Andre Agassi is the only man to win tennis’ Career Grand Slam and ATP Tour World Championships, a feat Sports Illustrated dubbed a “Career Super Slam.”
A former World No. 1, Agassi is one of the greatest male players of all time. One of the sport’s most dominant players for a decade-and-a-half, Agassi appeared in 15 Grand Slam singles finals between 1990 and 2005, winning eight. One of five male players to achieve a Career Grand Slam [Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open] in the Open Era [post-1967], Agassi and Rafael Nadal are the only to have also captured an Olympic gold medal.
In a career that spanned two decades, Agassi won 60 career singles titles, going 870-274 [.76.05]. The Las Vegas native earned more than $30 million in career prize money, and over $ 25 million more in endorsements. Agassi helped revive the popularity of tennis during the 1990s. Sporting a rock star hairdo, sparkling earring and colorful shirts, Agassi cultivated a reputation as a “rebel.” The BBC called him “perhaps the biggest worldwide star in the sport’s history.”
Agassi achieved several “firsts” in his sport. The first male player of the Open Era to win four Australian Open titles, he was also the first to win all four Grand Slam tournaments on three surfaces [hardcourt, clay, grass]. Tennis’ Bad Boy was the first to capture the Career Golden Slam [all four majors plus Olympic gold], and is the last American male to win both the French and Australian Opens.
A 5’11” baseliner, Agassi was not an overpowering player. He relied on an accurate serve, and was perhaps the greatest service returner in tennis history. Agassi’s exceptional fitness and conditioning earned him the nickname The Punisher, as he would often wear opponents down and outwill them to victory.
Born in Las Vegas April 29, 1970, Andre Kirk Agassi is the youngest of four children born to an American mother and an Armenian father. His father, Mike, boxed for Iran in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics. Mike Agassi was an overbearing tennis nut. He hung a tennis ball above Andre’s crib, and bought young Andre his first racquet at two. Agassi built a court in the family’s backyard, insisting his children hit 3,000 balls a day, seven days a week.
When Andre was 13, his father sent him to Nick Bollettieri’s Tennis Academy in Florida. A child prodigy, he dropped out of high school in ninth grade and, by 16, had won five USTA national junior titles. Agassi turned pro two days after his 16th birthday. Within two years, he had risen to No. 3 in the world.
In his fifth season on Tour, the 20-year-old Agassi reached the finals of both the French and U.S. Opens. At 22, he beat Boris Becker and John McEnroe to win at Wimbledon and capture his first major. Abandoning his “image is everything” style, the blond-locked Agassi shaved his head for the 1995 season. He won his first Australian Open in January, then rose to World No. 1 for the first time in April – a ranking he held for 30 weeks until he was overtaken by Pete Sampras. Agassi enjoyed his best year in 1995, going 73-9 and helping the U.S. to a Davis Cup title for the third and final time in his career.
By 1997, Agassi’s career had gone into a tailspin. With a failing marriage and waning interest in tennis, he started using crystal meth. Two years removed from his Australian Open title, Agassi’s ranking had fallen to number 141 in the world.
Determined to return to form, Agassi quit drugs and embarked upon a rigorous conditioning program. He played in Challenger Series tournaments – the minor leagues of tennis. By 1998, had risen to World No. 6, the highest jump in tennis history. Agassi silenced his doubters for good when he regained the top ranking in the world in 1999, then enjoyed the most successful run of his career over the next four years. He captured his fourth and final Australian Open title in 1993, then reached the singles final at the 2005 U.S. Open, where he lost to Roger Federer in a historic clash of generations.
After a lifetime of competing at the highest levels of tennis, Agassi was riddled with injuries by the mid-2000s. A bad back, gimpy ankle and leg pain forced him to receive anti-inflammatory injections after every match. His final match came at the 2006 U.S. Open, where, after losing in the third round, Agassi received a four-minute standing ovation from the Flushing Meadows crowd then delivered a retirement speech.
Agassi and Sampras were the most successful players of the 1990s, with Sampras holding a 20-14 edge over his rival in head-to-head singles matches. Agassi fared much better over the other top players of his day. He was 15-7 versus Michael Chang, 10-4 against Boris Becker, and held a 10-5 advantage over Pat Rafter. In 20 professional seasons, Mr. Agassi finished the year ranked in the top ten 16 times, tying Jimmy Connors for the most in men’s tennis history.
Voted 1992 BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year, Agassi maintained a high-profile career. He dated Barbara Streisand – 28 years his senior — in the early 1990s, and was married to Brooke Shields from 1997 to 1999. In October 2001, Agassi married the great Steffi Graf, making Andre the second-best tennis player in his household.
In 2010, Sports Illustrated named Andre Agassi the seventh greatest male player of all time. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in July 2011.
Congratulations to Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, who yesterday celebrated their 17th wedding anniversary.