June 1992: My brother was unduly excited during that evening’s cricket. “Its Becker Agassi, Its Becker Agassi”, he kept chanting, much to my chagrin. I didn’t watch a single point that match. Either one losing would have broken my heart.
2 days later, I watched and rooted for the long haired “kid” on Doordarshan as he overcame booming serves and volleys from a left handed Croat to craft an epic victory in Wimbledon. I still remember the last game as Ivanisevic sent down two double faults in a row to go down 0-30.
Fast forward 1999: I read in the papaers that Andre Agassi was planning his comeback and practising heavily on clay courts. I scoffed. My admiration and support for this man had just vanished along with him over the years. And being a firm believer that the French Open is for Spaniards, I saw no chance for this now bald comeback “kid”, simply because the lord of that era, Pete Sampras himself never fancied his chances on clay. But what I saw was straight out of the fairy tales. An epic victory coming back 2 sets down, it was paralleled, if not bettered, by an equally epic comeback victory by Steffi Graf over the reigning champ Martina Hingis.
Fast forward 2006: At 36 years, Andre Agassi bid goodbye to the world of tennis. It would be an understatement to say that tennis will miss him. For many, he *was* tennis. He was the one who got people to queue up for tickets, to sit in front of the idiot box, to even follow the game. True, his contemporary and arch rival Pete Sampras may have won more grand slams, may have beaten him more often. But Pete was never Andre…he never exuded the same charisma… It might be because of his aura of invincibility. Agassi was more human and more close to the hearts, someone whom the crowds cried, laughed and suffered every cramp and niggle with. Believe me, 20 years is a long time in any sport. It’ll never be easy to think of a grand slam without this man.
To quote the man himself:
“Over the last 21 years, I have found you, and I will take you and the memory of you with me for the rest of my life.”
Some people just transcend such heights that a point is reached where the game feels honoured by their presence. Andre Agassi will always be one such.