Andre Agassi celebrated yesterday his 37th birthday. In a 20-year career, the gold medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Games strongly marked the public and the history of tennis. Let’s look a little closer at the career of the man considered today as one of the darlings of tennis.
A leading tennis player
At three, Andre Agassi held his first racket! At 16, he turned professional. At 22, he won Wimbledon, his first major victory.
In 1996, aged 26, he represented the USA at the Atlanta Olympic Games. In the final, he faced Spain’s Sergi Bruguera. Despite a difficult tournament start and a delay of three hours due to rain, he took the title in record time: 77 minutes, with an irrefutable score of 6-2, 6-3, 6-1. He thus became Olympic champion, a title he considered the most important of his career. Indeed, he took over from his father, a former boxer who represented Iran at the London 1948 and Helsinki 1952 Games, thus introducing his son to the Olympic spirit.
At 36, after a defeat in the final of the US Open against Germany’s Benjamin Becker, the American put an end to his professional career.
Twenty years professional career, 60 victories in singles, one in doubles, three in the Davis Cup and an Olympic title make Andre Agassi a reference in the world of tennis like Australia’s Rod Laver and Sweden’s Björn Borg. What’s more, he is the only player to have won the four Grand Slam titles (Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and US Open) on four different surfaces.
An unforgettable smile
Enjoying brilliant success through dazzling comebacks, Andre Agassi left his imprint on the history of tennis. His good humour and the quality of his game made him an athlete with exemplary behaviour and spirit. It was above all his smile and emotions (he cried with joy after his victory at Roland Garros in 1999) which marked the other players, the general public and journalists forever.
The eventful history of tennis at the Olympic Games
Athens 1896: tennis was marked by an event which was at the very least original: John Boland won the men’s singles and doubles (with Friedrich Traun) even though he came to the Games as a simple spectator…
Paris 1900: women’s events were introduced; Britain’s Charlotte Cooper took the gold medal in women’s singles and mixed doubles (with team mate Reginald Doherty). She was the first woman to win an Olympic title in any sport.
Paris 1924: linked to numerous controversies around such problems as the border between amateurism and professionalism, tennis made its last appearance until the 1968 Games.
Mexico City 1968: tennis reappeared, but as a demonstration sport.
Seoul 1988: tennis once again featured on the Olympic programme. Since then, it has attracted a growing number of big players and supporters. Among the Olympic champions are Andre Agassi’s wife, Germany’s Steffi Graf, Boris Becker (Germany), Marc Rosset (Switzerland) and Lindsay Davenport (United States of America).
Atlanta 1996: the programme saw several modifications; for example, the matches in the elimination tournament of the men’s singles comprised three sets instead of five (except for the finals) and the tie-break was used in all sets with the exception of the third set and the finals.
Sydney 2000: “ranking points” were introduced for men.
Athens 2004: the last Olympic men's singles champion was Chile’s Nicolas Massu. Belgium's Justine Hénin is the women's Olympic title-holder.
Proflle: Learn more about Olympic tennis