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BaseLineBash
01-28-2006, 06:04 PM
Agassi, rebel-turned-ambassador, is a star who makes a differenceBY DAVE HYDESouth Florida Sun-SentinelFORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Andre Agassi still sees big moments waiting out there for him. That's why he's still playing tennis. It's what keeps him committed.
It's part of why, at 36, off an ankle injury, when people keep asking when he'll act his age, he's coming for the first time to a fun, little tournament in Delray Beach next week. To find a big moment.
"Of course, for me, a big moment has come to mean so many different things," he said.
And then he's off talking not so much about playing in the U.S. Open final last year, but how showing up on the court can impact kids at his charter school in the inner city of Las Vegas. And how his boy, now 4, can see another angle to him than just dad.
"I see the way it is with my wife," Agassi says of Steffi Graf. "She was one of the best athletes in the world. (Jaden, 4) doesn't even realize that."
Bjorn Borg quit at 26. Ivan Lendl did at 34. Pete Sampras, who was Agassi's contemporary, stopped at 32.
Agassi is still going.
He's still growing, too, in his third decade in the public eye. He's still out there running with the kids and making as much sense with his words as anyone in sports. A big moment? Of course it's changed for him. He's changed. His world has.
"If we're talking about winning a Grand Slam, I'd need a few things to fall my way," he said. "But I consider so many other things big. For me, playing in front of a small group of people, in a tough match, working hard at 36 - I don't take those times for granted.
"I find myself getting to enjoy the icing on the cake quite often now. I'm at an age I can appreciate what these opportunities mean, and what I can do, and how many people benefit. There's a lot of wins out there for me, personally, regardless of the score."
One of the rewards of watching a player grow up, then age, is watching him or her become a better person. That's it. Just watching. Let's face it, what could Agassi or anyone else talk about at 17 with any sense of perspective? Hair?
Now he says how "I'd like to burn those pictures of me from back then" in the way lots of us would like to burn something from our teenage years. His life has undergone full rewrite that way. He has not just grown up. He's grown introspective.
He has gone full circle from rebel to statesman, from tennis brat to public icon, from heartthrob to a husband and father, as well as a tennis ambassador.
Sampras, for one, always needed a singular mindset to succeed in tennis. Agassi always went the other way. He kept trying on different thoughts at different ages until here, by now, he's a little bit of all of them. And a lot more interesting than most people in the spotlight.
Tiger Woods, at 30, offers little of himself beyond his swing. Michael Jordan never became much of a voice beyond the court.
Agassi can talk of the successes of his charter school, of 10 years of helping underprivileged kids, of how when "you see someone take ownership of their future it's the greatest feeling you can have."
He can talk of a resort he's building in the mountains of Idaho. "I'm looking forward to it as one of the greatest places of the world," he said.
Ultimately, he comes back to tennis, because it still defines him best. He missed the Australian Open because he wasn't ready. An ankle injury playing racquetball set him back. So Delray Beach will be his entry point into the season.
"The biggest question I have to answer at this point in my career is do I have game to compete with the rest of the world on a consistent basis," he said. "I still feel I can answer it, `Yes.' I still enjoy traveling the world and competing."
You don't need a record book to know Agassi. You don't need to know the eight Grand Slam titles, the 60 titles overall or the nearly $31 million in prize money. You just need to know he's 36 and not just still playing. He's still sure a big moment will find him every time out.

DRtenniS1112
01-28-2006, 06:31 PM
d.) all of the above...???