Gentle Giant

At 33, Andre Agassi is as fit and strong as anyone on tour. What's the secret behind his age-defying body? The question, actually, is who. You've probably seen this mountain of a man sitting in Agassi's box at tournaments. He's Gil Reyes, Agassi's strength and conditioning coach.

Andre Agassi with the 2000 Australian Open Trophy. Agassi's coach then, Brad Gilbert (left), and Gil Reyes, conditioning coach, are seen with the tennis ace. "Trust and friendship are the main reasons our bond has lasted," says Reyes, whom Agassi honoured two years ago when he gave his first-born son the middle name Gil. — Pic. MARK DADSWELL/GETTY IMAGES-

Reyes, 52, who can bench nearly 10 times his age, grew up outside Las Cruces, N.M., 40 miles from the Mexican border. His father, Rito, a farm-equipment mechanic, and mother, Alicia, taught him two guiding principles.

"My dad stressed the importance of hard work," Reyes says. "My mother stressed that dreams exist to be realized. I remember her saying, `que lindo es sonar dispierato' — how lovely it is to dream while you're awake."

By the late 1980s, after having worked at a fitness club and at New Mexico State, Reyes was a strength and conditioning coach at the University of Nevada, Las Vagas, During the 1989-90 basketball season, he met a local kid named Andre in the weight room who asked about adding strength training to a tennis regimen.

"I told Andre, `I know nothing about tennis," Reyes says. "He said, `That's OK, I do. Now I want to get bigger, faster, and stronger.' He said he was willing to do whatever hard work was needed to fulfill his dreams. I remember thinking, `My mother will appreciate the journey we're about to take."

That journey has become the game's most enduring training partnership. Reyes left UNLV in early 1990 to work with Agassi full time, and he has kept daily handwritten journals of Agassi's training ever since. "From the books, you can pick any date from the past 14 years and you'll find documentation of Andre's work, his weight, the fire for his dreams," says Reyes, who has no career plans beyond training Agassi. "We're now developing a two-year plan, but Andre is capable of playing longer.

"Trust and friendship are the main reasons our bond has lasted," adds Reyes, whom Agassi honoured two years ago when he gave his first-born son the middle name Gil. "Andre is an incredible tennis player, but as a friend and a man of compassion he's even better."

Kevin O'keefe