Andre Agassi picked for tennis' hall

Updated: January 22, 2011, 8:50 AM ET
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS -- The sport that has given Andre Agassi everything is giving him something more.

The baseliner known for his aggressive returns and career Grand Slam announced Thursday that he will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, telling hundreds of students at a prep school he runs in Las Vegas that tennis has given him much more than eight major titles.

[+] EnlargeAndre Agassi
Icon SMIAndre Agassi had a pro career record of 870-274, with 60 total titles and $31.2 million earned in singles and doubles.

"Tennis has given me everything in my life," Agassi said. "It's given me my wife -- it's given me my life's work by allowing me the resources to build this school for you."

Agassi is married to Steffi Graf, who entered the Newport, R.I., hall in 2004. He will be inducted on July 9.

The 40-year-old Las Vegas native set a precedent off the court in terms of fame and endorsements and won his first major title in 1992 at Wimbledon -- where he beat Goran Ivanisevic in five sets.

He went on to win Australian Open titles in 1995, 2000, 2002 and 2003, U.S. Open titles in 1994 and 1999 and the French Open in 1999.

In 1995, Agassi spent 30 weeks as the world's No. 1 player, a ranking he lost when he fell to rival Pete Sampras in the U.S. Open final.

Agassi said Thursday that Sampras was the best player he faced most of his career, until he met Roger Federer.

"I just realized that he was going to be the giant of the game," Agassi said.

Agassi said his proudest moment on the court was winning the 1999 French Open to complete the career Grand Slam, because it came after he had fallen below the top 100 in rankings after knowing what it felt like to be No. 1.

He said he didn't really believe at the time that he could win the French Open and was intimidated after going down two sets to Russian Andrei Medvedev.

"I was so scared, my feet couldn't move," Agassi said. "Somehow, I put it all behind me."

The win made him the fifth man in history to complete a career Grand Slam. It also marked a comeback from a deep slump during which he was ranked as low as No. 141.

Agassi revealed in his 2009 book "Open" that he was depressed in 1997, when he was using crystal meth and failed a drug test. The result was thrown out, he said, after he lied by saying he took the drug unwittingly.

Agassi said in the book that when he got to Paris in 1999 the desire to win the French Open had been haunting him for 10 years.

"I can't bear the idea of obsessing about it for another 80," he said in the book. "If I don't win this thing right now, I'll never be happy, truly happy, again."

Agassi told The Associated Press on Thursday that he hoped his personal struggles and style showed people that tennis can be more than just a country club sport.

"I think a lot of us are searching for our identity and a lot of us are searching for ownership of our life," he said. "I think there was a connection that hopefully left people better off."

Agassi had a career record of 870-274 after turning professional in 1986, with 60 total titles and $31.2 million earned in singles and doubles.


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press