Great Tennis Comebacks: Andre Agassi

by Rodney J Smith - Date: 2009-11-04 - Word Count: 404 Share This!

Andre Agassi burst onto the professional tennis scene in 1986 as a precocious 16 year old who quickly established himself as a supremely talented, if somewhat rebellious individual. Who can forget his rockstar mane (which, it turns out was actually a wig) or the bright neon-and-denim outfits he used to turn up to play in? A lesser personality would not have gotten away with it, but his phenomenal talent, charm and charisma meant that ordinary rules did not apply to him.

By the end of 1988 he had already reached number 3 in the world rankings and earned over $2 million, and was a regular grand-slam semi-finalist, but he had to wait until 1992 for his first grand slam title - Wimbledon - which was a tremendous achievement for a baseline player at a time when serve-volley players still ruled the grass courts.

In spite of his talent and success however, Agassi was regarded as somewhat weak mentally, a player who could be beaten if you could hang in long enough against him. He wasn't prepared to graft as much as certain other less-talented players, relying rather on his natural ability to carry him through. This all began to change in 1994 when he teamed up with Brad Gilbert, perhaps the most cunning tactician of the modern tennis era. Gilbert worked with Andre to develop his tactical nous, which undoubtedly was a major factor in his longevity and later success.

But the pressure began to tell in 1997 when injuries and personal issues took their toll on Andre's game, and by the end of the year his ranking had slumped to 141 in the world, which for a player of his ability was almost unthinkable.

His comeback started in 1998 with Andre working hard on his conditioning and working his way back up the rankings by playing in Challenger Series tournaments. He won the French Open in 1999, the only grand slam to elude him up until then, and in so doing joined a very select group of players to have won all four grand slam singles titles during his career.

He carried on playing at the top level until 2006 when he was eventually forced to retire due to chronic injuries at the age of 36. By then he was very much the elder statesman of the game, having transformed himself from the unruly teenage sensation to a mature, tough competitor who was (and still is) a great tennis ambassador.

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