|08-07-2006, 08:48 AM||#1|
Hall Of Fame
Join Date: Feb 2006
Andre the Giant- Article
Andre the Giant
Aug. 6, 2006. 08:58 AM
Hair today. Gone tomorrow.
How trite. But as Andre Agassi prepares for retirement, also how true.
Agassi has been the face, and the hairstyle, of men's tennis for two decades. From mullet to buzz cut, he has been the long and short of a sport that rises and falls with the popularity of its stars.
Canadian tennis fans have watched Agassi grow up during his visits here over the years and hoped to bid farewell to the 36-year-old native of Las Vegas at the Rogers Cup this week. But Agassi, who will retire following the U.S. Open later this month, pulled out of the Toronto event on Friday after an embarrassing defeat in Washington last week to a player ranked 246th in the world. Agassi said earlier in the season he doesn't want to play when he's not competitive.
Agassi has always been about style, but it is underlying substance that has allowed him to endure:
He is one of only five men ever to win all four Grand Slam events (eight in total, plus seven runner-up finishes).
He has an Olympic gold medal from the Atlanta Games of 1996, plus a 30-6 record in Davis Cup play for the U.S.
His 60 titles (seventh most in the Open era) include three in 14 appearances at Canada's premier event — over Ivan Lendl in 1992, Jason Stoltenberg in 1994 and Pete Sampras in 1995. Last summer in Montreal he lost the final, beaten by Rafael Nadal.
Asked recently what advice he might have for himself if he was starting over again, Agassi replied with the sort of gentle good humour that has contributed to his immense popularity: "First, tell him to cut his hair. Then, laugh at him because he would have a long road ahead, but I would wish him well."
Ah, yes, the hair. It was '80s hair, the kind you'd find on stage with a glam rock band, not on the tennis court, which back then was still the preserve of mostly whites if not all whites. Agassi wore denim shorts over spandex, wildly colourful tops, crazy headbands, baseball caps (to hide the creeping baldness, it would turn out) and (egad!) black socks with his white or whatever shoes. He lived on a bowling-alley diet of cheeseburgers and Mountain Dew. But the girls and the grandmas and the advertisers loved him — he was a natural for the Canon Rebel camera ads that boasted: "Image is everything."
"He was very flamboyant and he cultivated that image, and the teenagers were really drawn to it," Jim Courier, a French and Australian Open champion, told reporters recently. "It was exciting to be around as another player; it was exciting to come to a tournament and have the kids screaming. That kind of energy is what you dream of playing in front of."
His long-time trainer Gil Reyes said last year of Agassi's transformation into consummate professional and family man: "Andre has chiselled away the things from his character he wished to get out of the picture. He had to prove his substance, and he has."
One of his children with Steffi Graf (herself a courts legend), 5-year-old Jaden Gil, is named in honour of the trainer. The Agassi-Graf doubles team has also produced a daughter, 3-year-old Jaz Elle. Spending more time with the family is another reason for the retirement timing. All kids, not just his own, seem to love him — one of those guys they take to instantly. It makes all kinds of sense that his major charitable work is with a school for underprivileged kids in Las Vegas.
Before Graf there was a match-made-in-Hollywood marriage to actress Brooke Shields. 'Way back when there was a dalliance, too, with a much older Barbara Streisand, who made the gossip as well as sports pages with observations like: "He plays like a Zen master out there."
His critics, and there were a few, said Agassi at times seemed to be on another planet if not another plane. Agassi was groomed from birth (shades of Tiger Woods) by an obsessive father, Mike, an ethnic Armenian who had himself competed in the Olympics, for Iran in boxing. But young Andre had to work for his success and bottomed out at least twice in his career.
`Arthur Ashe is at the peak as far as someone
transcending the game to make a difference in the world.
I think Andre is climbing up to join him on that Mount Rushmore.'
Former tennis pro Jim Courier
A pro when barely 16, a winner of $2 million (U.S.) after only 43 tournaments, his first Grand Slam final in the books in 1990 and his first win (Wimbledon) in 1992, Agassi seemed to have the tennis world by the rat-tail. But he was having growing pains and his confidence hit a low in 1993 and into '94, when he came back from a serious wrist injury and a severely beaten-up ego. Winning in Canada in 1994 would prove to be an important boost and a repeat in Montreal in '95 was, too. He was mobbed by tennis fans, especially younger ones, at that tournament. "When you take the time to be with them one-on-one or in a group like that ... a smile on their face is a great reward," he told the Toronto Star then. "It's different with adults. Adults get on your nerves."
Again in 1997, a year after his Olympic high and into his glittery marriage to Shields, Agassi lost focus, fitness and confidence and plunged to No. 141 in the rankings. A decade on and Agassi appears comfortable in his (slightly) wrinkled skin.
He finished the year ranked No. 1 only once, in 1999 (after rising from the depths, phoenix-like), winning both the French and U.S. Opens — an indication of the strength of competition through his career, spanning Connors, McEnroe, Lendl, Edberg, Becker, Sampras, Courier, Chang, Federer, et al. But only Jimmy Connors finished in the top 10 as many times as Agassi — 16.
His longer-term success has been based upon relentless training and a competitive drive that simply wears down opponents, combined with one of the best returns of service ever and an ability to not only play from the baseline but mostly from just within it, employing a deadly quick set-up.
Brad Gilbert recently asked Agassi to help him train Scottish up-and-comer Andy Murray. "He will be able to see how hard Andre still works at 36," said Gilbert. "He trains like an animal."
"He's aggressive, non-stop," Roger Federer said at Wimbledon this year. "That's his game. That you have to admire."
Last week in Washington, D.C., at a tournament he had won five times, Agassi was eliminated in the first round by qualifier Andrea Stoppini. Agassi broke his racquet in frustration while afterward Stoppini, 26 and ranked No. 246, said he'd first seen Agassi play on TV when he was a kid. "He had more hair then."
The hair, always the hair.
"He's done wonders for our sport right around the world," said Lleyton Hewitt shortly after Agassi announced his retirement plans at Wimbledon, where he lost to Nadal in the round of 32. "Out of anyone, Andre Agassi, everyone knows him around the world even if you're not a huge tennis fan."
Andy Roddick: "Andre's probably the biggest crossover star tennis has ever had."
That's saying a lot, putting him in the company of the likes of Arthur Ashe. But Courier has said Agassi's good works set him apart: "Arthur Ashe is at the peak as far as someone transcending the game to make a difference in the world. I think Andre is climbing up to join him on that Mount Rushmore."
Part of the appeal comes from Agassi's palpable openness, a willingness to look people in the eye and cameras in the lens. His aura is all-inclusive and when he delivers his trademark end-of-match bow and kisses it is hard not to feel it is just for you.
A man who has won more than $31 million (U.S.), he still has the common touch, qualities that emerged after his own struggles led to a rededication to the basics.
Not all athletes go out gracefully or on their own terms. Nothing would be better than one more win at Flushing Meadows. At the very least, he seems determined to leave while he is still a force.
"I'd rather people have that conversation — saying, `He shouldn't stop!' — than the alternative of playing through a time where it's as painful for everyone else as it is for me," Agassi said on one of the stops on the summer's farewell tour. "It's a good situation to be in if my game is meriting that sort of concern (prompting people to suggest he reconsider). I feel comfortable with my decision. ... The last 20 years on the tennis court has all been practice for me for tomorrow. I've spent a lifetime on the tennis court preparing myself for the next battle."
The abiding image of Agassi will have colour in it. Intense colour and penetrating looks. Early in his career he refused to play Wimbledon because he didn't want to wear the all whites. He didn't want to be a square peg in a round hole. But when he finally showed up, he wore white. They loved him and the feelings were mutual. All these years later, Agassi is establishment, the soft-spoken, been-there, done-that personification of an era of tennis that is ending.
"I'm not really worried about retirement," he has said of these final few weeks. "I don't know quite what to expect, but being bored is not on the list."
|08-07-2006, 09:00 AM||#2|
there is only one andre the giant, he was 7'4" and 500 pounds
all we are saying is give peace a chance.
|08-07-2006, 09:01 AM||#3|
Here are some of the great achievements that Andre the Giant reached in his life:
Competed in six WrestleManias, during which he defeated Big John Studd in a special body-slam match, won a 20 man Battle Royal and head lined with Hulk Hogan.
Performed for a crowd of 90,000 people at the Pontiac Silver Dome for WrestleMania III.
During his career, Andre defeated opponents such as Hulk Hogan, Big John Studd and Bret Hart.
Won Pro Wrestling Illustrated Achievement Awards for Match of the Year in 1981 and 1988, and Most Popular Wrestler in 1977 and 1982.
Held titles in the International Wrestling Alliance, National Wrestling Alliance and World Wrestling Federation.
Was featured in Sports Illustrated on December 21, 1981.
Is still considered one of the most popular wrestlers of all time.
Starred in the popular movie Princess Bride as "Fezzik," the gentle giant.
First wrestler inducted into the WWF's Hall of Fame in 1993.
One of the first wrestlers inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in Schenectady, New York.
all we are saying is give peace a chance.
|08-07-2006, 09:26 AM||#5|
Hall Of Fame
This guy can take him.
"With my right foot, I can knock off your face. With my left, I can kick your nose. With this (raises right hand), I can poke your eyes out. With this (raises left hand), I can break your neck. Take a good look at my face. I'm an oriental."
Prince O3 Hybrid Tour 18x20
Signum Poly Plasma Hextreme @ 60lbs
Member #4 of the TTW Prince Club
|08-07-2006, 12:55 PM||#7|
Hall Of Fame
Join Date: Jul 2006