AP Photo/Seth Wenig
Andre has been in the news a lot this last week, and I have read all the articles and watched all the videos, and stayed glued to my chair (uncomfortable rattan because my new couch hasn't arrived yet) during all the matches, and cried during his farewell speech. And one of the things I've heard over and over again is sportscasters and pundits (including Bud Collins, whom I adore) basically saying the same thing--we didn't like him much when he showed up on the scene, he was a punk, he was self-centered, his game was erratic, but now he's fabulous, mature, a great tennis ambassador, a statesman, a humanitarian, a family man, etc.--what a change....
Well I love where Andre is now--most of us are better women and men at 36 than we are at 17--but I have to say I loved Andre when he was a teenager too. I saw him play in one of his first professional matches--at Stratton Mountain when he was 16 or 17. We (my then-husband, and our friends Bill, Katharine, Jeannie, Pat, John, and Wilma) all loved him--punk attitude, bleached hair, spangled shirt, grandstanding, and all. For a number of years thereafter we always looked forward to seeing him play--you never wanted to take a break at the food court during an Agassi match. I was an enormous fan always--during the high and low spots--saw him play at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta because someone (you know who you are) was generous enough to buy scalped tickets so we could get out of the court that had some unknown middle-Europeans playing doubles, and onto the court where Andre was playing. I have followed his play as the oldest guy playing top level tennis the last few years with the same breathless enthusiasm my younger son used to display for the Celtics when they were down by 15 points with 3 minutes to go--"all they need is five three-pointers!"
I will miss him tremendously--I don't think tennis will be the same game for me without him, even though I'm trying to transfer my tennis affections to James Blake. Unlike Pete Sampras, who basically said that after tennis he didn't want to do anything except stay home and play golf, I think Andre has a great future ahead of him, and will be better known in 20 or 30 years for what he's doing then than for his tennis career--if you can imagine that possibility.
So thank you for 20 great years of tennis, Andre. It's been my pleasure.