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Friday, October 30, 2009

Rise, rise... Agassi

Andre Agassi has been my tennis hero all through my growing up years.
I can even say that I grew up with him. Following the tennis legend's actions, his success stories, his low phases and even his dalliances have always been my passion.
So, now, when the world of tennis, and sports in general, has been in the whirlwind focus post Agassi's shocking revelations, I thought that it is best to write my take on Agassi, here and now.

Agassi has always been the proverbial bad boy of tennis, at least for most of the commentators. He has been known for his colorful outfits, pop-star like hairstyle and flashy temperament, as much as his skills in the game of tennis.
Born in 1970, Agassi learnt the game of tennis at a young age and was egged on to compete by his domineering and ambitious dad. I would keenly follow Andre's career progress right from the days he turned a pro, way back in 1986. His charismatic service returns impressed me very much. A keen sense of anticipation on his part kept the game alive till the very end. And I would be hooked on to television, regardless of the fact that tennis wasn't exactly a popular sport among my peer group, and I lacked the knowledge of the game beyond the rudimentary. But there was something about Agassi, the player, the man..... it was magnetic, it was a magical charm.

I remember how ecstatic I would be when Agassi would win a match. When his powerful groundstrokes and deep angling would wear out his opponents, it felt so ecstatic.
In 2005, with the emergence of Roger Federer on the scene as the new tennis icon, I knew that Agassi faced more odds than ever. Agassi rolled his ankle in a racquetball accident & tore several ligaments and since then his fitness, that used to be the envy of all, took a major blow. Severe strain on the back, leg pain, and ankle injuries made Agassi stumble in many a match. Agassi announced his plans to retire following the US Open and I knew that watching tennis would not be the same for me.

Agassi had a short but dramatic run in his final US Open. Because of extreme back pain, Agassi was forced to receive anti-inflammatory injections after every match. I remember grimacing all the while as I saw him play in the second round. Agassi received an eight minute standing ovation from the crowd after the match, against Benjamin Becker, that he lost, and delivered a memorable retirement speech.
Since retirement, Agassi has been in the news for participating in a series of charity tournaments and for his work with his own charity, that focuses on the plight of the children who find themselves to be victims of war and persecution. In his personal life too he seemed to be having a near-perfect bliss after his marriage to Steffi Graf, yet another the tennis icon herself. Earlier, Agassi had a stormy two-year marriage with actress Brooke Shields, best known for films like 'The Blue Lagoon', 'Pretty Baby', and 'Endless Love'. But with Steffi, and their two kids, I could see Agassi as the lovable family man. They made a pretty picture - Agassi & Steffi and their kids - and I would smile contentedly, looking at the pics in the glossies.

But who knew that there was such a storm brewing in Andre's heart........!!!!
He had been battling his demons for long, and at last, he decided to come clean in his bare-all autobiography called "Open". The name befits the no-holds-barred account of Agassi's experiencing of drugs and other scandalous episodes that had been hidden from the world until now.

People might see it as an extension of the Devil-may-care attitude that Agassi has been known for even in his heydays, many are also crying out, "Shame! Shame!".....
However, I beg to differ....
I find such confessions on his part to be extremely brave and honest. Maye be all he seeks is comfort from baring all the ugliness from the past that had been casting its shadow even, and more so, upon his present state. His revelations, ranging from something as serious as having taken crystal meth, to something as bizarre as having used a hairpiece, might have outraged many, disgusted many more.... yet Agassi, to me is a true hero. I would just like to see a rise even in his supposed fall from the pedestal. Agassi has even admitted to having lied to the Association of Tennis Professionals when he was asked to explain a failed drugs test; this might lead to debates & repercussions. But Agassi knows that it is better to have come up with the candid confessions on his own than to wait for some jilted acquaintance to rake in the rewards with spilling of the beans. A true hero is one who goes the extra mile and battles the odds, and that includes battling one's inner demons for sure.
So, rise my hero, rise above all odds.


Satyaki said...

For someone like Agassi who has spent his entire life in the public glare, a confessional tell-tale autobiography should have easy.
But who could have imagined that the superstar of tennis had so much of cobwebs in his closet!!!!!
He has earned his fame as much for his shotmaking ability as for his irresistible charm. And that this stage in his life, he won't risk being shame-faced. Rather, rest assured, he would eventually bag the praise for his coming-clean attempt.
You are right in asserting that it is a fairer deal than having his dirty linen cleaned in the public by others!

Krishh said...

Gone are the days of Andre Agassi's heroics in the bright floodlights of Flushing Meadows, yet he still mangages to dazzle..... and how!
I was shocked & dismayed after reading the scandalous confessions like millions. But Andre has my vote too.... as a sporting persona of rare grit.
[Maybe I too am biased like you!;)]

saurabh said...

I have never been a fan of Agassi. Though I must admit that I admire his having been an impressive match-player in almost two decades. As Andre Agassi went from being the young rebel with glam-rock hair to the grand old man with a head as smooth as a clay court, he went on to become one of the greatest players in the game's history.
Throughout the 1990s, men's tennis was dominated by the back-and-forth rivalry of Agassi and Pete Sampras. While Agassi had his flashy clothes, stylish hair and bad-boy attitude to thrill his admirers, Sampras's steady & clean-cut power game impressed me. I was too young though to understand the nuances of the game.
Agassi won more than 850 singles matches, including 60 titles, 8 Grand Slams and an Olympic Gold Medal (Atlanta, 1996), and all this has ensured him a permanent place in the tennis hall of fame. He loves to speak his mind, given a chance; I remember his coming clean on his disapproval of his father's bullish coaxing in his early years to his shaving his head and making a sobered appearance in a tonsured avatar. His admitting in his autobiography, that he had used the drug crystal meth in 1997 and had lied to hide his use from tennis officials, wouldn't be so much damaging for his image. Rather, it is expected to do professional tennis some good.

abhishek said...

A timely post no doubt.
Agassi has had his reign under the sun for long.
So what, if he comes up with accounts of his shadowy past now!
I wish people were more forgiving. They probably would not have been so outraged if the sporting hero came up with tales of his having shamed himself, for example if he made candid confessions about sexual relationships (at point the tabloids even speculated about his being gay!). But in this case, it is the game of tennis to which shame has been brought, and hence many are crying hoarse.

Pratyush Mukhopadhyaya said...

When Agassi was rocking the field I was much young... I never Was a big fan of Agassi Cuz I was nt much fortunate enough to watch out his skills Yet your post stirred My conscience as such ..

I know he used crystal meth during his playing career.I don't know why people are surprised at this...this SO should be categorized under the "WELL, DUH!" file...

Watever He have the guts to confess which many of us dnt have may be not even I ... I Will always appreciate and stand by his side as a human being ....

Cheers for your BOLDNESS Agassi....

Arunima said...

A fabulous post!
Though I have never been a great fan of Agassi, he sure seems to be one of the most enigmatic persona in the sports field...

Abhijit Sengupta said...

Very well written post.

Controversies are part and parcel of every celebrities' life. The more famous you are, the more scadals will follow. Agassi has at least been honest in his confessions. It's not easy to bare it all in public, particularly when you have already attained the image of a 'Hero'. But Agassi had the balls to do it, hats off to him for that. I don't think the present hue and cry about his confessions in his autobiography can malign his cult status among his millions of fans.

Kanika said...

Nice post!

sajan said...

Watching the candid Agassi interview on VH1 last night really brought tears to my eyes. His plea to us all that we be compassionate to those who succumb to the lure of recreational drugs makes perfect sense to me, more so after reading your post!

Akshay G. said...

I used to be a big fan of Agassi when I watched the game of tennis as a kid, even without fully understanding it. Loved the write-up.