Andre Agassi hurtles through the night and across the Nevada
desert looking for heat lightning. He is hunched over the wheel
of his Humvee, a vehicle designed for combat on rugged terrain.
Her name is Juanita, and she is not to be confused with his
Infiniti, Cynthia, or his white and black Porsches, Bridget and
Samantha, or his sleek little red Viper, Christina, or his
hulking Suburban, known simply as the Big Black Bitch. Of all of
Agassi's cars, Juanita is closest to his heart, because she is
the one most like him these days: a stripped-down all-weather
off-roader impervious to rocks and ruts.
Whenever a storm brews around his hometown of Las Vegas, Agassi
likes to haul Juanita to the red steppes and up the rocky dunes of
the Mojave Desert, where he parks under the black, sobbing clouds
and lets lightning burst all around him. It strikes the sand and
boulders while he huddles, thrilled, in Juanita's impenetrable
skin. How utterly Agassi: showy, silly and larger than life. ``My
problem is, I have a tendency to get sort of extreme in my efforts
to learn something,'' he says.
On this night there is no lightning, only rain, so Agassi
four-wheels over the dunes, spewing gravel and mud and talking
about his lost childhood and his new, adult self-possession. As he
describes his life, it sounds like a Vegas floor show, complete
with Bobby Berosini and his dancing orangutans, Sigfried and Roy
and a naked sleight-of-hand artist. But it includes one genuinely
acrobatic feat. Agassi, a guy who had no earthly reason to improve
himself -- too much money, too much attitude, too many scars --
somehow did. ``That's the most amazing part,'' he says, ``because
for a while it seemed like it would be impossible to ever turn
The hyped twerp with the hair that looked as if it had been poured
from a soda fountain has answered every critic and become a
24-year-old of substance and accomplishment. He is the reigning
U.S. and Australian Open tennis champion. He is threatening to
seize the No. 1 ranking from the most talented and disciplined
player in the world, Pete Sampras. Agassi recently signed a new
contract with Nike worth a projected $100 million over 10 years.
He is in love with actress and former model Brooke Shields. And
his old ponytail now sits in a vault.
On a cold night shortly before Christmas, Agassi sat in the
kitchen of Shields's midtown Manhattan brownstone. Over him,
holding a pair of scissors, stood Matt Slynn of the Oribe hair
salon at Elizabeth Arden. In attendance were Shields; Perry
Rogers, Agassi's manager and boyhood buddy; and Wendy Stewart,
Agassi's former sweetheart who remains a good friend. A bottle of
Cristal champagne sat on the counter. Agassi drained his glass
and, still not fortified, opened a bottle of Dom Perignon. Finally
he was ready. Slynn lifted the ponytail and cut it off in one
stroke. ``Oh, god, that feels weird,'' Agassi said.
As soon as he appeared without his peroxided mane, rumors began:
He did it for money. He did it because Nike wanted him to. He did
it as a publicity stunt. It wasn't a haircut. It was a Hair Event.
The real reason Agassi had his hair cut was simply this
(drumroll): He was losing it. ``It was thinning on top,'' he says,
shrugging. The Agassi who admits to such a thing is clearly a
changed man. As his father, Mike, says, ``When he got a haircut,
his mama knew her baby was gone.''
The haircut symbolized Agassi's most spectacular reinvention yet.
At the end of 1993 he was overweight, injured and, at No. 24 in
the world, out of contention. ``I honestly didn't think he would
ever really come all the way back,'' says his brother, Phillip.
``But he just decided he was either going to step up to bat or sit
his ass on the bench.'' Last March he hired a new coach, Brad
Gilbert, who is renowned for doing more with less. By the end of
1994 Agassi had beaten every player in the Top 10 during a
nine-month surge that lifted him to No. 2.
He is a new man, and he wants to be seen as such. He is about to
get rid of his Porsches. He no longer likes to be photographed
with his private plane, the 10-seat JetStar with the burning
tennis ball insignia on its tail. He no longer wears faded denim
shorts on the court.
Agassi's body also has a new shape; the former junk-food addict
has curbed his appetite. The belly that flopped over his shorts
has been replaced by a washboard. He can bench-press nearly 300
pounds, and it shows in the way his clothes hang on him. Before a
Grand Slam event Agassi now writes down a war plan, a physical and
mental schedule that he keeps. The player who used to be so easily
exhausted now gets stronger as tournaments wear on. No more do his
coaches and trainers have to cajole him into working out. ``He's
done every rep,'' says his personal bodybuilder, Gil Reyes.
But none of that has eliminated the suspicion that Agassi had a
commercial motive for his haircut, that this was merely another
show: Agassi Unplugged. It was a sign of how freighted his public
persona had become. He was seen less as a tennis player than as
the Wizard of Oz, a talking head with smoke for breath, surrounded
by image-making machinery.
Maybe it started with the slogan for Agassi's old Canon camera ad
campaign, ``Image Is Everything.'' Somewhere along the line, the
response to Agassi among serious sports fans became a sneer. ``I
think the public has never had any concept of who I am,'' he says.
``They see the cars and the plane, and if they don't try, they
stop there. It's scary to be defined and judged that way. When
that's the case, you just want to be seen for who you are.''
Jim Courier, who has known Agassi longer than any other player,
suggests that much of what was taken for artifice in Agassi was
actually vulnerability. Maybe the Vegas show master was just a
frightened waiter's son from a tract house who never knew what was
expected of him. ``He's really kind of puppyish,'' Courier says.
Courier remembers the first time he laid eyes on Agassi. It was at
a national 12-and-under tournament in San Diego. Agassi was a
skinny kid with floppy, soft brown hair in a bowl cut. Courier
watched Agassi as he left the grounds with his father when it was
all over. He saw Mike hurl Andre's third-place trophy in a
Long before there was Stefano Capriati, there was Emmanuel (Mike)
Agassi. ``Mike is consumed,'' says Rogers, who has known the
Agassis for 14 years. ``Andre is the vehicle through which he
satiates his desire to see tennis played the way he thinks it
The eldest Agassi child, Rita, has not spoken to her father for
years because of the trauma she says she suffered as the original
focus of his obsession with creating a tennis prodigy.
Nevertheless, she characterizes Mike as a brilliant coach and
dedicated father. ``My father is like a concentrated substance,''
Rita says. ``He's like a sober drunk.''
It's hard to believe that the small, Yoda-like man drinking coffee
in his kitchen is such a terror. Mike urges heaps of melon and
sweet rolls on his visitor, stares wistfully at the backyard
tennis court his son built for him and remarks that he would like
another small child to teach. As for his grown children, he smiles
wryly and says, ``When the big wolf gets old, all the little
wolves like to bite him.''
Mike deserves credit for shaping Andre into a champion, and he
made untold sacrifices to advance Andre's career on a Las Vegas
showroom captain's income. ``What we did,'' Mike says, ``was more
difficult than hitting the California lottery.'' But some of his
methods were right out of the manual for how to screw up a gifted
child. ``The real sacrifice,'' Mike admits, ``was Andre's
Mike learned tennis on a couple of dirt courts behind an American
mission church in Tehran, Iran. But he was a better boxer than
tennis player, and he fought for Iran in the 1948 and '52 Olympics
before emigrating to Chicago, where he took a job waiting tables
at the Ambassador Hotel. Depressed by the cold weather, Mike and
his wife, Betty, packed up and drove west, looking for someplace
where tennis could be played year-round. In Las Vegas, Mike found
jobs at Bally's and the MGM Grand, where he still works as a
casino host. Betty was employed by the state of Nevada as an alien
Mike would work until 3 a.m., grab a few hours of sleep and then
rise at seven to hector his children -- Rita and Phillip, then
later the much younger Tami and Andre -- through an hour of tennis
practice on the courts of the Frontier or the Tropicana before
school. After school there were another two or three hours of
practice. ``He was trying to drive his kids to a better life,''
Rita, 34, and Phillip, 32, bore the brunt of Mike's excesses and
experimentation. ``I was the guinea pig,'' Rita says. Mike taught
Rita savage two-fisted strokes on both sides, the kind Monica
Seles would display years later. He urged Andre to open his
stances and snap his wrist, creating the whiplike torque that
makes his forehand the rival of Sampras's serve as the truest,
most powerful blow in the game. Mike would have several ball
machines working at once, firing balls at the children while he
urged them to hit harder, hit faster. By Mike's count all the
children hit 7,000 to 8,000 balls a week -- except Andre, who hit
Worse punishment came in the form of Mike's lacerating harangues.
Anything less than reaching a tournament final was unacceptable.
If you lost, you got yelled at. If you won, sometimes you got
yelled at -- and don't talk back. ``I'd say, `Shut up,' to him,''
Rita says, ``and whack!''
Mike's idea was that if you hated losing enough, you wouldn't
lose. His strategy, however, had side effects. One day she came
off the court after losing a match in a national tournament and
vomited blood. By the time she was 13 Rita had bleeding ulcers.
Rita gave the game up for good when she was 19. After playing
some satellite tournaments and finally winning one in 1981, Rita
just put the racket down and walked away. She married Pancho
Gonzales, the tennis Hall of Famer, who is 32 years her senior.
They had a child and divorced. Rita now teaches tennis to
children in Las Vegas. Her sister, Tami, 25, played for Texas
A&M and now lives in Seattle, where she's a freelance sports
promoter and does some work with Agassi Enterprises. Phillip,
who played at UNLV, soon thereafter saw his chief role become
that of chaperone to Andre. Phillip does not comment on Mike
other than to say, ``It was tough on me, too, but I've resolved
my own ghosts and skeletons, and they're private. I've become
good friends with my dad.''
Andre was Mike's most willing -- not to mention most talented --
subject. When Andre was an infant, Mike hung a mobile with a
tennis ball over the crib. As soon as Andre could sit in a high
chair and grip a spoon, Mike stuck a Ping-Pong paddle in the boy's
fist and strung up a balloon for him to swing at. When Andre was
in a walker, Mike put a full-sized racket in his hand. Betty
Agassi had to remove all the objects from the counters after Andre
belted a salt shaker so hard he cracked a glass door. ``Andre had
the desire,'' Mike says. ``I don't know if the desire was just to
please his parents, but he had it.''
By the time Andre was three he could rally with his father. One of
Andre's earliest memories is of a crowd of 50-odd awestruck
spectators gathering at courtside at the Tropicana as he hit with
Bobby Riggs. ``I remember being watched,'' Andre says. ``And I
remember liking it.'' He signed his first autograph when he was
six, after hitting with Ilie Nastase.
When Andre was 13 Mike sent him to Nick Bollettieri's tennis
academy in Bradenton, Fla., which he had heard about from a 60
Minutes segment documenting the grueling competition there.
Bollettieri was cultivating a bumper crop of talented young
players, including Courier, Aaron Krickstein and David Wheaton.
``They were fighting like little sons of bitches all over the
outer courts,'' Bollettieri remembers. For Andre, life at the
academy was even more tennis-intensive than life with Mike. ``It
was a living hell,'' Andre says.
By the time he turned pro, in 1986 at the age of 16, Agassi was a
combination of talent, temperament and trembling insecurities: He
had monster strokes and minimal mental endurance. He made one
final in that first year and rose to the rank of No. 89, but the
next year, when he lost in the first round of a tournament in
Washington, D.C., he ran into a nearby park and tearfully gave his
rackets to two old men playing checkers, vowing to quit.
``I'd have one good year and fall to pieces the next,'' Agassi
says. In 1988 he was No. 3 in the world; in '89 the lights went
out, and he fell to No. 7. Sometimes he burned to win, and
sometimes he was burned out.
In 1990 Andre rose back to No. 4 and reached the French and U.S.
Open finals. In '91 he fell to No. 10, losing another French Open
final and finishing the season with a first-round U.S. Open loss,
followed by a fit of self-loathing. Rita tried to comfort him.
``Look,'' she said, ``this doesn't have to be a psychotic thing.''
Andre considered quitting again. He visited his best friend,
Rogers, at the University of Arizona law school. ``Do you like
tennis?'' Rogers asked.
``I don't know,'' Agassi replied.
He decided that the first step toward finding peace was
emancipation from Mike. When Mike pushed, Andre snarled, ``I've
had enough.'' When Mike offered suggestions, Andre snapped, ``Why
should I listen to you?'' Up to that point he had lived at home.
Two months after the 1991 Open loss, Andre moved into a house of
Eight months later, in July 1992, he won Wimbledon, defeating
Goran Ivanisevic in a gutsy five-set final that sent him home with
the grandest trophy of them all. Mike's reaction? ``He told me how
I lost the fourth set,'' Andre says.
``O.K.,'' Mike says, ``he took that the wrong way.'' Betty,
sitting at the kitchen table, gently chides her husband. ``He came
home looking for a pat on the back,'' she says.
Andre's career reached its low point in 1993 when, suffering from
painful scar tissue in his right wrist, he played only 14
tournaments and underwent surgery. He gained eight pounds, fell
out of the Top 20 then got a letter from Bollettieri, who had been
like another parent to Andre, severing their ties. It seemed that
both of his fathers had predicated their love on tennis victories.
``It was like gambling,'' Agassi says. ``It hurts more to lose
$100 than it feels good to win $100. I'd win, and it didn't feel
worth it. Certain things became the enemy. Like the game itself.''
Wounded physically and emotionally, Agassi decided to enter
psychotherapy while he was rehabilitating his wrist. He found a
therapist in Las Vegas and spent eight months digging through his
childhood, his tennis and his relationship with his father. In
therapy Agassi realized that when Mike pushed him it was Mike's
way of showing love. ``I came to terms with my tennis and my
childhood and my dad, and it just released me,'' he says. ``When
you finally get a little objectivity, you don't take it so
If Andre hasn't completely worked through the father-son
relationship, he has learned to work around it. When he saw the
movie Shadowlands, which is about English author C.S. Lewis's
emotional awakening, he was struck by the line, ``The pain then is
part of the hap piness now.'' So now Andre listens to Mike's
advice but doesn't strain so much for something his father can't
give. Andre says his effort to satisfy Mike has ``nev er been
enough, and it's always been enough.'' For his part, Mike has
learned that, to stay on good terms with his son, he has to stop
Asked if he is content with his son's career, Mike nods. Then he
adds, ``He's 24. He could be a senator by now.''
On the night of Jan. 30, during a performance of the Broadway
revival of Grease, the discerning listener may have heard
something odd as the cast launched into the spirited climax of the
theme song. These phrases drifted out over the audience:
``Rama-lama-lama beat Sampras. . . . Dip-de-dip-de-dip straight
In the basement of the Eugene O'Neill theater, between scene and
costume changes, members of the cast and crew gathered around a TV
set to watch the Australian Open final. Each time Shields, the
star of the show, came offstage, she stuck her head down the
stairwell and hissed, ``What's the score?''
When Agassi returned from Australia and his four-set victory over
Sampras, he rushed to New York to attend Grease for the
thirtysomethingth time. Agassi has spent so much time in Shields's
dressing room that he is practically a cast member. Shields throws
open the door of her small refrigerator to display rows of green
cans. ``I have Mountain Dew in here,'' she says, referring to
Agassi's favorite soft drink. ``What's happened to my life?''
It is intermission, and Shields is attempting to relax in a 1950s
prom dress with a wire bustier. From her collar Agassi plucks a
hairpin that is threatening to plummet into her cleavage. ``Thank
you, sweet,'' she says, and launches into a series of anecdotes
about the things that have fallen down her false front during her
four months in the show. ``The other actors are always spitting
their cough lozenges down there,'' she says.
Shields is what used to be known as a game girl. She may have been
a famous beauty since she began modeling as an 11-month-old, but
she delights in hurling herself from her pedestal. So she tells
stories about how she reached for a drink of water onstage and
swallowed hydrogen peroxide instead, nearly throwing up on the
audience. She has received positive reviews for her portrayal of
Rizzo, the libidinous, tough-talking leader of the Pink Ladies
social club, and without a doubt Shields understands how effective
it is for a stunning woman to go against type.
And she knows just how to handle a tough case like Mike Agassi.
When Andre took her home to meet his parents, the six-foot Shields
left the room for a moment and Andre, who's 5'11", asked proudly,
``Isn't she wonderful?''
``She's too tall,'' Mike said. ``She shouldn't wear heels.''
When Andre related this to his beloved, Shields carefully planned
a telling reply. It came when Andre took her to the tennis court
in the backyard for a lesson. She was doing fine, and then Mike
began to correct her strokes. ``Get under the ball,'' he told her.
``I can't,'' she shot back. ``I'm too tall.''
Shields, 29, and Agassi may be an unlikely couple, but they share
more than anyone suspects. She was raised by her ambitious,
charming and alcoholic stage mother, Teri, who doubled as her
manager. Above all, Shields and Agassi are survivors. Both have
failed and rebounded: While Agassi was losing three Grand Slam
finals, Shields's film career was floundering. They keep a wary if
giggling count of which relatives and friends are fair-weather,
which ones call with no hidden agenda and which ones ``come with a
`gimme' attached,'' as Shields puts it.
The show has ended, and Agassi lounges in the ghostly light of the
empty stage and waits for Shields to finish greeting her admirers
and signing autographs. ``I love performances,'' he says as he
gazes out over the theater. ``The thing I can learn from these
people is their professionalism. How to bring out the best when
maybe you don't feel like it's there. It's easy to perform when
you feel good.''
The autographing over, Shields and Agassi dash into a chauffeured
sedan and travel a few blocks to an Italian bistro, Becco, where
they order champagne; their schedules have been so hectic since he
returned from Australia that they haven't enjoyed a proper toast.
Then, over pumpkin ravioli and a bottle of Chianti, they narrate
the story of their romance. It is like dining with nuzzling deer.
They were set up by the wife of saxophonist Kenny G, a mutual
friend. After much cajoling by Mrs. G, Shields, bored while making
a film on location in Africa, faxed Agassi an introductory note.
It had a guarded, flippant tone, echoing her mood. Agassi replied
with a long, heartfelt letter about the importance of being
``Then she wrote back a novel,'' Agassi says.
``I was in Africa, O.K.?'' Shields says. ``I was motivated.''
Agassi and Shields are convinced that they fell in love via fax
during months of communicating without meeting face-to-face. When
he finally went to Los Angeles and took her to dinner in December
1993, both were instantly smitten. They sat in a restaurant until
it was ready to close. Agassi, as is his custom, kept his back to
the room to avoid being recognized, his hair a cascade over his
collar. ``Are you ladies enjoying your meal?'' the waitress
Shields describes the frame of mind she was in that night, and it
bears a remarkable similarity to Agassi's. ``I was tired of
images, of trying to be everything to everybody,'' she says. ``I
looked at him like I had nothing to lose. I was, like, `This is
it. If you don't like it, see ya.' ''
Agassi and Shields are contemplating marriage, although they have
no specific plans. Agassi's friends are betting something will
happen within the next two years. ``Brooke is not the only reason
I've come to terms with so many things, but she helps,'' Agassi
says. ``If you're raised in a strict home or a liberal one, by an
overbearing parent who pushes you or by an easy one, it doesn't
make you. It's how you deal with it. We've both decided we'd
rather be vulnerable than close ourselves off. That's the bond we
In Las Vegas he is not just Andre Agassi, he is Andre Agassi
Enterprises. He has a suite of offices in the U.S. Bank Building,
right next door to Merrill Lynch. He employs a staff that numbers
between 13 and 15 people at any given time. A big chunk of the
budget goes into his plane, which costs $740,000 annually to
operate. He bleeds money.
To be more cognizant of his business affairs, Agassi makes
periodic appearances in the office. He has given himself a yearly
allowance of $150,000, feeling that this will help him develop
responsibility. It is a rather modest sum given that he has made
more than $8 million in prize money and about twice that much in
endorsements. All this, plus his new $100 million deal, make his
wealth difficult to grasp. ``You comprehend it about as well as I
do,'' he says.
Among Agassi's business projects is an investment in a new
restaurant chain. Robert Earl, the founder of the Planet Hollywood
franchise, has asked to use Agassi's hair to help him, Wayne
Gretzky, Ken Griffey Jr., Joe Montana and Shaquille O'Neal launch
All Star Cafes. The ponytail will, along with other sports
memorabilia, decorate one of the restaurants, though it now sits
in a vault inside Planet Hollywood headquarters.
Beneath the corporate trappings, Agassi Enterprises is really a
group of Agassi's childhood cronies. The boss likes to say he
doesn't have employees, he has friends. He met Rich McKee, who
looks after his home and cars, when he took one of his Porsches to
a shop for engine work and detailing, which McKee did. Agassi's
trainer, Reyes, is a former strength coach at UNLV. Rogers, who
manages Agassi in partnership with International Management Group,
is the son of a TV executive and is the intellectual of the bunch,
having studied accounting at Georgetown as well as law at Arizona.
Together these friends are as happy throwing rocks at bottles in
the desert as they are drinking champagne. While in Paris for the
French Open two years ago, Rogers, Reyes and the Agassi brothers
spent most of their free time throwing water balloons from the
window of their apartment.
There is something affecting about Andre's need for, and largesse
with, his friends. ``You can't pay for dinner for the life of
you,'' says Gilbert. Agassi's allowance, for instance, is less
than Rogers's salary. ``Andre is loyal to the point where it costs
him dearly,'' Rogers says. ``He'd rather be loyal and pay the
price than watch his back.''
Agassi helped pay the tuition at American University for one of
Rogers's girlfriends. Once, when Agassi was at Bollettieri's, he
sold his tennis gear to buy Rogers a plane ticket to come visit
him. ``Andre needs closeness,'' Rita says. ``He's real sensitive,
which for some reason people have never understood.''
Then there are the cars. Agassi regularly buys cars for people he
likes -- Cadillacs for his father, a BMW for Rogers's graduation
from Georgetown, a red Eagle Talon sports car for Reyes's daughter
Kelly on her 16th birthday.
Andre's most elaborate gifts are houses. He built homes for his
parents and for Reyes and his family. In fact, Agassi purchased an
entire square block in a development on the outskirts of Las
Vegas, where the strip malls meet the dunes. In one quadrant of
the block sits his parents' white stucco two-story house; next to
it is Reyes's sprawling place. Behind the houses are two satellite
dishes, a tennis court and a health spa large enough to be
classified as a club. It includes a kitchen and custom weight
machines designed and patented by Reyes.
A mile down the road is Andre's home, the same one he moved into
at 21 when he broke with his father. It is a simple two-story
house with a tiled roof, indistinguishable from the others on the
block. It is not opulent, but it has its points -- a built-in soda
machine, a beer tap and a small swimming lagoon with a digitally
controlled sauna and mist machine.
Agassi does his own laundry, jamming wet clothes in the spinner
with a broomstick he keeps handy and using three sheets of Bounce
at a time to soften everything to his liking. It is his habit to
fall asleep on his couch in front of a movie. Sometimes he has
dreams about tennis, but they are as fuzzy as the sofa. ``They
aren't about winning and losing big things, just being out there
with a lot of electricity. Sometimes I win or lose, but I'm never
Agassi is still stripping away the last of his old pretenses in
favor of comfort and quality. He used to have a row of high-tech
video-game machines, but he has given those to Reyes's three
children. The kitchen is where the old toys-and-candy Agassi hangs
on. The refrigerator is wall-to-wall soda. Jars of Jolly Ranchers
and Starbursts are everywhere.
The bedroom is most expressive of the new Agassi. It is black and
muted, with down comforters and stacks of CDs; his taste is
mellow, George Winston, Nanci Griffith. Books such as I'm O.K. --
Or Am I? line a shelf. Agassi is unself-conscious about his
continual search for self- esteem. ``You'd be surprised at how
easy it is for me to be vulnerable these days,'' he says. ``It's
what my growth as a boyfriend, as a potential father, as a
potential husband, as a friend, as a son, all depends on. When you
grow, you find yourself so pleased by it that it's easy.''
The only obvious signs of his career are in the den, where three
small trophies sit beside the TV: his Wimbledon cup, the
Australian chalice and the U.S. Open trophy. Conspicuously absent
is a trophy from the tournament that represents a huge hurdle for
Agassi: the French Open. Should he win it in June, he would become
the first American since Don Budge (in 1938) to have won all four
Grand Slam titles. That surely would establish him as a man who
finally fulfilled his potential.
Gilbert believes Agassi should win six Grand Slam titles in the
next three years. ``He's out there for all the right reasons,''
Gilbert says. ``He's not out there for his dad or for Nick or the
show. He's out there to take something for himself.''
Whatever Agassi does next, it likely will be improbable. ``My
career seems full of things I should have done and didn't, and
things I shouldn't have done and did,'' he says. ``I've given
people what I felt. Sometimes it was professionalism, sometimes it
was showbiz, and sometimes it was downright bad attitude.''
As Agassi steers Juanita through the desert, there is one thing
that, for all of his wealth, stature and self-awareness, he does
not have at this moment. A phone.
Juanita points down a steep grade and suddenly shudders and groans
to a halt. Agassi works her gears without result. He hops out and
peers under her front grille, oblivious to the fact that all of
Juanita's tonnage is pointed straight downhill at his cropped
little head. He climbs back in. ``Um, you don't by any chance have
a cellular, do you?'' he asks.
True to form, Agassi has done the impossible. Surrounded by miles
of empty desert, he has driven Juanita over a four-foot pole
inexplicably sticking up from the Mojave gravel. Juanita is stuck.
``I don't believe this,'' he says. The lights of Las Vegas glow
four miles distant. Agassi reluctantly climbs out of the cab,
turns up his collar and hikes into the darkness.
But wait, this is Andre Agassi. So after just a hundred-yard hike,
he finds a guy napping in his truck before starting the late shift
at an all-night store. The guy wakes up to find one of the
world's most famous athletes tapping on his window, begging for a
The journey, however, is not over. During his times alone in Las
Vegas, Agassi is a restless nocturnal creature, a frequenter of
midnight features and all-night diners. But this night is young;
it's only 8 p.m. Agassi grabs the keys to his Infiniti and sets
out for dinner at a small but exquisite Italian joint in a Vegas
strip mall. As he relaxes from his desert trauma, he begins to
marvel at the odds against this night's particular misadventure.
Who else could take you on such a ride? ``Do you realize,'' he
asks, his voice rising with sudden delight, ``what you've been a
COLOR PHOTO:COVER PHOTOGRAPH BY JOHN RUSSELL/TEAM RUSSELL COVER PHOTO The New Andre Agassi
COLOR PHOTO: [Andre Agassi and Brooke Shields]FOUR COLOR PHOTOS:JOHN RUSSELL/TEAM RUSSELL (4) Boy wonder: Andre got a ride from Dad at three, a full-sized racket at five (with Mike, Rita and Phillip), a bead on the ball at 10 and a sense of off-court style, plus Bollettieri's eye, as a teen.[Mike Agassi carrying young Andre Agassi; Andre, Mike, Rita, and Phillip Agassi; young Andre Agassi playing tennis; AndreAgassi in shirt and tie] COLOR PHOTO:RED MORGAN (RIGHT)[see caption above--Nick Bollettieri and Andre Agassi]
COLOR PHOTO:ALEXANDER HASSENSTEIN/BONGARTS Agassi was all right in all-white at Wimbledon in '92, a colorful blur at the U.S. Open in '94, a pirate with pizzazz in Australia in January -- and a stylish winner at every stop.[Andre Agassi walking onto tennis court at Wimbeldon between two rows of people] COLOR PHOTO:LOU CAPOZZOLA [see caption above--Andre Agassi playing in the U.S. Open]
COLOR PHOTO:RUSS ADAMS [see caption above--Andre Agassi playing in Australian Open]
THREE COLOR PHOTOS:JOHN RUSSELL/TEAM RUSSELL (3)In Las Vegas, Agassi is well-stocked with the essentials: family, including Phillip (above); friends, including Reyes (right); and a fridge full of pop.[Andre and Phillip Agassi seated in doorway; Gil Reyes and Andre Agassi playing pool; view of interior of Andre Agassi's refrigerator]TWO COLOR PHOTOS:JOHN RUSSELL/TEAM RUSSELL (2)By land, Agassi has Juanita the Humvee among his fleet of wheeled exotica; by air, there's the JetStar, which costs Agassi $740,000 a year to operate. [Andre Agassi standing on the hood of his Humvee; Andre Agassi's private plane]