(AFP) – Jul 9, 2011
NEWPORT, Rhode Island — Eight-time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi reflected upon things he would have changed about his fabled career Saturday as he was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
The 41-year-old American legend and Fern "Peachy" Kellmeyer, a long-time WTA Tour contributor, joined the sporting shrine's stars, including Agassi's wife and "the women who still takes my breath away every day," Steffi Graf.
Agassi noted he was pushed into the sport at age five by his father but praised tennis for giving him the fame and fortune to start a school for needy youth, one where he helps children "win their own personal Grand Slams."
"They know already what it took me decades to find out: To shine in secret, and to give when there's no one applauding," Agassi said. "It's not to late to be inspired. It's not too late to change. It's not too late."
Agassi knows about comebacks, as his tennis career shows. He spent 101 weeks atop the rankings, then plunged to 141st in the world before working his way back to the top at age 33 for 12 weeks, becoming the oldest World No. 1.
"Rock bottom is an interesting place. I moved in and spent some time there," Agassi said. "Going from 141 back to No. 1 was not an accomplishment. It was the reflection of an accomplishment. It was a symptom of good choices."
One of those choices, Agassi said, was embracing tennis in the final act of a career that began with him as a long-haired rebel and angry young man but ended with him as a shaved-headed icon with a career Grand Slam.
"I didn't always live carefully. I didn't always pay tennis the respect it deserved," Agassi said. "I didn't know myself and I didn't realize that my troubles were of my own making."
Agassi, the 1996 Olympic men's singles champion, won 60 career titles in a 20-year career, including the 1995, 2000, 2002 and 2003 Australian Opens, the 1994 and 1999 US Opens, the 1992 Wimbledon and 1999 French Open crowns.
"I fell in love with tennis far too late in my life, but the reason I have everything I hold dear is because tennis has loved me back," Agassi said.
"If we're lucky in life, we get a few moments where we don't have to wonder if we made our parents proud. I want to thank tennis for giving me those moments."
Agassi, who played for Davis Cup-winning US teams in 1990 and 1992, turned professional at age 16 in 1986, won his first ATP crown the following year and retired in 2006 after a third-round loss at the US Open.
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