Almost two years after leaving the sport, tennis icon Andre Agassi has found new challenges as a father and businessman, and admits while he still loves the game, “I don’t feel like a tennis player anymore.” He tells Peter Bodo in an exclusive interview in the April issue of TENNIS Magazine, “When I dig out my racquets because I’ve donated a lesson for charity or something, I’ll look at them and say, ‘Wow, this is what I used to do for a living.’”
Although he did say he still watches a lot of tennis. “We don’t have the television on in the house unless we’re watching something specific, but during the Australian Open, I had it on all the time, tuned to Tennis Channel.”
Interviewed in an empty classroom of the eponymous College Preparatory Academy, the school he founded in Las Vegas to help disadvantaged children, Agassi talks in depth about his life after retirement, his children (with wife Steffi Graf), Roger Federer, drug testing and gambling in tennis as well as his latest sporting adventure — snowboarding.
Read more: Highlights from the article after the cut…
Jaden & Jaz — tennis champs? Asked about how he enjoys playing tennis with his kids, son Jaden, 6, and daughter, Jaz Elle, 4, Agassi told TENNIS Magazine, “Jaz has a longer attention span than Jaden. It’s funny, she looks more like me and acts more like Steffi. Jaden looks like Steff, but he acts more like me. It’s a handful, but that’s part of the fun. When it comes to tennis, I wouldn’t want to interfere or decide for them. I’d be reluctant to put them in an environment where I understood the road ahead and the pitfalls so intimately. That would remove my ability to enjoy and embrace their journey. That’s the root of the only hesitancy I have about tennis.”
Agassi the Dad: As far as being a “typical” parent, Agassi said, “The kids go to school in the neighborhood, so it doesn’t take long to get them there. Then I’ll go and work out and spend the day taking care of business. I often end up waiting in the carpool line at 3 o’clock with everyone else.”
Hitting the slopes: “When I retired, I thought, What is it I want to try after spending 32 years not being able to jump off a diving board because I might derail the game plan? Keeping myself healthy and free of injury was always an issue, even when I was doing everything right.” Agassi discovered the sport of snowboarding while in Tamarack (Agassi and Graf are partners in a condo-hotel at the Tamarack Resort in Central Idaho) with the kids. “I decided I would ski or snowboard, and snowboarding just looked like more fun.”
His notes on Roger: “When Fed hits the forehand up the line, that’s a shot that used to be a risk for me. And it’s an absolute meat-and-potatoes shot for him. That’s a function of the athlete, of his speed and positioning, and his equipment. What I haven’t figured out about Fed is how much of an anomaly he is… The question is, can you teach what Fed does? The only thing I know for sure is that he’s making the game better.”
In the booth at the U.S. Open (2007): “I love to talk about tennis… I also felt last year that I wanted to go back to the Open to pay my respects. The tournament and the fans there gave me so much over 20, 21 years that I felt like I had to go back. But commentary didn’t seem like a platform where you can really peel back the layers. There’s just not enough time to do that. I did enjoy the challenge of trying to get in what might be relevant under those constraints, and like most things, I didn’t feel like I did as well as I might have.”
Drugs and booze: “When it comes to drug testing, I’ll hold tennis up to any sport in the world.”
“I find myself focusing the most on what our sport is doing to make sure that if you’re cheating, you’ll get caught. And that’s where I take refuge. I believe our sport is on the leading edge, pioneering ways to hold players accountable.
Even when I was playing, I was drug tested one year something like 20 times, and I didn’t play as much as many others. If you cheat, it’s not a matter of if you get caught, but when you get caught.” As far as gambling is concerned, he said, “In my years playing, I never saw it or heard of it. And I would hate to see the actions of a few tarnish the sport. I support a zero-tolerance policy on this issue.”
Peter Bodo’s interview with Andre Agassi will appear in the April issue of TENNIS magazine.