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Fire & Ice

Posted by gauloises1 on December 3, 2009

I’ll admit to being intrigued by Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf’s relationship, but I thought this Vogue piece was a nice read:

English is not Steffi Graf’s first language, but on the subject of the first roses Andre Agassi ever sent her, words come easily. “I wondered where they came from. Each rose was stunning. You felt every petal had reached the perfect moment of its bloom.” Sitting a few feet away from her in the empty dining room of a private golf club near the home they share with their two children in Las Vegas, Agassi gets one of those goofily endearing “Isn’t my wife great?” smiles on his face. “There was something special about those roses,” he agrees.
His timing, on the other hand, was not so good. Agassi was married to someone else, and the man standing next to Graf as she unwrapped the bouquet in her Fisher Island hotel room off the Florida coast was her then boyfriend, a German race-car driver who was not happy to see his girlfriend of seven years receive flowers from another man. “I didn’t know what to think,” she says diplomatically.

“She thought I was a dog,” Agassi interjects. Albeit a dog with a plan. “When she called to thank me for the flowers, I was going to explain,” he says, referring to his imminent divorce from the actress Brooke Shields. Graf never called, but the flowers did the trick. “He definitely got into my head,” she says. […]

… when they first got together, the tennis world was shocked. Steffi Graf (she prefers Stefanie) and Andre Agassi? No way. If he was fire on the court, she was ice. Even though they played the same tournaments year after year, the two never really met, because organizers tended to schedule Graf’s matches in the morning and Agassi’s at night. The economics were simple—she would be done in an efficient 45 minutes, while he might go on all night. “They knew I would provide entertainment value,” he says. “It’s not that she didn’t use strategy. She was just such a better athlete. She had a gear that most women didn’t have. I didn’t have that luxury, so my opponents became more of an equation that I had to solve.” Agassi made tennis personal. When he was out there, battling for every last point, he hated his opponent with an intensity that had the crowd on the edge of its seat. Graf never saw tennis that way. “My challenge on the court was to push myself as hard as I could, to get to the next level,” she says. “That was more important than who I was playing against.”

[…] Coming together as a couple has moderated both of them. “I admire that he is open to emotions,” Graf says. “It helps us in our relationship. I think it makes me more comfortable opening up.” Agassi agrees. “When we met, the governor came off her engine and came on to mine.” The governor? “It’s a device on a car that keeps the engine from going too fast. She has always had one, and I didn’t. Now that the governor is on me, it’s a good thing.” Fans needn’t worry that their personalities have completely reversed. When the subject of Serena Williams’s unfortunate outburst at the recent U.S. Open arose, Graf’s response was as measured as you might expect: “As an athlete, it was hard to watch, but it was obviously a tough moment for her.” Agassi’s response, on the other hand, sounded like the governor was on vacation. “Utterly and completely out of line,” he fumed. (Never mind that he once called a linesman a cocksucker.)

[…] “I am surprised when people ask me about the ‘glamorous’ tennis life,” Graf says, “because it is really a demanding sport. You’re traveling twelve months a year, with no off-season. You have a coach and maybe a parent traveling with you, but there is limited opportunity for friends. It never stops. It’s not cruel”—Graf hesitates, searching for the right word—“but it’s excruciating.” Agassi agrees. “Emotionally, physically, mentally, it is so demanding. ‘Rest’ is the real example of what a grind it is. When you’re not playing, you have to just sit there and do nothing. You can’t go out in the sun; you can’t go out and do anything, because you are in training. I used to think I was moody, but then, after I retired, I realized, I’m not moody. It’s tennis that’s moody.”

Yeah … memoirs, meth and all, I still have a crush on them.

3 Responses to “Fire & Ice”

  1. Bismarck said

    good insightful (and even funny) read. have to admit i kinda love grafassi.

  2. Jess said

    I love them too, despite the OPEN sh*t.

  3. jewell - Make tea, not war. said

    Love them. 🙂 And I agree that they’ve given something to each other, which tends to have got a bit lost in all the Open controversy.

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