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Tennis Anecdotes: The inspiration behind the magnificent comeback of Andre Agassi in 1999


Andre Agassi
Andre Agassi

Sometimes, the greatest comebacks by any player in any sport require smaller moments of inspiration. This anecdote is about what inspired the tennis Andre Agassi during his toughest phase in 1997 and his miraculous comeback to the top of the tennis world in 1999.

If there is any player who has been outspoken and vocal about his attitude towards tennis, it has to be Andre Agassi. No one can explain the nuances of the game better than the former world number on.

Anyone who watched Agassi on court during his playing days, would see him as the rebel of the sport. He always tried doing things his peers didn't do and was bashed by sport writers all across the globe for his attitude. But, his antics on the tennis court was actually an escape route to survive.

In 1997, Agassi was continuing his losing streak in the Halle Open, losing in the first round to Todd Martin 4-6,4-6. His coach then, Brad Gilbert, told Agassi that he could do a lot better than this and decided to start from scratch. Agassi's ranking dropped to 141 in the world and he was almost written off by every tennis analyst.

He had already won three major titles - Wimbledon, US Open and the Australian Open - from 1990-1997. During these seven years, there were many downs in his personal as well as his professional life.

But in his autobiography Open, Agassi confessed that he had used crystal meth, which was a banned substance and was informed by one of the doctors from the circuit that he could be suspended for ingesting it.

All the fame and fortune he had earned till then was on the verge of being lost in a blink of an eye. During that time however, one incident changed the course of Agassi's tennis career. The inspiration came from the struggle of his personal trainer, Gil Reyes's daughter, Kacey Reyes, who was hospitalised from an accident.

Agassi after his French open triumph in 1999.
Agassi after his French open triumph in 1999.

Agassi was quick to understand that the hospital they were staying was uncomfortable for the little girl and relieving her pain instantly by giving her what she wanted gave Agassi the gratification he had been looking for. In his words,

"I find the thing I've been seeking, the philosopher's stone that unites all the experiences, good and bad, of the last few years. Her suffering, her resilient smile in the face of that suffering, my part in easing her suffering- this is the reason for everything. How many times must I be shown? This is why we are here. To fight through the pain, and when possible, to relieve the pain of others. So simple. So hard to see."

That can be considered as a moment of introspection for the eight-time major champion. He knew he was many things but at the same time, he knew that he could compete and as his coach Brad said, he still had the game to make it big.

Agassi with his personal fitness coach and Guru,Gil reyes
Agassi with his personal fitness coach and Guru,Gil reyes

The success didn't come easily though as it took a year for Agassi to regain his lost form with the 1999 French Open being his first major title in his comeback stint. He defeated Ukranian Andriy Medvedev (1-6, 2-6 ,6-4, 6-3, 6-4) in the finals and became the second player, after Rod Laver to complete a career Grand slam in the open era.

He also became the first men's singles player to complete a career super slam. A career super slam is winning all the four majors alongside the Olympics and the year end World Tour championships.

He won three more Australian Open titles in 2000 ,2001 and 2003, thus taking his majors count to eight.

Such an incredible comeback made the second half of his career better than the first half. Agassi's success was greatly and deeply influenced by the little girl (Kacey Reyes) who was the daughter of his personal trainer and a loyal friend Gil Reyes. Agassi even named his son Jaden Gil Agassi as a token of gratitude for what Gil has done to his fitness regime.

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