Tuesday, 30 September 2014

'A HAIRCUT AND A FOREHAND'

If ever there was a famous quote in World Tennis it had to be the one from Czech Champion Ivan Lendl in 1987 when asked at a press conference what he thought of a young Andre Agassi.
 The Stratton Mountain Tournament in the US played in August of '87 saw the emergence of a 17 year old kid who wore denim tennis shorts and wore his hair rather long. The kid would go on to win every Grand Slam available and became the World's best player in 1995.
Andre Agassi entered Stratton Mountain as a player ranked 90 in a field of 64 players so naturally he had to receive a bit of a helping hand by the tournament committee, a Wild Card was granted.
 In the first round he faced American Luke Jensen , a player ranked number 415 but who could serve with both his left and right arms , now that's clever.
Andre struggled past Jensen in three sets then set up a second round meeting with '87 Wimbledon Champion, Aussie Pat Cash. On paper this match looked rather one sided however Agassi found a way to sneak past Cash in two breakers , people were starting to take notice.
The round of 16 saw Andre take out American Chip Hooper in three, then a quarter final win against countryman Joey Rive in straight had him up against World number 1 Ivan Lendl. Now this match was entertaining however I have only seen extended highlights of it , would love to watch the entire match one day.
This match saw Andre running around his backhand at any given opportunity to belt his already huge forehand back at Lendl who at times looked rather confused at the kid's ability. The big Czech eventually won the match in three sets , 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 but not before being given a huge fright by a skinny 17 year old with flash shorts.
The press conference after the match was one that produced this chapter's title as Lendl gave his opinion on the new kid on the block. Looking back I suppose Andre could've taken it as a compliment as it was rather obvious that Ivan rated the forehand highly, perhaps not so much the haircut.
A year earlier at the same tournament John McEnroe beat Andre at the quarter final stage in straight sets but paid him a huge compliment. Whilst I do not have the transcript in front of me he told a press conference that a winner by Agassi from his forehand was the hardest shot he had ever had hit against him. Fair endorsement for a 16 year old. 
Some people knock Agassi because he admitted taking drugs but they obviously haven't read all the detail.
 I don't remember the last time a recreational drug has been proven to enhance any sportsman's performance, Andre included. At the time that he tried it he stated he wasn't enjoying the game and his ranking had dropped. I believe everyone is entitled to a little 'time out'.
Andre Agassi didn't have to tell anyone yet he was big enough to admit he took something, I think that shows integrity........

“It's no accident, I think, that tennis uses the language of life. Advantage, service, fault, break, love, the basic elements of tennis are those of everyday existence, because every match is a life in miniature. Even the structure of tennis, the way the pieces fit inside one another like Russian nesting dolls, mimics the structure of our days. Points become games become sets become tournaments, and it's all so tightly connected that any point can become the turning point. It reminds me of the way seconds become minutes become hours, and any hour can be our finest. Or darkest. It's our choice.”
Andre Agassi, Open


CONNORS, AGASSI, SAMPRAS, A LACK OF LOVE
Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras  have one thing in common with each other, there is tension between them and Andre Agassi, for different reasons. As far as I know there is no tension between Sampras and Connors and these two are definitely not members of the Andre Agassi fan club. Here's why.
The tension between Andre and Jimmy started way back when a young Andre was apparently 'snubbed' by Jimmy when all the young fellow wanted was a friendly chat and as Andre put it in his book, 'some love'. Andre's father used to string Jimmy's rackets so there should've been a starting point for a conversation however it didn't really eventuate. Rather than me try to explain it have a read of the Agassi book , a great read and it explains it in detail. 
Andre Agassi had to wait possibly another 10 years until he got some pay back on Connors for the way he was apparently spoken to as a kid, a 1988 US Open Quarter Final. This match was no real classic but it gave the tennis public a glimpse of the talent of an 18 year old kid with long hair and a very big forehand.
 At the conclusion of the match in an interview Agassi apparently told reporters that he had a dream he would win the match 3, 3 and 3. A loss of just 9 games against a man who won 109 tournaments, a big ask. He actually won 6-2, 7-6, 6-1 so his prediction of a win with the loss of just 9 games proved to be correct, just around the wrong way, near enough.
Connors was rather peeved at the way Andre spoke of the dream as reporters relayed the Agassi prediction. 'Jimbo' was notorious for his 'Jimbo quotes' and this was his post match reaction to Agassi's comment. "I enjoy playing guys who could be my children. Maybe he's one of them. I spent a lot of time in Vegas".  
The 1989 US Open Quarter Final between these two was a different story, in fact Connors took the third set 6-0 and came back from 1-5 all the way to 4-5 in the fifth set to just lose in a thriller. In Agassi's book he writes about a comment he made to his brother in the crowd  "I'm going to take him to five sets and give him some pain". I suppose if you lose a set in around 20 minutes with 19 unforced errors then you have something planned.
Andre was not happy again with Connors when he had played his last match of his career against Benjamin Becker at the 2006 US Open in round 3. Connors did not applaud Agassi in the locker room as everyone else apparently did and Agassi felt offended.

He wrote words to that effect in his book. Connors said it wasn't his style to applaud other players . It seems that this was the case especially with Agassi, a long history that started some 25 years earlier.
As far as Agassi and Pistol Pete were concerned well this was all rather silly. The Hit For Haiti in 2010 was a charity event and a Mens doubles match between Federer and Sampras against Rafa and Andre was a ripper. Andre however thought Pete should loosen up a little as he felt he was taking it too seriously so he told him "You always have to go and get serious don't you Pete "? That brought on an impersonation of Andre by Pete so Andre returned the favour, then it got rather uncomfortable, worth a look on the net.
Sampras did however get his revenge against Andre , a 6-4, 7-5 victory in New York early in 2011. Usually though an exhibition match is a 'friendly' match, this one however wasn't as Pistol fired down ace after ace plus many non returnable serves that had Andre scrambling left, right and centre for. Andre was in no physical shape to belt them back as he so often used to.

A phone call to Pistol later that night did not go down too well as Andre asked Pete to 'lighten up' as it was only an exhibition match. This was a quote from Andre regarding the matter: "Pete certainly is more capable than me on the court these days and the quality of that entertainment was solely in his hands".
The following exhibition matches scheduled in Argentina did not take place, they in fact flew in replacement opponents, Mardy Fish and Marat Safin. Is the common denominator in all of this one man by the name of Andre or is it just me ? Three players, several incidents, yet one man's name keeps coming up.
Egotistical sport is tennis, always has been , always will be........






 


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