From neon hair to Zen mind – biography and lessons from the legend
Jim Courier once said that Andre Agassi has the best eyes and hands in the game. When they used to practice together with Michael Chang and Aaron Krickstein they sometimes had drills with targets to hit. Jim said that when it came to target hitting Andre was out of their league.
Andre Agassi joined the tour in 1986. These were the years of serious hard working players like Ivan Lendl, Stefan Edberg, Mats Wilander, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. Well maybe John and Jimmy were not that serious…
Andre was not a hard worker compared to Ivan Lendl or Mats Wilander. He often won the first set but then went on to lose in 3 or 5 sets. He was not physically or mentally fit to last that long.
He also used to play fantastic tennis where he blew everyone off the court, even the best, but he also lost many times in the first round because it just wasn't his good day. He was not ready to grind it out in a different way.
But as he matured and realized what he could accomplish he became better and better. Andre Agassi didn’t improve so much in his fantastic tennis strokes but in his fitness and his mental approach to the game. He also started to play a smarter and higher percentage tennis.
If we try to go through his career and look for special moments, it would take a whole website dedicated to that, so let's focus only on some of the most important events in his career and what we can learn from this legend (you can get a detailed description of his career at the atptennis.com website.)
Special moments and lessons
He continued his meteor rise in the next year when he reached his first Grand Slam final in Roland Garros. It was fantastic to watch him in the tournament where he faced all those experienced European clay courters and used his supreme talent with patience and fitness to show them that you can still win on clay with hard hitting precise shots.
But Agassi lost that final to Andres Gomez and another Grand Slam final 2 months later against Pete Sampras in the US Open. Andre reached Roland Garros finals again next year and lost to Jim Courier.
Andre Agassi lost his first 3 Grand Slam finals before winning Wimbledon in 1992.
What can you learn – Andre didn't allow the early setbacks to become his nightmare. Those were very painful lessons and he learned what he had to do to become the Grand Slam champion.
Andre Agassi also won the Davis Cup title with USA in 1990 and 1993. It was always a great honor for him to represent his country and he has some unbelievable records in Davis Cup competition.
He had to take a wrist surgery at the end of 1993 and lost so many ATP points that he started US Open in 1994 as unseeded. And yet with his tennis strokes that are ideal for this court surface he won the last 3 rounds without losing a set, beating Michael Stich in the final.
What you can learn – if you believe the numbers – like ATP ranking or seeding you won't get very far. It's important to believe in yourself without outside stories and numbers.
How does he deal with all those challenging situations?
The Mental Manual for Tennis Winners teaches you:
- how to concentrate and how to sustain it for an extended period of time
- how to calm down or psych up - control your emotions in a matter of seconds
- what to expect and how to have solutions to 29 mentally and emotionally challenging situations
Andre took a short break at 5:4, jumped from the chair and then pumped himself up loudly while waiting for Wayne to end the changeover. The crowd went nuts and they screamed from the top of their lungs for every point he won. He eventually won 7:5 in the third and went on to win the finals.
What can you learn – never give up, stay positive, control your body language and attitude. Andre was determined that if he was to lose that match he would lose as a fighter and as a proud American. That never happened…
Andre Agassi had a big personal and professional crisis in 1997 and his game fell apart. He plunged down to Nr. 141 in the rankings. This crisis woke him up and he obviously decided what he wanted from life. He set his priorities and made a massive change in his approach.
He first played two challenger events to regain his confidence. Can you imagine? Former Nr. 1 player in the world and 3 times Grand Slam winner playing challenger events. He actually lost one in the finals and won the second one.
What can you learn – if it happens that you lose your rankings or your game and want to get back, you need to start with small steps. You need to see reality as it is and first make small progress and build momentum which will later catapult you to greater success.
What can you learn – give everything you have, don't waste your talent, believe in yourself and only focus on what you want. Andre learned his lesson. He didn't give up or decided that those 3 Grand Slams and $ that he accumulated by then were the peak of his life.
He realized that he has only one life to live and that his purpose is not to be just some shooting star with short success and fall.
He found out much greater purpose inside of him and then everything started to come together for him. His greatest achievement came in 1999.
Andre fought his way to Roland Garros final where he played against Andrei Medvedev. In bad weather and windy conditions Medvedev found a better way of dealing with them. Andre was behind 1:6, 2:6 in an hour.
And then the change of his life began. He never stopped fighting and never abandoned his courageous style of play. It was as if the gods have respected his proud performance and changed the weather to a calm and warm sunny day. From then on it was all Andre Agassi. He won the title in the fifth set and became only the fifth man to win all four Grand Slam titles in his career.
What can you learn – never give up, believe in your game, play with courage and determination. Even when everything seems to be against you (he could have lost the third Roland Garros final) you have to persevere. Many great achievers have stated that their greatest success came just after their biggest defeat.
Andre continued his career with superb results but nevertheless lost some big matches. He reached Wimbledon SF in 2001 and lost to Patrick Rafter 8:6 in the fifth set after serving for the match at 5:4.
He lost to Lleyton Hewitt in the 2002 final of San Jose 7:6 in the third set after having 2 match points.
Andre Agassi also lost in arguably the best match of all times against Pete Sampras in the QF of US Open in 2001 by 7:6, 6:7, 6:7, 6:7.
What can you learn – even when you are a legend you are still human and cannot control the outcome of every tough match. Andre lost in deciding moments of important matches but that doesn't mean that he is mentally weak. It is the nature of sports.
When you accept that as a part of the game it frees you from creating limiting beliefs about yourself and what should and shouldn't happen.
Another interesting fact about Andre Agassi is that he has unbelievable statistics of matches won when he wins the first set. In 2002 he had a 46-1 match record when winning the first set.
What can you learn – there are many players who relax and lower their intensity after they have won the first set. A good opponent punishes that. Andre has learned his lessons and when he gets ahead he starts attacking even more, he believes in his shots even more and is almost impossible to stop.
He doesn't think about how to protect his lead. He wants MORE. He is focused on what he wants and the first set that he won gives him encouragement that he is on the right track. This gives him even more energy and determination. When ahead, remember Andre's head!
What can you learn – when you are given special talents – it was not just for you. When you learn to use them for the best interest of many people then you have finally found the right way.
Andre is now married to Steffi Graf – another outstanding champion – and has two kids.
Andre Agassi ended his career at the 2006 US Open where he lost in the third round. He is truly a legend and a role model for every young athlete and person that comes across his achievements.
Update: Andre Agassi has published his autobiography in 2009 and I've shared my thoughts on Agassi's "Open" autobiography on tennisthoughts.com blog.
How does Andre plan his matches?
How does he play against weaker and how against top level players?
What kind of tactics does he use?
How does he play on different court surfaces?
The Tennis Strategy Encyclopedia shows you a detailed statistical analysis of the Roger Federer – Andre Agassi US Open final in 2005 and what can you learn from their tactics.
You may have found this page searching for Andre Agasi - with one s only! - but the correct surname is Agassi!