history), 27 consecutive sets (fourth best), four titles (third best), and compiled an all-time best 48-5 record (90.57 percent).
His play at the Australian combined with a 79-19 record at the US Open, earned him a 127 career hard court major victories, second best in history, and a 127-24 record, seventh best all-time.
Injuries, especially recurring back pain, began to hobble Agassi in 2006, his last season on tour. Agassi made one final dramatic run at the US Open that year, winning his first round in four sets over Romanian Andrei Pavel and second round in an upset over No. 8 seed Marcos Baghdatis from Cyprus. His magic ran ran out in the third round against Germany’s Benjamin Becker in four sets. As he fought back constant tears and blew kisses to the adoring crowd, Agassi received a four-minute standing ovation in his last professional event.
During his career, and particularly since retirement, Agassi has focused on philanthropic ventures primarily in the areas of children and education. In 2001, he opened the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, a tuition free public charter school for kindergarten through Grade 12 and the Agassi Boys and Girls Club in Las Vegas’s most at-risk neighborhood.
Australian Open: W 1995, 2000, 2001, 2003
French Open: W 1999
Wimbledon: W 1992
US Open: W 1994, 1999
French Open: QF 1992