Andre Agassi returns to play tennis in Utah for the first time in 25 years Tuesday night
Vincent Yu, AP
SALT LAKE CITY — It’s been more than 25 years since he’s played here, but Andre Agassi will be back in Utah Tuesday night when the eight-time major champion competes in the PowerShares Series tennis circuit with three other former prominent pros.
Joining Agassi will be Jim Courier, James Blake and Mark Philippoussis in the mini-tournament at the University of Utah’s Huntsman Center at 7 p.m.
Agassi and Courier will play in one semifinal with Blake and Philippoussis meeting in the other. At 8:30 p.m. the two winners will meet in the finals. Each match is one set.
Courier is a former world No. 1 player who won four Grand Slam events, while the Australian Philippoussis made the Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals. Blake was one of the top American players over the past decade and he was the winner in last year’s event, beating John McEnroe in the finals.
Agassi remembers playing in Utah several times as a teenager because he was from Las Vegas and Utah was part of the five-state intermountain sectionals. He said he can’t remember his last match in Utah but said with a laugh, “It was not so long ago that I forgot the altitude.’’
The 44-year-old Agassi lives a comfortable life in Las Vegas with his wife, former tennis champion Stefi Graf and their two children, a 13-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter. Besides spending a lot of time with his family, Agassi spends a lot of time with his various business enterprises and his educational foundation that raises money for children. Agassi says: “I just wish there was more time in a day.’’
In his 2009 best-selling autobiography “Open’’, Agassi wrote about a childhood during which he was pushed into tennis by a demanding father and wrote about how much he resented that growing up, even to the point of hating the game.
Agassi said he learned from those childhood experiences and says neither of his children play tennis, (except for “messing around”) despite their strong tennis genes. However he did say that each of them have their passions — baseball for their son and hip-hop dance for their daughter.
He and his wife support their decisions.
“It’s all by their own doing,’’ Agassi said. “For us it’s all about raising these children right. We learn what they’re interested in and then hold them to their commitment and their own sets of goals and objectives and that’s where there’s a lot of teachable moments.’’
As for himself, Agassi says he plays tennis purely for enjoyment these days. The PowerShares circuit, which features a dozen tennis stars playing 12 events around the country from now until May, of which he’ll play in about half, works out just right for Agassi's schedule.
“This tour allows for tennis to remain a part of my life in a confined scope that’s achievable for me,’’ he said. “There’s no more downside with the stress of competing even though you want to do well in these events. You never lose sight of the fact it's just enjoyable moments for all of us, the crowd included, so as a result it really works well for all of my priorities.’’
Although he says the matches are fun and are supposed to be entertaining for tennis fans, he said his competitive spirit still kicks in once the ball is tossed up.
“You definitely get a rush of blood to do as well as you can,’’ he said. “You’re never pleased with how great you play, I never was when I played professionally, but you’re always tortured by where you’re not. So this is a stage of life where you accept certain limitations and as a result it frees you up to do things that you can do well a bit freer. I tend to enjoy this more than in the past.’’
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