Andre Agassi: The Forever Legend
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As Andre Agassi, one of tennis' most colorful, compelling and controversial figures, was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame earlier this month, it is perhaps the best time to examine the tennis icon's storied career.
By looking back on his undeniable accomplishments on the court and unfolding his colorful life off it, this piece reveals what made Agassi a legend for ever.
Even if you are not an absolute fan of Agassi, you will still likely be moved by his dedication to tennis enterprise.
Agassi is one of the only five men to have won a career Grand Slam—Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open. Not even his arch-rival, Pete Sampras, accomplished this feat.
He is a legend that presents us the spirit which transcends the result of games, the spirit which deserves all of the veneration from the crowds, the spirit which represents the real sportsmanship.
The Renegade Budding Star
Andre Agassi, who is the youngest of four children, was born on April 29, 1970 in Las Vegas. After turning pro in his 16, he soon emerged as the budding star. By the time he was 18, he had already won seven finals titles. At that time, he made a name for himself with his long hair, showy apparel and boisterous behavior and kept the record of smashing 10 rackets in one year.
Stun the World After Heartbreak
After reaching three Grand Slam finals, Agassi finally held his first Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 1992. But his first nightmare, the heartbreaking romance with the world famous performer Barbara Streisand ruined his athletic condition, trapping him in the shadow for two years.
Fortunately, under the coach of his new mentor Brad Gilbert, he pulled a stunner by becoming the first unseeded player since Fred Stolle in 1966 to win the U.S. title.
73 Wins, 9 Losses: Career Pinnacle
His first career zenith came in 1995. Agassi who cut his typical long hair short not only beat the tennis pound-for-pound king Sampras to win his third Grand Slam, but also won seven finals titles with an amazing career-high of 73 wins and nine losses in one year.
It's not over yet. He won the Atlanta Olympic gold medal in 1996, becoming the first American to win that award since 1924. Then, his position as the crown of tennis was completely consolidated.
The Second Nightmare
Agassi was hit by the second nightmare in 1997. He married actress Brooke Shields in April and suffered dip in form. Combined with the recurring wrist injury, he missed most of tournaments in 1997 and by November his ranking had plummeted to No. 141.
The Second Career Zenith
However, Agassi was about to prove once again that he's still the best in the elite.
With the love having gone out of his marriage, Agassi resurrected his game on the tour challenger circuit winning five titles. He also made the biggest one-year jump to the top 10 in history of ATP rankings by climbing from No. 122 the previous year to No. 6.
In 1999, he ended the marital relation with Shields and started a new relation with the "tennis queen" Steffi Graf. Then, hailed his second career zenith. This year, he achieved huge, winning French and U.S. Opens together with the runner-up of Wimbledon. By then, he had become the fifth man to win all four Grand Slam titles.
The Oldest Champion
For the sake of consoling his sister who suffered cancer, he made his head completely bald in 2000. Agassi, in his 30s, finished his evolution from a rebellious youngster to a mellow man. The year 2000 and 2001 were for Agassi who was in great form.
But the injury prevented him defending his Australian Open crown. He lost to Sampras in the U.S. Open final in 2002.
The next year, he won his fourth Australian Open with a rout of Rainer Schuettler at the age of 32 to become the oldest man to win a Grand Slam title since Andres Gimeno in 1972. With the great form, he thrusted into the Maters Cup final but was eventually defeated by new talent Roger Federer. Despite of the loss, Agassi's persistence and astounding performance won him more applause than Federer.
A Long Standing Ovation
By 2004, he was in the twilight of his career, but the tenacious Agassi was still around the neighborhood of the elite, using his experiences and superb skills.
In 2005, the 35-year-old Agassi took part in the U.S. Open for the 20th time. He surpassed many strong opponents and thrusted into the final, becoming the oldest player who had ever advanced to the final of U.S. Open.
Confronting the new tennis king, Agassi didn't show a speck of fear. He did all he could battling at his highest level. Although he didn't manage to rewrite history, his exquisite skills and real sportsmanship won him a long standing ovation from all the crowds.
The Last Page
As all his contemporaries such as Sampras, Ivanisevic, Kafelnikov and Michael Chang had retired, the 36-year old Agassi was still battling on the court. From the groovy long hair to the elegant short hair and to the shiny bald head, he had won eight Grand Slam titles, 60 finals titles and an Olympic gold medal in his 20-year career.
He is a legend, a legend that presents us a spirit that transcends the result of games, a real sportsmanship!
(This is a reprint from People's Daily Online, the most authoritative and influential online publication in China.)
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