In her own quiet way Steffi is stronger than me, says Agassi

Walking down memory lane, the American tennis icon talks about his better-half Steffi Graf and the days bygone.

Be it his growing up years or relationship with Steffi Graf—Andre Agassi has ensured that he spoke his mind.   -  Getty Images

If you turn the pages of his autobiography Open, it would perhaps be enough to understand that Andre Agassi is an emotional man. So what if, he looked aggressive on the tennis court, the American tennis great loves reminiscing the days bygone.

In an interview with The Guardian, Agassi has walked down memory lane, crossing many avenues. Be it his growing up years or relationship with Steffi Graf—the tennis icon has ensured that he spoke his mind. Admitting that in her quiet way, his better-half Steffi is stronger than him, Agassi said, “In her own quiet way Steffi feels stronger than me. She’s pretty linear in how she lives. I probably do a little more reminiscing than she does – which says a lot,” Agassi said.

Perhaps, that’s why even as Agassi finds it difficult to stay away from the glitz and glamour of the tennis world, Graf did not mind Serena Williams overtaking her, by winning the Australian Open. “It has no relevance in her world. The hardest part of Serena chasing down those numbers (they were locked at 22 Grand Slams) was respecting the game. Steffi doesn’t want people to feel she doesn’t care about tennis. She cares but she’s so disconnected. Every time she was asked she felt obligated to put importance on it for the sake of tennis and an incredible champion in Serena,” Agassi said.

But then does he miss the intensity? Agassi laughs and then turns a bit philosophical. “Surely he misses the intensity? “I miss that the least. That was always the tough part for me. I enjoyed the work that went into making yourself the best you can be but I hated what the scoreboard doesn’t say. It just tells you if you won or lost. But the biggest issue for most athletes is you spend a third of your life not preparing for the next two-thirds. One day your entire way of life comes to an end. It’s a kind of death. You just have to go through it and figure it out,” the 46-year-old said.

Even after achieving all the success, Agassi gets emotional as he speaks about his father, who influenced him to take up tennis. What would he do if his father had been obsessive about education rather than tennis? “Yeah, but my dad is the reason I’m in education now,” Agassi said. “My lack of education, a lack of choice, had a huge impact. The question always remains: what might you have done? But I don’t have any deep regrets.”

Perhaps, that is the reason, Agassi has always been interested in educating the youngsters. He was only 24, when he started his first education foundation for underprivileged children in Las Vegas. The school, which later became an educational model in Clarke County, was founded by him in 2001. “That school is still thriving and our endowment allows it to live in perpetuity,” Agassi said, adding: “I then figured out a way to scale that mission across the country and in the last three and a half years I deployed over $650m nationally to build 79 new schools.”

The tennis ace has 1,200 kids in his foundation school and they revolve annually. “I now have 38,000 kids nationwide revolving. I can’t do the math but the numbers go up pretty quickly.”

He has also launched an online tennis coaching course with Udemy, which chimes with his philosophy that teaching should be available widely. Having seen success being at the top, Agassi’s philosophy is quite simple—help players of different levels understand that improvement cannot always be measured in victory or defeat.

May be, such thinking makes the American stand out!

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