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Sunday 22 September 2019

'We are very happy' - Andre Agassi reveals the secret to his 17-year marriage with Steffi Graf

Andre Agassi and his wife Steffi Graf Photo: Twitter/ @AndreAgassi
Andre Agassi and his wife Steffi Graf Photo: Twitter/ @AndreAgassi
Andre Agassi kisses wife Steffi Graf at Wimbledon
Steffi Graf and husband Andre Agassi
Andre Agassi. Photo: AP
Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Getty
US tennis star Andre Agassi (R) arrives with his girlfriend Brooke Shields at Johannesburg International airport 07 December. (Photo credit should read TREVOR SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Andre Agassi
Andre Agassi

Tracy Wing

Despite their incredible joint fame, the life Andre Agassi enjoys with his wife Stephanie and their son Jaden and daughter Jaz is remarkably discrete.

Aside from occasional high profile appearances at publicity events that help to fund the Agassi Foundation and their schools network, Andre and Steffi enjoy living a relatively simple life that he believes provides the basis of their happiness since their marriage in 2001.

“We have no interest in creating unnecessary attention and we thrive in our own environment, which is our lives as a whole,” continues Agassi. “Not just us and our own family, but our friends, the people we see in our local grocery store and enjoying our life.

Graf won 22 Grand Slam singles titles during her tennis career and was ranked world number one.

“This life works for us and we are very happy. I don’t think there is any real secret to a happy marriage, but there are some necessary working parts.

“I think you need two whole people that truly don’t need each other, respect and love each other in a way that has full discipline and commitment. We are two individuals that have lived full lives and we don’t react to each other, we respond to each other.

“I think all too often, that discipline is lost in a marriage and that then spills over into a lack of respect and losing care for each other. That is when communications can break down. That gives you a chance to make the most of a beautiful opportunity when you meet someone very special in life.”

It is rare to come across a sporting great who offers such honest and forthright answers to questions coming his way in an interview, yet Agassi has always been a little different to the rest.

A rebel in his tennis career as he shunned the stuffiness of the sport for a rock and roll approach that earned him fans around the world, Agassi admits his biggest challenge now is working out how to be a perfect Dad.

“Being a parent is my greatest responsibility,” he adds. “Raising our two kids is out biggest joy and our biggest worry in many ways.

“You want to make the right decisions, you want to do what is best for them and that changes over time. Decisions get more precarious when they get older, worries get less but more intense. There is no answer to how to raise a 17-year-old because I have only ever had a 16-year-old so I’ll work that out next year.”

On so many levels, Andre Agassi’s life began when he put down his tennis racquet and ended his legendary career.

Eight Grand Slam titles that included wins in all four of the game’s major tournaments secured this Las Vegas showman a place in the tennis Hall of Fame long before he hit his final ball, yet the incredible legacy this 48-year-old has created in his sporting afterlife that put those achievements into shade.

The Andre Agassi Foundation set out on a mission to open a school to give kids in his home town a better start in life, but that dream has become a reality on the grand scale.

Agassi’s Preparatory Academy opened its doors for the first time in 2001 and 17 years later, a further 80 schools across America are providing young kids with the kind of chance to get an education the mastermind behind the project missed out on when he devoted his life to sport at a young age.

Agassi admitted in his compelling autobiography ‘Open’ that he always resented the sport that made him a global superstar because it has deprived him of the childhood he craved, so he made it his mission to ensure the next generation would not be denied the chances that passed him by.

As he sat down with Independent.ie for an exclusive interview at Wimbledon’s All England Club, the icon who became a household name around the world told us that his greatest achievements have come away from the spotlight he is relieved to have walked away from.

“The way I see it, I gave up one third of your life to tennis prepare for the final two thirds and now I am trying to make the most of this period,” began Agassi, who is a Lavazza Global Ambassador to The Championships, Wimbledon.

“This sport gave me a lot and it took a lot from me as well and I can look back on it now with a little more clarity than I could do when my career was ongoing.

“I will always have mixed emotions about this game. I didn’t enjoy it when I was out on court at times, but I appreciate what it did for me and now I am trying to use the platform it has given me to give something to others.

“What I put myself through is one thing, but the rewards it has brought others has been more important than the eight Grand Slam wins, my Olympic gold medal or anything else.

“Changing lives of generations of kids who maybe have not had the kind of start in life they would have wanted is the greatest achievement of my life, without any question. This has been far more fulfilling than lifting a few people who watched me play tennis for a few hours or creating some kind of on-court legacy.

“I mean, who cares about a legacy on the court. None of us are going to be around to appreciate a tennis legacy and when you have a chance to change a child’s life for the better, you quickly get to a point where tennis means very little.

“The Foundation was set up with the aim of opening one school and now we have 81 schools. This is so much bigger than we would ever have imagined and we are very proud of it.”

Andre Agassi spoke to Independent.ie at a Lavazza event.

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