If André Agassi is the record-holder for the number of victories in Miami with 6 titles, he’s also found, during the course of his life, the time to do many other things in vice city. Here’s the proof, in five anecdotes.
1/ « Anyway, it’s always love »
March 1995. Andre Agassi is facing Pete Sampras in the final of the Indian Wells Tournament. The Kid of Las Vegas is distracted. His father has to go through a heart operation in a few days. Incapable of focusing on the match, he’s defeated in three sets and rushes directly to the UCLA Medical Center, in Los Angeles. He finds Emmanuel, his father, lying down and strapped, with, on his side, medical devices of which long tubes are coming out, one directly shoved down his old man’s throat. « He watched you play, whispers his mother, present at her husband’s bedside. He watched you lose against Pete. » Andre apologizes. Emmanuel then indicates with a gesture that he wants to write. The nurses bring him a pad and a pen. He scribbles down a few words, and mimes a brushstroke. Like a painter, very delicately. His message ? Andre should have insisted on Sampras’ backstroke. « Yes, yes, the backstroke, answers the accused. I’ll attack on his backstroke next week, in Miami. And I’ll beat him. Don’t worry, dad. I will beat him. Take some rest, now. » The next week, Agassi crushes Sampras in the final in Key Biscane. In the winner’s own view : « My father is what he is, he will never change, and even if he can’t help it, he’s incapable of expressing the difference between loving and tennis. Anyway, it’s always love. »
2/ « I’d sell my soul to win »
In 1998, Andre Agassi has not yet been crowned with success under the Floridian sun. That year, he loses in the final against the Chilean Marcelo Rios. A painful defeat when we know that, just before the start of the competition, he was telling all the press members : « I’m going to Key Biscayne to win, I’d sell my soul to win. » To be true, desiring something with so much passion doesn’t really sound like him. In fact, that year, Agassi is also playing to raise funds and give his school, the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, a bit of visibility. The idea ? To facilitate the access to education for underprivileged kids from the Las Vegas suburbs. The defeat won’t change anything : the school still exists today. 1200 day students, all wearing a uniform corresponding with their academical year, occupying the buildings which Agassi, along with his friend and lifetime agent Perry Rodgers, practically built from scratch in the middle of the nineties. In his autobiography, he talks about this period using these terms : « After all these years, I’ve finally reached what I was aspiring to : to be able to play in the name of something bigger, but which I am linked to. »
3/ Agassi/Graf, the Miami couple
To celebrate their wedding in 2001, Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf notably decided to organize neither a reception, or a honeymoon. However, Miami would have been a perfect fit, as the two lovers have seemed to settle well there. During their careers, the lovebirds have respectively won the tournament six and five times. « Once again, I tease her saying that at last, I’ve done something better that her. But she has such a competitive side of her that I don’t push the joke too far », he says in his autobiography. Eleven titles, and two records : with 20 consecutive wins, the American has had the best overall run in the history of the event. His spouse holds the same record : 22 consecutive wins in Miami. Which makes her the joint record-holder along with Serena Williams. A couple on the same wavelength, to resume.
4/ « He looks like a mini-me »
We’re in April 2002 when Andre Agassi heads to Key Biscayne with Steffi Graf in his luggage, and, for the first time, their son Jaden. « I wish I’d win the tournament for my wife and our six-months old kid, but I’m not worried about losing, I don’t care about losing, thanks to them », he would later confess in his autobiography. One morning, as his wife heads out to have a look at a few shop and exercise, Andre is left alone with Jaden. A good opportunity to head to the bathroom to give him a refreshing haircut. The father takes the clippers, runs it through his son’s hair but get’s the hair clipper combe guide wrong. As a result, his son is left with a huge line of missing hair, just at the center of his tiny head, like a tennis court baseline. Trying to even it out, he trims the hair a little bit more. « My son finds himself balder than me. He looks like a mini-me ». The moment chosen by Steffi to step in, freeze, her eyes wide open, swear in German and finally…burst in laughter ! A hysterical family laughter pursues. A few days later, Agassi defeats Roger Federer in the final. A detail ? « I know this tournament will stay forever in my mind not for having beaten Federer, but for that fit of laughter. I wonder if the two are linked », he’ll wonder in his book. Before philosophizing about it : « It’s easier to feel free and supple, to be yourself after laughing with the ones you love. With or without hair. »
5/ A victory in 10 minutes
Out of Andre Agassi’s six wins in Miami, one of them was easier to get than the rest. In 1996, the American faces Goran Ivanisevic in the final. Who’s really unlucky. In the morning before the final, his neck doesn’t wake up at the same time as him. The Croatian has a stiff neck. Incapable of turning his head to his right, he tries his luck, but the pain is too strong. After 10 minutes of playing time, he resigns. Withdrawal. The spectators, ignoring the problem, boo him, out of frustration. It’s Agassi himself who, during the post-match ceremony, reveals to the world the injury Goran is suffering from. The booing then leaves place to the cheering.