I took up tennis in my early teens, around the same time Andre Agassi won his first Grand Slam. Now, I wouldn’t say that he was the cause for my interest in the game. After all, we didn’t have Astro then, and I’ve barely watched a tennis game.
Still, I do remember reading all these articles about the bad boy of tennis, with his long hair, colourful clothes and amazing skills. And I was mesmerised. In the battle between who is the greatest ever player – him or Pete Sampras – my loyalty remained with him.
Yesterday, I read an article about how Agassi will reveal in his autobiography due out soon that he had taken crystal meth and that he had lied to the ATP about his failed drug test, saying that he had taken a sip out of his assistant’s spiked drink.
Actually, the bad boy was being bad, at home, getting high.
Still, my loyalties remain with him.
I know, I know, it’s not terribly politcally correct of me. After all, shouldn’t we frown upon the use of illegal drugs?
I suppose we could take the moral highground and condemn him. This is a role model, someone millions of kids around the world look up to and one of our greatest atheletes of all time.
But no. Agassi’s legacy is not that he is (in my opinion that is) the greatest tennis player ever. Not is it his marriage to the beautiful Steffi Graf (or fatherhood to two children). Neither is it the many philantrophic endevours he is or was part of.
It was his life story, that against all the odds, we are our own individual and no one can take that away from us.
His relationship with his domineering father who pressured him into tennis is well documented (apparently, he talks about this too in his upcoming book). Then there was his failed marriage to Brooke Shields (and his misadventures around that time that caused him to drop massively in the rankings). And then there was his comeback – the biggest jump into the top 10 in ATP history).
All these, and more, are what makes Andre Agassi – the icon – real. In fact, one columnist has also credited the way he talks about that incident with crystal meth as being totally honest, and real.
Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Chase wrote:
It’s not that Agassi used illegal drugs or that he even lied about it, although combined those facts make for a fascinating tale. No, what was most surprising about this revelation was the frank, realistic way Agassi (and his ghostwriter) wrote of the experience.
Reports have already suggested (I’m not sure of ATP or international doping regulations) that Agassi himself cannot be formally taken to task due to the eight-year statute of limitations.
I guess with all incidents like this, there will be some people who thinks he should be taken to task, and then there are others like me who see the other good things and believe that one incident should destroy a legacy.
Andre Agassi was my hero. And he still is!
5.13pm Malaysian time (+8 GMT)