Andre Agassi: “Everybody’s strength is their weakness”
Having first picked up a tennis racket when he was just a toddler, Andre Agassi shot to global stardom with his first Grand Slam win at Wimbledon in 1992 at the age of just 22.
As former World No. 1, Olympic gold medalist, and 8 time Grand Slam champion it’s easy to see why he is considered by many to be one of the greatest tennis players of all time.
In 1994 Agassi founded the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education. Since then, over $180 million dollars has been raised to benefit the mission of transforming U.S. public education for underserved youth. His wife Steffi Graf, also a former world No. 1 and 22 time Grand Slam winner, set up the non-profit foundation, Children for Tomorrow in 1998 to implement and develop projects to support children who have been traumatised by war or other crises.
As if that wasn’t keeping him busy enough he is also Global Ambassador for Wimbledon 2018 sponsor Lavazza, purveyors of fine Italian coffee.
Espresso in hand, we sat down with him to find out who he thinks will win Wimbledon 2018, how he used to prepare for matches, and what life looks like post-tennis tournaments.
What was the most important lesson you learned playing Wimbledon?
Try not to read the papers the night before your match. That always helped my sensibilities.
These days with social media it must be difficult to avoid news, especially for younger players.
Yes, I wonder how much of a challenge it must be for them to have unnecessary value on the importance of it versus the context of it. I can imagine that would be a challenge.
What have you learnt to accept about yourself rather than fight against?
I think everybody’s strength is their weakness, so you start to recognise when that weakness is working against you. I think you can anticipate the by product of your downside.
I have a hard time relaxing. I have to be doing something. I have to be focused. My mind has to be engaged. I tend to be incapable of some guilt-free down time, I have to get proactive with goals and objectives. My biggest demon is if something in my schedule gets cancelled for some reason, I really don’t know what to do with myself! A lot of people know what they love and I kind of go ‘what do I do now?’ and so I try to be a little more accepting of it and in some cases proactive.
Do you get anxious?
I wouldn’t say it’s anxiety. It could creep to that depending on how long. But before I got there I’d probably go get a run in or go do something physical, something I’m in control of, something that makes me feel like I’m being productive.
So you’re not a binge watch Netflix kind of guy?
On an aeroplane I can binge watch because if I start to read then I’ll start to fall asleep. But not typically no.
What do you do to escape when things get too much?
Daily I have my own quiet time, it’s an important part of my day, an important part of my feeling centred.
Have you ever felt out of control, in a good or a bad way?
Surrendering is a lot harder than control. It’s hard to let go and let be, and trust. So, recognising that yesterday is gone, tomorrow’s a maybe, and that we’re here today is an ongoing commitment and in some ways is more of a challenge than others.
Serena has become vegan recently and Djokovic has cut out wheat after finding out he’s coeliac. Was diet as big a factor when you were playing as it is now?
For me it was about fuel and recovery. I never had any discriminations against food. We obviously know healthier choices than not but for me it was always about that preparation, the hydration, the eating, the recovery, the electrolytes, the water. So, it’s a huge part – a race car driver has to make sure his car runs, we’ve got to make sure our body works. Anything that makes that better is a good thing.
What were you eating around the time of matches?
The day of the match wasn’t when I was worried about food. It was more about being comfortable. Typically the day before I was always eating in preparation. It takes a while for your body to convert food into energy.
Do you enjoy food or is it just fuel?
What you like and what you choose are two different things. For me, I was big on variety and I was big on quantity. I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
Who do you think will be the next British player to break through?
Edmund [23-year-old British Davis Cup winner Kyle Edmund] has impressed me with his progression, his competitiveness, his skill and his fighting spirit. He’s doing you guys proud!
Is there anyone else you have your eye on for Wimbledon at the minute that you think can impress the most?
Besides the obvious, you’re hoping for health with Novak [Djokovic, seeded 12 for Wimbledon 2018 due to recent injury], for him to find his game and comfort and go from that to winning it in a hurry. You hope Nadal [No 2 seed] just settles into the tournament because he always gets better. There’d be nothing better for the game than to see him back competing for this title against Roger Federer [1 seed, reigning Wimbledon Champion]. You’ve got Marin Čilić [ No. 3 seed Croatian] that’s gone the distance before. Raonic [13 seed] has been there a couple of times so it’s going to be an interesting tournament.
What do you think it is about Roger Federer? What do you think his mentality must consist of in order to be such a winner?
The guy just has such a talent for the game in multiple ways. He’s creative on the tennis court and has the ability to execute that. When you have the ability to play the game in multiple ways you can bypass father time for a longtime, and you can bypass the variety of players that bring a certain one-dimensional quality to the game. He just has multiple options and he’s a champion who’s comfortable in his own skin. He’s incredibly efficient, doesn’t waste unnecessary energy and just seems to have it all.
What do you think about Serena’s mentality? She’s back on court after becoming a mother and showing no signs of having lost any edge.
It speaks to her competitiveness. She can win if she wants. Sooner or later in life you start to realise there’s more to life than tennis. You don’t have to but you get to go out on your own terms. Roger gets to decide how and when, so does she.
How likely is it that Serena will win? If the odds are in her favour do you think it will be her year again?
Her winning or not won’t be based on her seed, it’s going to be based on her finding her game and hopefully her body is in order. She’s proven she knows how to do it a lot so I’d never bet against her.
Finally, who would you put your money on to win?
I’m from Vegas so I stick with the odds. I’m going to go with 8 time champion, Roger Federer.
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