After more than 20 years in the tennis spotlight, Andre Agassi, now the U.S.’s grand ambassador for the sport, has announced that he will retire after this year’s US Open. The New York stage is a fitting place for Agassi to take his final professional bow; the Open is America’s — and the world’s — biggest tournament, and Agassi was twice a winner on the hard courts at Flushing Meadows.
But it’s about more than just winning. Agassi has come to define grace, hard work, class, and the spirit of giving back. (Since 1994, his Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation has raised more than $60 million to provide recreational and educational opportunities for at-risk children.)
Sure, in his early years, as a big-haired teenager, Agassi cared little for convention or for the sport’s governing structures. But we all watched him grow, and not only transform himself, but also the game as a whole. And while it’s hard to quantify how the presence of big-name pros influence the recreational game, we somehow know that Agassi’s giant impact has helped make more people aware of the sport, and brought more players to the courts.
This past May, I was fortunate to meet Agassi at a HEAD Penn event in Las Vegas, where he and his wife, Steffi Graf, introduced the new Metallix and Airflow racquets. I asked him if, after he retires from the pro game, he will somehow stay involved in the sport, whether through any of the tennis organizations or other means. His response: “I certainly hope to. This game has given me so many opportunities.”
It was encouraging to hear. There are plenty of great people involved in this sport, but there’s always room for more. And who could be better at promoting tennis, spreading its benefits, and getting more people to play, than someone of Agassi’s stature. And it’s all for the right reasons, too.
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About the Author
Peter Francesconi is editorial director of RSI magazine.