Sunday, June 25, 2006

Tennis champ Andre Agassi to retire

When Andre Agassi burst onto the tennis scene in 1987, the tennis world was still a largely conservative atmosphere whose clubs and upper ups tended to frown on anything and anyone different. While I respect the reverence of tradition, the tennis establishment waited way too long to reach out to the masses. In the style of Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi did just that.

I can't say that I was a big fan of Andre's. Once the money started rolling in, he became insolated from the real world by coaches, agents, and family and friends that told him how great he was every day, even when frankly he wasn't. Who will ever forget his tv ads for Cannon cameras, "Image is Everything?" And for too long, Andre didn't work very hard on building upon his given talent. It took him several years before he would fulfill his potential and become a regular grand slam champion. In short, he took the money and ran. But I love stories of redemption. And Andre's story is definitely one of those.

One thing to remember about Andre is that he's human too. Like the rest of us, he's had to go through several stages in his life. The difference for him is he had to do it publicly. And that's never an easy thing to do.

But to his credit, Andre worked hard, got fit, and re-energized his career and the game of tennis by becoming a solid rival for Pete Sampras in the mid 1990's. Not only that, but he also established a foundation for children's charities in his hometown of Las Vegas. Andre the "image" turned into Andre, champion and citizen of the world. Along with his wife, Steffi Graf, the guy is doing his part.

Andre has been battling injuries in his 30's - a time when tennis players become dinosaurs and give way to younger, stronger, faster players. However, Andre remains competitive and a fan favorite wherever he goes. But he has announced that he will be playing his final Wimbledon this summer. And he will retire following the US Open in September. If I had one wish for Andre, it would be one more glorious run on a world stage. He deserves to take a bow and allow us to show him our gratitude.

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