Pete Sampras about Andre Agassi
He was the most difficult opponent for me in that great summer of 1995 and again showed himself to be such at the very end of his and my career – in the climax of the evening quarter-finals of the 2001 Open Championship. This match was the crown of our rivalry, and for me – our greatest, most stubborn battle.
My rivalry with Andre is described in great detail and comprehensively. At heart, I knew that it was he who prompted me to demonstrate my best qualities. Andre survived the ups and downs – this explains why we did not meet more often, especially in the finals of major tournaments. But of all my rivals, he was the standard of the highest standard. No one except him could play at that pace throughout the match, forcing me to give all the best.
Over the many years of our sports career, it was probably difficult to find people more dissimilar to each other than Andre and I – personally, in the style of the game, even in clothes. And we behaved in exactly the opposite way. Andre always wanted to emphasize his individuality and independence, while I, on the contrary, tried to hide my individuality, and I deliberately limited freedom. If Andre resembled Joe Fraser, then I am Mohammed Ali. But in principle, such personality types are quite common: Andre is a showman, and I am a hard worker. Wherever you dwell, you will always find such neighbors: I am a polite quiet man at one door, André, a restless tomboy, behind another.
And yet, despite the fact that we resembled the textbook Jekyll and Hyde, and those around us eagerly exaggerated our actual dissimilarity, some important things united us. The Gift inherent in both guided our affairs and life, setting tasks for us and offering opportunities to solve them. Both of us are first-generation Americans (Mike, father Andre, originally from Iran), we were champions, but at the same time as people from the side who invaded the sport, where Protestants of Anglo-Saxon origin set the tone for most of its history. This, however, never bothered me, because the “American dream” more than met the expectations of my family.
We were both young talents, and therefore grew under close supervision. It was easy to formulate a stereotypical view of us: Andre is a daring, indomitable daredevil, and I am a quiet, reserved, boring young man. Who has suffered more from this template? How much to know? But I’m sure of one thing: we were both stubborn, although each in his own way and with regard to different goals. Having flown up to the top, we cast quick, disturbing glances through the barrier separating us: one certainly wanted to know what the other was doing.
At the late stage of my career, I was not so sparingly demonstrating my emotions and more often attracted attention to my own person. But Andre, on the contrary, shaved his head. It was not just a spontaneous protest of a balding man (by the way, I also began to lose hair), but something like a message to the world – conscious or subconscious. Andre now sought to resemble an ascetic, to acquire a somewhat harsh appearance, more appropriate to his life in later years.
One thing was beyond doubt – Andre, at the time, brought a lot of expression to our sport, which needed it. He became the brightest star, but at the same time experienced a lot of inconvenience.
In general, in my opinion, while we were playing, we did everything possible so as not to let the situation get out of hand. We did not happen skirmishes in public. We competed with dignity, trying not to insult or humiliate the enemy. And even if sometimes one of us lost our nerves, in fact we treated each other quite well.
Throughout my acquaintance with Andre, I firmly believed in what many doubted (especially those who did not know him well). I was convinced that Andre was a sincere person. When we talked face to face, he always spoke openly and directly, and I could not help but respect him.
At the Davis Cup, I always felt confident when Andre was around. There, during training, he completely liberated himself and uttered joyful cries for any reason – just for fun. Apparently, he was pleased to excite everyone, create dramatic effects, inflate sheer nonsense to grandiose proportions. He was a bunch of emotions and loved to arouse emotions in others.
And it happened, we sat in the locker room, talked about all sorts of things, most often about sports – and this also pleased us. Andre was observant. He liked to compare different players, he was always interested in how others look at the problems that he was thinking about. Andre was an expert in strategy – a great virtue, given his manner of playing.
I had one more good reason to respect Andre – I knew what miracles he could do on the tennis court.