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14 Andre Agassi

IN THE final accounting of Andre Agassi's career, a mere record
book will be insufficient. He will require motion pictures. Scores
and results do not convey the shades of amber in his flowing hair, or
the effect on whole continents when he finally cut most of it off.
The aces and winners don't express the mesmerizing transformations,
from teen brat to marquee idol, from indolent fat boy to earnest
Agassi is always in motion, either on the way up or on the way
down. When he fails, he fails big (like when he lost to 61st-ranked
Thomas Enqvist in the first round of the '93 U.S. Open), and when he
wins, he wins big (as when, in 1992, he made Wimbledon his first
major tournament victory). Through it all he has been the most
compelling personality in his sport, the man who took tennis off the
sports pages and put it into the gossip columns. When he dated, he
went for Barbra Streisand; when he fell in love, it was with Brooke
Shields. (And when his girlfriends sat in his box at the All England
Club or the National Tennis Center, it stirred worldwide curiosity.)
When, to protect his privacy, he stopped flying on commercial
airlines, he didn't just charter a plane, he bought a 10-seat
Lockheed JetStar. And when he finally got a haircut, he didn't just
get a trim, he sent a razor up his head like a lawn mower.
His bad-boy behavior has been just as flamboyant. He used to stock
his plane with M&Ms and explain that a cheeseburger contained ''your
four basic food groups'' and was therefore an acceptable part of an
athlete's diet. There was the night he left the theater in London
''at halftime,'' and the time he called Philippe Chatrier, head of
the French Tennis Federation, ''a bozo.''
But for every vulgarity he has uttered, Agassi has offered a
gracious gesture. In the final of the 1994 Lipton Championships, he
would not let officials default his opponent, Pete Sampras, when
Sampras came down with the stomach flu on the morning of their match.
Rather, he asked that the match be delayed until Sampras had
recovered. When Agassi lost to Sampras, he did so without complaint.
Last year he established a nonprofit organization that encourages
young athletes to stay in school.
The quality of Agassi's tennis has seemed to rise and fall with
his mood and with his variable work ethic. Early on, he admits, his
''accomplishments did not live up to'' his wealth and popularity.
That single Wimbledon title seemed a small return on his gigantic
talent. ''I let certain years slip by,'' he says. But a turning point
came in 1993, when his career was threatened by tendinitis in his
right wrist, which resulted in surgery and caused him to miss much of
the season. During months of rehabilitation, Agassi contemplated the
ugly purplish scar that ran across his hand. When he returned to the
court, he was a more serious player. He went on a low-fat diet,
organized his ) finances and hired a workaholic coach in Brad
Only time will tell if Agassi has made his final transformation.
This current version is fit, tough and -- something altogether new
for him -- consistent. ''I have a commitment to persevere, no matter
what,'' he says. By the end of the 1994 season, Agassi had the year's
best record of any player against top-10 competition, had shot to No.
2 in the world and had won the U.S. Open. Finally, the performance
had matched the charisma.