Commentary

Paying tribute to Agassi's Hall induction

Updated: January 21, 2011, 7:34 AM ET
By Ravi Ubha | ESPN.com

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Love him or hate him, everyone had an opinion on Andre Agassi, whom officials said Friday would be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

The brash teenager with the flowing locks gave way to a maturing, balding humanitarian. Image wasn't everything, as it turned out.

He might have despised tennis growing up, but that failed to stop Agassi from becoming one of the game's all-time greats. He was one of tennis' best-ever returners, prospering as he took balls on the rise.

He ended up winning eight Grand Slam titles, resurrecting his career in his late 20s, and played a part in one of tennis' greatest rivalries with Pete Sampras.

Just to remind everyone he still had a bit of controversy in him, in his 2009 autobiography Agassi revealed that he had failed a drug test, taking crystal meth during a dark spell. He lied to the ATP regarding how it got into his system.

It was fitting that the Hall of Fame announcement came during the Australian Open, since Agassi won it four times. Wife Steffi Graf is already in the Hall, so it must be a happy household indeed.

ESPN.com discussed Agassi's selection with five tennis personalities. They were unanimous in their approval.

Darren Cahill, ESPN analyst and Agassi's former coach:

Andre spent over 20 years chasing the dreams of a young Las Vegas boy, all the while determined to change the lives of those children who dared to dream for a better life and real education.

He achieved all he set out to in the game, and sits in elite company with some of the all-time greats who have won all four major titles. He was one of the few athletes in any sport that had the ability to transcend the game. He could move a tennis story away from the sports pages and onto the front pages with something as simple as arriving at an event.

Patrick Rafter, two-time U.S. Open champion and former No. 1:

I'm a big fan of Andre's. I think it's great he's in. It was only going to be a matter of time. He took [tennis] to another level. Everyone knew Andre around the world, even if you didn't follow tennis. He just had that type of personality.

He might have gotten criticism for some of the stuff he did, but I look at it as him being a person and growing as a person.

Andy Roddick, 2003 U.S. Open champion and former No. 1:

He's definitely one of the biggest crossover stars we've had in this game. He was probably the most relatable superstar we've had, because of his pitfalls, then successes. There's a bunch of different stories there. But the kind of guy he ended up being I think is an overall success story.

Todd Martin, two-time Grand Slam finalist and former No. 4:

Andre has every right to be in the Hall. He was clearly the second-best player of our generation and by far the best ball-striker. Well before [new strings] came along, Andre could change direction of the ball with precision.

Andre, however, set himself apart mostly for his transformation. He changed his ways, his habits, his image and his playing style. Few can successfully change any of those facets of themselves. Once he disciplined himself, his level of play was much better and way more consistent.

Yevgeny Kafelnikov, two-time Grand Slam champion and former No. 1:

He was, and still is, a great character, and we're so fortunate to have him in the days when tennis was really struggling, in the early and late '90s. His style of play was unique.

We had so many battles everywhere. We played one year here in the final in 2000 and he beat me. I had my win at the French Open, back in 1995. It's nothing but good stuff I remember.

Ravi Ubha is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.