I walked into my first “Players Only” meeting at the 2006 US Open not really knowing what to expect. I was still struggling to accept the idea that I was actually a “player.” Even though I had been playing all year on the challenger tour, I guess I never really believed that I would become part of this group on the ATP Tour. I had only played three small tour events and was still starstruck by pretty much every interaction with any top player.
Earlier that summer at the LA Open, I was having elbow trouble and the ATP physiotherapist was working on me when Agassi walked in. I tried not to stare. Clay, the physio, asked him how he was doing and he said, “I’m so tight. I really need a stretch.” I immediately jumped off the table to let him get stretched out. I assumed that was the protocol and no one had told me otherwise. Surely Andre’s stiffness took priority. He sort of smiled as he looked at me and said, “Whoa, easy there buddy, I can wait until you’re done.”
The ATP had put together a video thanking Andre for his time on tour. As the video wound down, the players gave him a standing ovation. It was one of those moments that gives you goosebumps. I’m looking around the room at people like Federer, Hewitt, and Nadal, all of them standing to applaud Andre’s efforts. He moved forward to the center of the room. I wanted time to stand still. I felt like the twelve year old who had snuck into an R-rated movie. I shouldn’t be here right now.
Some players on tour have an aura and some don’t. When Roger walks into a locker room, it’s as though there’s a glow around him. Guys don’t stare, but they are very aware of his presence and they respect it. Andre had that. It was something about his shaved head, his pigeon-toed walk; it was almost as if he was a caricature of himself. Years later I actually played against him in a charity event, and that will be a story for another day.
Andre spoke for a few minutes. There was an inside joke or two, a couple thank you’s. I’m pretty sure he made some joke towards Andy Murray, who was a teenager at the time. I don’t remember every detail about what he said. l do remember his final words.
“Be kind to each other…and be kind to our sport.”
What is your favorite Agassi moment? Please share below.