EXCLUSIVE: Andre Agassi on Novak Djokovic and the future of US tennis
In part two of our exclusive interview with Andre Agassi, the eight-time Grand Slam winner gives his thoughts on Novak Djokovic, the future of US tennis and comparing the women’s game to the men’s game.
Tennis365: What are your thoughts on Novak Djokovic now you’re coaching him?
Agassi: “He is intense about everything, including relaxing! He takes everything very seriously. Even when he chills out, he is determined to make the most of that time.
“What surprises me most is his intellectual capacity off the court and how little he thinks on the court. You see him off the court and he thinks through everything, but on the court he tends to feel his way through matches.
“I analysed a lot on the tennis court and felt my way through life off the court. He is the exact opposite. The guy is really smart and it shocks you how much he remembers and the details.
“If he is looking for information, he reads, studies and takes so much in. It has been fun getting to know him and working out what makes him tick and to help him on his objectives.
“Some players find it hard to get back to the top when they have had a dip in form, but in Novak’s case, I think he can get back there. He is aged 30, but his body is still in the condition of a 25-year-old.
“The first thing you look at when you reach that stage of your career is the physical conditioning and maybe whether you have to make life easier on yourself when you reach the back end of your career.
“He needs to find a few new solutions, it’s as simple as that. Tennis is a mix of mind, body and heart and there is a balance. You have to make sure more is going in than coming out.
“For a time, he was just so intense about what he was accomplishing, his goals and objectives. At some point, you are going to run into trouble sooner rather than later. Emotionally, physically, you will eventually pay the price.
“I think he is off that plane where he put himself under so much pressure and he is on an upward trajectory again and I think there are things for him to add to his game. He needs to think about it and that is what he is doing at the moment.
“His speed and range of motion with his body is amazing. His joints don’t look the same as other people.
“When he is getting ready, and he is very particular on his rituals before a match, you look at him and he is doing things the other guys just can’t do. You look at how other guys prepare and they are not even athletes compared to this guy.
“I see him lying on a table and clapping his elbows behind his head with his face down on a bench. When your body holds up and has that kind of speed and range, it puts you ahead of the rest.”
Tennis365: What are your thoughts on the future of US tennis?
Andre Agassi: “We have heard a lot about the lack of star names coming through in US tennis, but these things go in cycles.
“I look at the success countries like Spain and Sweden have had a different stages in recent years and sometimes it’s not just down to what the federation are doing or coaching set-ups.
“We are coming off some pretty interesting generations in American tennis. The bar was set pretty high by the guys for a couple of decades, but I see some real talent out there and I think we are getting a little smarter in learning how to bridge the gap between the new kids coming through and the guys that have been around for a few years.
“The trouble for America is that we are a big country and the expectation is always huge.
“At this moment, I see a situation in America where we have the advantage of volume of players and numbers playing the game compared to other countries, but we don’t have the focused ability to develop the best talent.
“This is a global sport and I appreciate that America is important for any industry, but this sport of ours is growing at a rapid pace without American stars at the top of the men’s game.
“That said, it would be nice to have a little more interest from the American audience.”
Tennis365: How do you think the women’s game compares to the men’s game?
Agassi: “We are not talking about human rights issues here, we are just talking about physical capabilities. You can’t say who would do what against who until you get out there and show it and clearly there is a big strength advantage for men.
“Everything above the shoulder is a heck of a lot easier for men than women.
“It is the same reason why women don’t fight the men in UFC, it’s a debate you don’t need to have. I don’t see a point in getting too hung up on that issue.”
Tennis365: What do you think about five-set matches for the women’s game?
Agassi: “Women can accomplish whatever they want. Of course they could play five sets, it would bring in another element to the women’s game.
“It would be a lot more challenging for them and Grand Slams would look very different. Women would have to prepare differently and the game would change dramatically. They don’t need to play three out of five sets to prove anything to me.”
By Kevin Palmer
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