Andre Agassi Interview US Open - September 3, 2006Posted on September 3, 2006
An interview with: ANDRE AGASSI
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Andre.
Q. What was the walk like as you left the court for the final time? Was it emotional?
ANDRE AGASSI: Was it emotional?
Q. What emotions were going through you?
ANDRE AGASSI: I don't know. I couldn't make sense of any of my emotions, to be quite honest.
Q. What are your feelings now?
ANDRE AGASSI: Still not terribly sure. You know, it just felt amazing out there. It felt amazing. Nothing I've ever experienced before. Overwhelmed was overwhelmed with how they embraced me at the end. You know, they saw me through my career. They've seen me through this, as well.
Q. When you walked off, did you get closure? Can you feel closure on the walk through the alley?
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, for sure.
Q. How was it compared to what you imagined?
ANDRE AGASSI: I tried not to imagine too much. I didn't know how much would be emotional, how much would be sort of disappointment or sadness or how much I would feel, in a sense, liberated. You know, I mean, I don't know. I wasn't sure what to anticipate.
I don't think it was sadness. It was a beautiful feeling combined with a real excitement for the future.
Q. Have you ever expected to lose against someone called B. Becker?
ANDRE AGASSI: I've lost to B. Becker before (smiling).
I was proud to shake anybody's hand today.
Q. As much as it's hard to separate this emotion from the actual tournament, can you go through the last couple of days and the physical pain you went through just to get ready for this match. Do you really think you could have got through this and come back again tomorrow had you won, physically?
ANDRE AGASSI: After my second round match against Baghdatis, that was the worst I've ever been. I just credit the doctors that I was able to get out there today. It's been such a day by day battle. It was such a telling sign the way I felt after my last match that I didn't expect a whole lot physically.
Sure enough, it was real early where I wasn't feeling so good. That all doesn't matter any more (smiling).
Q. What were the first things that Steffi said after the match and what did you say to her?
ANDRE AGASSI: Oh, I'll just take a pass on that one, sorry.
Q. Did you get a shot of antiinflammatories before the match today?
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah.
Q. What was it?
ANDRE AGASSI: You could ask the doctors to confirm. I don't remember the name. Torburol (phonetic). I don't know.
Q. I imagine you heard the comments your father had shared about wishing that you had announced your retirement after the Baghdatis match. I'm wondering if you wouldn't mind talking about why that wasn't the choice you made and if you've had a chance to talk with him about it.
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, because if I wanted to quit, I would have done that a long time ago. I didn't come here to quit.
Q. After all these comings and goings, this long journey, are you a man now that's at peace? Have you left everything out there?
ANDRE AGASSI: I've spent a lot of time over the last few months knowing that this would be the end, this tournament. I've had a lot of time to think about it from many perspectives.
I look at young guys who are talented who make us aware of life's endless cycle. I look at the life ahead of them, the journey ahead of them. It's so evenly balanced between me seeing how many great things they have to look forward to, at the same time how much I wouldn't do it again.
It feels like a balance that leaves me very clear and at peace.
Q. In what ways wouldn't you do it again?
ANDRE AGASSI: Because I did it (laughter). Because I did it.
Q. Are you at peace right now?
ANDRE AGASSI: I strive for that every day. I don't know how I'll be tomorrow, but right now I am.
Q. For 36 years you've known tennis. It's been your life every single day. Can you tell us what the new challenge will be in your new life?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I don't know. You know, I mean, it's hard to say specifically how things will play out. I can say that it's nice to sort of do things now without a sort of built in cost, whether that's time with the foundation or whether that's time out with your friends. It always comes with a cost. You're not doing something. You need to be resting. You need to be training. You need to be going somewhere. Everything you do has come with a sacrifice, it's come with a price tag, whether it's physical or mental. You've always had to be somewhere and be thinking about being somewhere else.
I look forward to being wherever I am.
Q. Everybody is aware of your great humanitarian efforts, your school. Can you step back and talk about why tennis as a sport is a great paradigm to the lessons you need to know in life, following rules, trying your best?
ANDRE AGASSI: You're out there alone. You're playing a sport that requires you to problem solve. It requires you to do it in a somewhat emotional state. It's a bit of life there. You learn to trust yourself and you learn to push yourself.
Q. You said before you weren't sure if it would feel more like sadness or liberation. Do you feel any sense of liberation that it's over? In those moments where you were sitting there in the chair, hearing everything, soaking in that moment, were you feeling more about this moment or were you kind of running through your career in your head at that moment?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I was sitting there realizing that I was saying good bye to everybody out there, and they were saying good bye to me. It's saying good bye. You know, it's a necessary evil.
But we were getting through it together. That felt amazing.
Q. Do you feel any sense of relief, liberation? Is it more sadness right now?
ANDRE AGASSI: Let me put it this way: I don't care how I feel physically (smiling). I haven't felt that before.
Q. You won half your Grand Slam titles in Australia. Can you talk about what that tournament did for your career? Would you have liked to have played it earlier on?
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I missed a lot of Wimbledons, but I missed more Australians. That turned out to be my most productive surface. So I would have I wish I would have played it more.
But, boy, every time I was down there, I felt so comfortable. The people there just make the whole journey worth it. You fly a long ways, but you're glad you did it.
Q. Close ties to an Australian. What has he done for your career?
ANDRE AGASSI: He's given me some Aussie ways of getting through some of the pains (smiling).
Q. Why was it so important for you to come here and compete at the high level, pay the price with the shots? You could have come in and obviously not taken the shots, maybe been out a round earlier. Why was it important for you to go out like this?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, this is sort of the last sort of window to the whole series of windows throughout my career. I just feel like the color on the last one can affect how you see the rest of them, you know. I didn't want it to be tainted with a lack of desire or preparation. I'd rather just be inside the lines.
Q. How much more happy are you knowing that it ended here in New York?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, that's what I planned on. I mean, it's for a very specific reason. This is the place that's given me the most over the years, have the most memories, that has touched me in a way that I haven't experienced anywhere else.
Q. Is it special for you that not only the fans give you this respect and love, but all the other players, your competitors, give you this enormous respect?
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, when I went into the locker room afterwards, they all were standing, applauding me. I tell you, you know, the greatest applause that any person will ever receive in their life is that which comes from their peers. It's not like we're a company who's working together to accomplish something. We're people that succeed, in some cases, at the demise of the other. To have them applaud you is the ultimate compliment.
Q. Were you startled, even disheartened, by his coming up with the big shot, the ace on the biggest points? Did you think, This is just not to be?
ANDRE AGASSI: It obviously wasn't to be. Nothing was very recognizable out there when it comes to the tennis side of it. I was struggling early on. Then he seemed to be playing patchy tennis, as well.
You know, he came up with the goods. I've seen it maybe about 400 times (smiling).
Q. How much pain were you in when you got on the court versus how much at the end? Can you talk about that extraordinary speech. Had you in your mind planned what you wanted to say to the fans?
ANDRE AGASSI: I went out there not feeling terrible pain, but sort of pretty still tight from everything that had transpired a few nights earlier. The pain came quickly. It can do that, and it did (snapping fingers). I know I was in trouble at that point. You immediately start cutting corners that you know are going to come back to sort of haunt you. Then you know it's going to gradually get worse, sometimes very quickly get worse.
Q. Then the speech?
ANDRE AGASSI: Listen, I think I've prepared for that speech for 21 years. I mean, it's just one of those you think about what you what you want to say, what really touches the things that are important to you.
There's a thousand things that were going through my mind.
Q. When you said in your speech that the fans have been an inspiration, have you sensed this has gone far beyond fans rooting for an athlete to a quality of love that's really unique?
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, that's what I said. You know, they've rooted for me not just on the court, but also through many, many low points of my life. They've pulled for me. In many cases, how they pulled for me on the court has helped me in life. In other cases, how they've pulled for me in life has helped me on the court. Over the years, it's been hard to separate the tennis from the relationships, you know.
They got me through a lot.
Q. You competed against many generations. How do you look back at these match ups against many champions?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I take pride in competing against so many great champions. It means a lot. It's been a great experience over the years. I don't know what to say, but it's pushed me to be better. You can play a great career and you're not guaranteed to play the best ever. I've hung around long enough to do that.
Q. Looking back at the whole career, can you name the three best things in your whole career, most memorable moments?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, French Open, my first win in Wimbledon, and probably winning here for the first time.
Q. What do you plan on doing for the remainder of your stay here? When will you be going back home?
ANDRE AGASSI: I don't know and I don't know (laughter). Who cares what I do, right? Doesn't matter.
Q. If this had been any other tournament, any other match, was there any chance you would have played today with the pain you were in?
ANDRE AGASSI: There would have been no chance I would have gotten through my first two. I don't think I could have gotten through those.
The way it was, no, I would have it's like this summer. I was playing pulled out of two events over the summer because I was literally thinking to myself, If I have this much left, I want to spend it here. I'm glad I did that because pulling out of two tournaments allowed me the chance to play two matches. I know it doesn't give me the great prospect of doing something spectacular in hindsight, but those two matches were worth a difficult year. I'm glad I did it.
Q. If a 16 year old tennis prodigy at the US Open asked you for some words of wisdom, what would you tell him?
ANDRE AGASSI: What would I tell him? Just use every day as an opportunity to get better, not just on the court.
Q. Your first title in Brazil, how important was that?
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, that paid a lot of bills (smiling). $90,000 prize check. That's all I was thinking about. God, I can play next year without worrying about a whole lot.
Q. Have you heard from the former people you played over the years who have retired? Have you heard from many over the past couple days?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, yeah, I see a lot of people here. I spend a lot of time with Jim Courier over the last few weeks. He came to Vegas. Yeah, you have friendships that transcend sort of the tournaments and all that, hear from people, absolutely.
Q. How are you going to explaining to your children what their daddy did?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, my first goal is to explain to them why I was crying. It was pretty upsetting to them to see me cry because I suppose they don't realize that dads do that.
Q. You think a lot about the points in the matches that you've played, you recall a lot of that. When you step away from this Open and the game, what will you remember the most about the Open? The Baghdatis match? Today saying good bye? What stands out?
ANDRE AGASSI: It will be that applause, the applause from the fans, the applause from my peers. That was the greatest memories I've ever had, memories I'll keep with me forever.
Q. How do you see your legacy to the sport of tennis? What would you like it to be?
ANDRE AGASSI: I don't have an objectivity on that. Like I've answered this before, you know, it's important for me to leave this game better off. I hope they're better off for having me, because it's me being much better off for having them. So that's my hope. I don't know what it is. Everybody needs to see it through their lens. You know, for me it's been about trying to give more than I take.
Q. Where is the future for your back? Are you going to need surgery? Will stopping the tennis take pressure off?
ANDRE AGASSI: I mean, if I'm not sort of trying to mix it up with 21 year olds and stuff like that, I'm okay. I mean, normal life. Once the nerve gets irritated, it's impossible to recover, while at the same time you're putting yourself through that sort of trauma.
Q. Will you need cortisone to recover from this?
ANDRE AGASSI: I don't know. I mean, I don't know. It's possible. I do have the option of surgery and clearing out the space so the nerve is less affected. Worst case scenario.
They've told me when the intensity of what I do drops, so will the ramifications. But, you know, if I can't be normal, if I can't have fun with the kids, do all the things that we all enjoy doing, then I'll have to assess it from there.
Q. What role has Steffi played in recent years for you?
ANDRE AGASSI: Overall, she's been the reason why I've been able to do this over the last six years. Certainly since we had children. She's given me a lot. When I met her, I think I went 27 1 in Grand Slam matches (smiling).
Q. Do you have a sense of why you've had such a rapport with the public? There's a lot of champions that have not developed that.
ANDRE AGASSI: No, I can't speak to their perception of things. But, you know, I mean, for me, I feel like I try to take it in. I mean, it's hard to overlook. Everybody out there in those seats has a story and a life. They're sharing it with you. Yeah, I've always found that pretty amazing.
Q. Are we going to see you at tennis tournaments in the future? How much are you going to be visible?
ANDRE AGASSI: Are you worried about that (smiling)?
Q. Different champions have chosen different paths regarding that. How close to tennis do you think you will stay?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I hope I can be involved in this game in a way that makes a difference to it. I mean, I'm not going to force that issue. At the same time, I'm going to be very receptive to how I can help the sport.
Me helping the sport, or trying to over the years, has not just been a function of me playing, it's been a function of me caring about it. I'll still care about it. I don't know how it's going to manifest itself.
I hope I get to see you guys more. Come to Vegas, track me down. One place or another, either here or there.
Q. Although you summarized very well your feelings in the last speech, what happened when you were at your seat and the Baghdatis match and today almost 23,000 voices were saying Let's go. What was the feeling for you?
ANDRE AGASSI: It's very unique. I've never seen that even in Davis Cup play really. To have them stand for a match point in my first match, I haven't seen that. Like today, as well. I haven't even seen that in Davis Cup.
It's amazing. It's overwhelming. I mean, I try to find more words to convey it. You know, at the end of the day, you just marvel at it and you thank God for it.
Q. Do you remember the 17 year old who wasn't really thinking about helping the sport back then?
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, unfortunately I'm forced to remember at times (smiling).
Q. What would you say to that 17 year old?
ANDRE AGASSI: I would say, I understand you a heck of a lot more than I want to be you (laughter).
Q. Do you ever step back and stop feeling humble and say, I'm really proud of myself, I've done a lot, I've attained a lot of goals?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I don't think my pride comes from the accomplishment. The pride comes from the striving, what's in front of you, how you're going to get through it, how you're going to connect to it, care about it. I take pride in that.
I take pride in people saying they're going my peers telling me they're going to miss me. I take pride in that. But I also aspire to live up to that.
You know, I can't sort of take too much stock in it because I feel like you miss out on what's happening right now. That's the good stuff.
Q. What do you think about this next wave of U.S. players? Repeated question, but a question that becomes more pronounced now that you're gone.
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, first of all, there's not a whole lot of room at the top right now. You know what I mean? Federer has made it slim pickins for everybody else. And then Nadal has cleaned up anything left over.
Whatever standard we're dealing with, it's a different ballgame when you're used to generations that are competing for Grand Slam titles. I'm afraid most of them are going to Spain and Switzerland for a little while. That's the difficult part coming off a few generations.
You know, Andy's gotten there before. Seems like he's playing well. You know, James still has I think his best stuff ahead of him. I got to believe we have things to look forward to. It's just going to be compared to a pretty rough standard.
Q. What did you say to Benjamin right after the match? Did you say something in German that you learned through Steffi?
ANDRE AGASSI: Nothing in German.
Q. What did you say to him?
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I congratulated him. He kicked my butt (smiling).
Q. Do you remember what he said to you? Can you imagine what it must have been like for him out there?
ANDRE AGASSI: I would need some time to look at it through his lens. I don't know what he said. I really don't. I don't know. I don't even know if I heard it, to be honest. But I felt, you know, it was my own sort of experience out there that was taking over at that point.
Q. Has this experience given you a greater appreciation for what Pete was able to accomplish here four years ago? Did you at any time in the last week allow yourself to entertain an ending like Pete had?
ANDRE AGASSI: Listen, what Pete did was incredible. We knew it then. We know it now. There's no question about that. At the same time you're talking about apples and oranges. It's one thing to win a title and then to decide, hey, that was great, I'm not playing any more. It's another thing to say, okay, this is it, that's my shot over there, and that's what I'm going to do for the next few months. It's apples and oranges.
But what Pete did is incredible. For me, it was never about winning and stopping, it was always about getting the most out of myself for as long as possible because I felt like there was a lot of benefit to the work I was putting in for not just my life and my experiences, but also for my foundation and also hopefully for the sport of tennis. Those became my motivations. That's an entirely different approach to winning and saying no more. It's just apples and orange.
But what he did was amazing. Any time to win here is amazing. To do it at 30 was incredible.
Q. During your speech, you said there were low points in your life. At one point you were ranked in the 140s. What was the source of motivation to make you come back? Seems like the fans attached themselves to you after that.
ANDRE AGASSI: My motivation was just wanting it to be on my terms. I didn't know I would be able to get back to the top. I knew that I would try to get the most out of myself every day from that day forward. That was my commitment.
That never stopped. That's probably something I take the most pride in.
Q. I don't know if you're going to take your kids out to hit tennis balls. When you look back at your father, such a young age, instilling this game into you, some way say in a very obsessive way, do you reflect back that as hard as it was you probably wouldn't be sitting here today if he hadn't?
ANDRE AGASSI: That's for sure. There's no question about it. What we've gone through, our moments of not seeing things eye to eye, it has been his journey and it has been my journey.
The pride I take in everything I've experienced has to do with what I've poured into it, not necessarily what that experience was. I mean, I think tennis is one vehicle. I think we can find excuses in life or we can find inspirations. I've always tried to find inspirations. I am thankful for my father giving me this game.
Q. Do you think it's going to feel strange to just wake up like a normal person and not have to do this? How are you going to fulfill? You've been so zoomed in on one thing, now the whole world is completely open to you.
ANDRE AGASSI: It's like you're talking dirty to me now. I like it (laughter).
Sorry, did that come out? Did I say that?
I hope it feels strange. I hope it feels really, really strange because that would reflect a lot of assumed responsibility, pressure and commitment that is no longer on my shoulders at least in the same nature. Yeah, I mean, I'm going to wake up tomorrow and start with not caring how I feel. That's going to feel great. And then I'm imagining for a long time, any time somebody asks me to do something, I'm going to go, Sure, why not.
Q. Can you address the transformation from a 17 year old with bleached long hair, maybe bratty kind of guy, to the guy you are today, the man who is a humanitarian, champion? To take it a step further, has tennis been a vehicle for you to reach the masses? Do you feel it's been your destiny?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I think there's been many things that I feel like I haven't asked for that I've had to carry and I've always benefited from. It's been a lot of both. There's been a lot of difficulty that has come with this journey and there's also been a lot of rewards, which as I've gotten older I've realized that most of us experience those things, just in different ways.
Who I was at 17 is most likely not far off how most of us were at 17, except I was just expressing it a little differently (smiling).
Q. Destiny, your destiny, the role you played?
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I don't I don't know. I don't know. I can't really see it that objectively. I wish I could.
Q. You seem quite happy that it's over now. Is that true?
ANDRE AGASSI: Yes, it is. You know, it's a transition. There's been a feeling, like I expressed, of a bit of sadness saying good bye. I mean, the part that makes this so good over the years is the fact that it will come to an end, the fact that there is an end and a good bye makes you really take in what you get to share and experience. The pain of the good bye really lifts the joy of the experience. I'm very much at peace with that.
Q. I know you just stopped, but have you given a thought about the senior tour at all?
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I actually think it starts tomorrow, right? They're playing. I might just yeah, we might have another press conference after (smiling).
No, I'm not quitting tennis, retiring, to immediately think about playing again. I'm going to be very shrewd and take some time.
Q. Your work with your academy, has that ever prompted you in going back to school yourself?
ANDRE AGASSI: No, no (smiling). Listen, I think everyone else should go to school (laughter).
It's about opportunities for children. For me, I feel like my opportunities, I've been blessed with so many of them and have them. I enjoy learning on different levels. I'm not sure I would particularly connect with the routine of sort of going back to school. It hasn't really ever crossed no, no (smiling).
Q. I know it's still a few weeks away, October 7th is a big night. Can you imagine this will be the most emotional moment of your retirement?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, listen, if I could leverage anything I'm going through here to make more money for the children, to bring them more opportunities, I'm open to ideas. If I can inspire people to give more as a result of anything, that's a good thing. That night is a huge night.
I think actually this will be the first event, because that's a perfect example of what I look forward to. In years past, I'm not playing in Europe because I'm doing this for the foundation. I'm not training, I'm not playing, but I'm doing something I really care about.
This year I'll get to just do what I care about without that sort of price tag with it. It will be great.
Q. Do you think it will be a bigger event as a result, though?
ANDRE AGASSI: I don't know. Last year we raised $10 million. A couple years ago $12.6 million. Those aren't easy numbers. I don't lose appreciation for how much money that is and what happens with those children's lives as a result of that money.
We're talking about millions of dollars that are going to get raised. I'm going to be thankful for each one.
Q. Over the years you talk a lot about inspiration. Have there been any scripture verses or quotes from people that you admire that you keep tucked in the back of your mind?
ANDRE AGASSI: You know, my mind grinds gears when I have to recall stuff like that. I'm not good at sort of memorizing and repeating.
Yeah, I'm inspired by a lot of different things that I see every day.
Q. Pete said after a couple of years of retirement he got really bored and started playing World Team Tennis. Does that seem crazy to you about being bored in retirement?
ANDRE AGASSI: I think it's an individual experience for sure. A career is individual to every given person, how you choose to go about it, and so is retirement. I can't speak to what his journey has been, how he's perceived his life through tennis or after.
If I'm bored, I feel like I've done a thousand things differently than I anticipate.
Q. Having been with Steffi when she was going through her transition into retirement, do you think you can take anything from that in your road now? She didn't embrace a lot of what's out here as you did.
ANDRE AGASSI: No, she did. Maybe you just didn't sort of see it or it wasn't communicated in the same way.
You know, the reason why I can't sort of learn a lot from her, I just have to sort of sit on the sideline and admire it, is because she's very resolved in everything she does. She treated retirement and that decision with such sort of grace and ease that it makes you marvel at her strength, her clarity.
I'm a completely different animal than that, you know. It's not so easy for me to trust myself.
Q. Looking at the number of media here, do you really want us to track you down?
ANDRE AGASSI: It depends if I liked you or not (smiling).
No, I would love to see all of you again.
Q. When you do leave these things over the years, as you walk down the corridor, do you think, What are these people about? Do you think about some of the questions you're asked. Do you have any memory of questions you were asked particularly?
ANDRE AGASSI: Oh, wow. Yeah, that's I never want to be prepared for a question. That's a question I wish I was prepared for. I wish I would have thought about that. I probably could have given you a whole list. My mind doesn't work well that way. I can't just kind of call on something.
I've had some shockers over the years, for sure, to say the least.
Q. Do you have any questions for us?
ANDRE AGASSI: Are you guys going to really miss me or are you just acting like that?