Our countdown of the greatest players of all time continues, with one of the most widely popular players to ever pick up a racket next on the list – the cultural icon that is Andre Agassi.
With fan popularity and legacy part of the criteria we are using to rank our all-time greats in this Tennis365 series, Agassi’s position in our elite list was always assured.
Aside from Roger Federer, there may never have been a tennis player who has had a wider fan base than the ‘Double A’, with his celebrity status transcending the sport long before he confirmed his place among the game’s all-time greats.
Only six players in the modern era have achieved the distinction of winning all four major titles and Agassi’s name sits proudly on that list, with his Olympic gold medal in 1996 and 17 ATP Masters 1000 wins confirming his status as a sporting giant overshadowed his status as a major international celebrity.
Agassi’s high profile relationships with singer Barbra Streisand, actress Brooke Shields and his marriage to fellow tennis great Steffi Graf provided the tabloid newspapers that followed his every move with plenty of material to fill their pages, yet it was on the court that those who love the game flocked were captivated by his brand of stunning passing shots and relentless energy.
Born: April 29th 1970 in Las Vegas, Nevada
Year turned pro: 1986
Grand Slam wins: 8
Australian Open: 1995, 2000, 2001, 2003
French Open: 1999
US Open: 1994, 1999
Davis Cup: 1990, 1992, 1995
Olympic Gold medal: 1996
Total tour wins: 60
Win/loss record: 870–274
The term ‘box office’ sat comfortably on Agassi’s stocky shoulders as his brand of rock and roll tennis saw him involved in some epic battles with his great rival Pete Sampras, while also later conceding that he fought with his own demons on the court throughout his career.
His love-hate relationship with tennis was highlighted in his remarkable autobiography ‘Open’, as he looked back on a positive drug test for crystal meth in 1997 and admitted he struggled to love the sport that he had devoted his life to.
Agassi’s recovery from his fall from grace following the failed drug test cemented his legacy, with a host of additional titles flowing at the back end of his career as he locked horns with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic as they started their journeys to the top of the game.
“I feel a lot better about tennis than I did back when I said in my book I hated the sport,” Agassi told Tennis365 last year. “My career was an evolution to get my own way and see tennis for what it was. It came at a huge cost until I was able to have some context. Now I’m grateful to have had my career, to talk about it and to reflect on what I achieved.”
Agassi’s legacy to tennis may now be consigned to the history books, but his contribution to society continues with with his Andrew Agassi Foundation for Education seeing him open up dozens of schools across America to help kids who may not otherwise attend top class school.
“What I put myself though is one thing, but the rewards it has brought others has been more important than the eight Grand Slam wins or the Olympic medals or anything else,” he added.
“Changing the lives of generations of kids who maybe have not had the kind of start in life they would have wanted is the greatest achievement of my life, without any question. This has been far more fulfilling that lifting a few people who watched me play tennis for a few hours or creating some kind of tennis legacy.
“When you have a chance to chance a child’s life for the better, you quickly get to a point where tennis means very little. This is so much bigger than Steffi and I would ever have imagined and we are very proud of it.”
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