Agassi: No regrets despite criticism

Updated: November 13, 2009, 2:45 AM ET
Reuters

NEW YORK -- Andre Agassi said he has no regrets about baring his life and his use of crystal meth in his recently published memoirs despite criticism from the tennis community, adding that his wife, Steffi Graf, was proud of him.

In "Open," Agassi describes loathing the tennis life he was pushed into by his father and reveals that a deep depression in 1997 led him to use the recreational drug. He lied to officials about using crystal meth after testing positive.

"I knew it wasn't going to be pleasant waters, but again nothing really worthwhile in life comes without great sacrifice," Agassi told Reuters in an interview Thursday after a book signing that drew nearly 500 people on a rainy day.

"How do you regret your life, how do you regret telling the truth? This is the only chance I have to communicate the power of my journey. That's why I called the book 'Open.' That's why it took me three years to write it. I want this thing to impact millions of people I've never met," he said.

The backlash to Agassi's book has been intense.

World No. 2 Rafael Nadal said cheats in tennis must be punished, Sergi Bruguera, who lost the 1996 Atlanta Olympic final to Agassi, said the gold medal should be forfeited. Former U.S. and Australian Open champion Marat Safin said Agassi should return any tainted prize money and titles.

The World Anti-Doping Agency said it wanted to investigate whether any charges could be brought against Agassi following his admission he lied about using crystal meth.

Agassi said he hurt himself, not the game, by turning to the drug after plunging to the depths of depression.

"I say I made a choice to hurt myself, destroy myself and during the year that I was involved with the horrifying drug, crystal meth, I didn't win anything, I didn't do anything, I pulled out of everything," he said. "As far as I'm concerned you can take that entire year and take it away."

Agassi, 39, said that while negative comments had gotten a lot of publicity, he had been moved by many messages of support.

"I got a lot of support, and I mean immediately," he said. "I had a lot of reactions -- phone calls and e-mails and texts ... saying 'I support you.'

"I was touched by Andy Roddick and Andy Murray, who not only reached out but were very public about how they felt at a time when it wasn't going to be a very popular side to take," he said.

Agassi, who made a choice at age 27 to make something of his tennis career and went on to great success, said he was not concerned about reaction from the tennis world.

He believes his message is farther-reaching.

"I feel like I've lived a life, had a second chance in life and I feel like my story has real power in people's lives, people I'll never meet," he said. "What this book will do for so many people will be a powerful thing."

Agassi, who has two children from his current marriage to Graf, said he had his own kids in mind when he took on the project.

"I wrote this book with them first and foremost on my mind," he said. "To not be scared to deal with the truth, but also understand that people make mistakes and it's not the mistakes that is the problem. The problem is what we do with it. Just to really understand how you can control your life, how you can choose your life, take ownership of your life.

"I was 27 years old is when I chose tennis. I was 140th in the world and been in a pretty dark time. I could've walked away but I chose it. I found myself starting to take ownership of my life. No matter where you find yourself, millions of people wake up in a life they find themselves in and there's actually some hope there," he said.

Agassi said his wife was a helpful partner in the project.

"She had a huge involvement," he said. "Just her support and the time it took me. Thousands of hours away from the family trying to do this the right way.

"She knew about everything going back to the fall of '99. That is when we fell in love and we didn't fall in love under false pretense. I had disclosed it all. So the stories in my life didn't surprise her, but the story of my life was quite powerful for her. When you see it in black and white, you understand yourself. When it was all said and done, she was proud," he said.