Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Head-Shot for Haiti
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Head-Shot for Haiti 03/13/2010 - 12:58 PM

Aa-ps It may have been the last thing anyone expected, or even wanted, out of an evening of charity tennis, but the Hit for Haiti got suspiciously interesting last night. Leave it to the loudest and baldest of its participants, Andre Agassi, to make it happen, by taking the whole event one step farther than necessary.

This, as you know if you’ve read this column before, is a reference to my go-to quote about all things having to do with Andre. It came, as a lot of tennis-oriented quotes do, from Martin Amis, and it went something like, “What we love about Agassi is that he always goes too far, whichever direction it is.”

Whether Andre took it too far Friday night will depend on the perspective—or prejudice, if you prefer—you bring to the match. Were you an Andre fan, or a Pete fan? What do you like in an athlete, energetic personality or quiet class? We can agree on one thing: Once they wire these guys up to a mike, at least one of them needs to talk, and that duty was always going to fall on Agassi. In his years with World Team Tennis and as an in-demand retiree, he has become an all-star of corporate, hit-and-giggle, exhibition tennis, right up there with professional entertainers like Yannick Noah and Mansour Bahrami.

But it’s not a talent that every, and even many, champion owns, and that goes double for Pete Sampras, who looked less-than-totally comfortable right from the beginning. It’s also true of Nadal, who is hardly effusive or even all that happy in English. Plus, there was a weird subtext that I didn’t remember until those three guys took their places on center court. Didn’t Nadal just rip Agassi, pretty seriously rip Agassi, for revealing his hushed-up positive drug test? And didn’t Pete recently punch back at Andre for calling him cheap and boring, all in the name of selling a book? And while we’re at it, didn’t Agassi just make the rounds of every media outlet imaginable and unimaginable, telling us in chastened tones about how much he hated tennis and how much he regretted half the things he’s done in his life?

Well, yeah, but you wouldn’t have known there was any tension at all from the way Agassi took the court. He came to play—I could see in the warm-ups that he had his strokes clicking—he came to entertain, he came to try to plant a ball in Roger Federer’s chest. It took him all of two seconds for his enthusiasm to bubble over the top. When Justin Gimelstob asked him before they began playing, “What did you think of you wife’s performance [referring to Steffi Graf in the previous doubles match], Andre responded, “You mean on the court?” When the crowd let out a collectively embarrassed giggle, he yelled, “Get your mind out of the gutter!” The Hit for Haiti was off to a very crass and very funny start.

As an Andre fan, I enjoyed the performance. I thought he was right to call out Sampras for not saying anything—I know it’s not Pete’s thing, but his silence over the course of the set was pretty conspicuous. Nadal and Federer had at least made stabs at countering Andre’s chatter-dominance. And when Andre mocked Pete’s cheapness again by pulling his empty sweats-pockets out, I didn’t think it was malicious. I got the impression that he thought Pete would find it funny, because he’d recently called Pete to try to put the book situation behind them. I thought Pete’s serve at Andre’s head was equally funny. But it was also a little too close to Agassi’s dome for comfort, and the moment got a little too real for comfort. Some of the air went out of the stadium after that, as we all asked each other, “What was that about?” Seeing it again later on TV, and seeing Sampras’ face up close, it didn’t look quite as serious, but there’s no question that neither guy knew exactly how to act afterward.

Andre kept talking, with the same borderline-crass humor. Asked by  Gimelstob on the next changeover how the evening was going, he answered, a little too glibly for the moment and the topic, “It’s all for Haiti, baby”—the line made me laugh, even if it wasn’t in the most appropriate somber taste. As for Pete, he got more serious. As on most occasions, let his racquet do the talking late in the set, when he came up with a couple bomb serves that reminded everyone of why he was on this court in the first place. Two people I talked to thought this was poetic justice for Sampras. My prejudices firmly in place, I was more impressed—knocked back, really—by a forehand that Agassi had hit earlier in the match. He snapped his wrist and drilled it with such high-velocity precision at Federer’s feet that  the greatest player in the world couldn’t do anything but dance out of the way. It was eye-popping, and just what the crowd came to see. But it also seemed to make Federer a little uncomfortable—was this bald, drug-snorting maniac trying to hurt him? No, it was Andre, overenthused frat boy and world-class philanthropist, meth-head and career Grand Slammer, going too far again.

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Posted by Lui 03/13/2010 at 01:03 PM


Posted by Emma 03/13/2010 at 01:34 PM

Agassi and Sampras' antics just reinforced how classy Federer and Rafa are.

Posted by Minh 03/13/2010 at 01:38 PM

Pete did a little impression, which a bunch of guys do on tour (Roddick, Djoker, etc.), Agassi responded by airing some dirty laundry again.

Posted by evie 03/13/2010 at 02:24 PM

I'm an Agassi fan, and I certainly like him and his tennis more than Pete, but he went way over the line last night. Way over. Why would he do that? Did he really get that offended by the walking imitation? I can't imagine Agassi really thought Pete would find the tip comment funny. And if he'd stopped at the first comment, everyone might have been able to brush it off, but Agassi went on and on about it, talking about valet drivers, etc. Cringe-inducing and unnecessary. Pete shouldn't have let it get to him (what's he got to be defensive about?), but Andre should have kept it above board. Didn't his book get in enough revenge?

Imagine if Pete had come back saying something like, "What, a meth head is calling me cheap?" It could have gotten very ugly, but no one except Andre went anywhere close to that kind of thing.

I think it's hysterical that so many of you journalists said the whole Agassi/Pete/Rafa/Fed drama about the book didn't occur to you at first. It was the very first thing that came to mind when I heard about the exhibition. It was always going to be a scene ripe for awkwardness. It's just bizarre that Andre is the one who made it so bad.

Posted by Texastennis 03/13/2010 at 02:27 PM

Great and very level headed take, Steve.

Don't forget Pete hugged Agassi big time at the net after - both pulling back. And mad eit clear he want to be clear that he "loves" Agassi.

I thought it was not much ado at all but given that entirely representative of the last 25 years - for both of them, not just Agassi. All that Agassi energy, enthusiasm, willingness to push etc has moved millions of dollars of product, made him an extraordinary success as a philanthropist and likewise led him to some now very fully revealed too close to the edge choices. I thought he just got over the line and then Sampras got over the line right back... But I think they're used to each other, more than we know ...

Fed I thought was good at his role and vastly amused - he had an appropriate take on it (much like yours I think). Rafa I thought basically had no idea what was going on although he was genial. His English isn't good enough for this kind of occasion.

I agree about that forehand too - reminded us all big time of what Agassi played like, including Federer...

Posted by BrooklynNY 03/13/2010 at 02:40 PM

Time and place. Time and Place.

Pete is pure class.

Andre wants to go airing out dirty laundry and grievances in a public forum? What kind of respectful man does that?

Sheer lack of class and regard for why he is there in the first place, to be apart of an event meant for charity. Not become a showstopper.

Save that bullshit for the locker room, not in front of the cameras.
You're not Jerry Springer.

Such a disrespect to the game, considering the event, cause, presence of legends and occasion.
What is he such a charitable man, that he just hands $50 bills to anyone who crosses paths with? Why has he only opened 1 school, where Serena now has 2?

Such a childish loser, who has losing records against Pete, Fed, and Rafa

Posted by CL 03/13/2010 at 02:40 PM

I kinda agree with Steve's take. Andre was definitely guilty of 'frat boy'** behavior. One's own personal tolerance for such behavior will pretty much determine how off putting, if at all, that behavior was. Say on a scale of 1= angel w/sense of humor, and 10= crass jerk.

**apologies to all polite and considerate 'frat boys.' I know you are out there somewhere.

Posted by BrooklynNY 03/13/2010 at 02:42 PM

Side note: Its good to see Rafa back. As his first time back on court in public is a charity event.

Rafa is back!!! Hopefully he can defend his title coming back from injury

Posted by Hmmmmm 03/13/2010 at 02:42 PM

Andre's shot was pretty cheap... and it really took all the air out of the event after he couldn't stop attacking Pete. I would have expected a philanthropist like Andre to have better focus on the bigger picture.

BUT... I do remember that Pete's charity was "Aces for Charity", where he donated a whole $100 per ace for each year.

That to me was a PITIFUL charity... even on an amazing year, it added up to $100,000, which is small pittance for someone of his income.

BTW, Andre and Federer had a really nice dynamic going before the awkwardness.

Posted by GB 03/13/2010 at 02:47 PM

I just thought the whole thing was sooo awkward. Rafa and Fed seemed to feel the same way...

As a Rafa KAD, it's all about him for me:) I don't think he had a clue WTF was happening for most of the night. At the AO H4H, he chimed in much more. I guess cause of the vastly different atmosphere: affectionate Fedal teasing (with Fed sometimes helping him out with Spanish phrases!); Rafole love etc. It wasn't really the time for him to start yoking about being scared to serve etc last night, no?

v2 was just such fail.

Posted by Cosi 03/13/2010 at 02:57 PM

I watched that whole thing and for the first twenty minutes or so it was a great time, very entertaining, Andre was witty, exhuberant, the life of the party. But he started to take cheap shots at Pete, the first one was when he said "come on Pete do something exciting" which was a reference to him calling Pete "dull" in his book i would imagine,Pete brushed that one off, good for him. Then Andre started demanding that Pete "say something, say something" so Pete said okay, I'm going to do an impression of you, which he did quite well, the crowd got a big kick out of it, and then Andre takes the low road and says he's going to do an impression of Pete and starts with the comments about "I only have a dollar" and "I would hate to be a valet driving up to you" Pete tried to brush that off too but Andre wouldn't stop, so Pete said "so it's getting personal" or something like that and Andre made it worse by saying "it's not personal pete every body knows it" like "pete everybody knows you are cheap".. the crowd was horrified, it took all the air out of the stadium and the happy atmosphere never returned, for the rest of that exho the crowd was subdued and uncomfortable and I was even very uncomfortabel sitting in my living room because it was so obvious that Pete felt humiliated and hurt. It sucked, there's no way to down play it and act like it was no big deal because I saw it play out on live tv and the tension and hositlity was palpable. I felt sorry for Roger and Rafa and especially PETE... he didn't deserve that. He's a shy, quiet guy, he's not the kind of person to be able to banter back in that situation and maintain his dignity and Andre knew it so he crossed the line because he knew he could get away with it. If that had been Connors or Mcenroe he was aiming that kind of thing at, I'm sure a line like " hey, didn't you get your meth fix today" might have been forthcoming.... Pete has alot of class, he couldn't have followed Andre down the road of cheap shots but he didn't. I felt sorry for Pete, and I have always liked Andre but I felt he acted like a real jerk last night. Andre needs to grow up. It's very telling that even before this went down, Nadal was scolding Andre a little bit and telling him to settle down. Andre holds grudges and can be very spiteful, that is evident not only by the things he said about many people in his book, but by his behavior last night. You would think that in a charity event he could control himself a little better

Posted by Cosi 03/13/2010 at 03:00 PM

100,000 dollar donation to charity is NOT a pittance for anybody who makes any salary, Pete may be a millionaire but he's not Bill Gates, do you expect him to donate a million dollars or something to every charity? If he did, he would be living out of his car after a certain period. Instead of criticizing somebody's charity gift, I think we need to applaud it, I think a 100,000 dollar donation by anybody is a generous gift and I'm sure the charity was thrilled with it

Posted by Ozone 03/13/2010 at 03:05 PM

Come on guys, Agassi likes to think he is better than what he really is. Even I can rip one forehand... Truth is, he is a great entertainer, but nowhere close to Pete or Fed or even Rafa in terms of Tennis. He has some good ball striking skills (kinda like Nalbandian, but overacheived much more than him), thats all. And that bothers him internally, at the end of the day. That shows up in the tone of the book, both pushing his prodigy angle too much and the sour grapes attitude towards his losses to Pete.

But, think about this, despite all the publicity Agassi generated for his book, Tiger Woods came along and spoiled it pretty soon.

I bet, in that stadium, 95% of the people (or more) had no clue about this tipping controversy. Now, they all will be wondering what that is, that got the situation so wierd. Then, what are they going to do? GO BUY THAT OPEN BOOK!!!!

Voila! Do you guys understand the genius of businessman Agassi? Like he said, whatever he said on court, "it is all there in the book, nothing personal". Go buy the book...

This may be speculation, but I think it has good amount of credence to it.

Posted by Christopher 03/13/2010 at 03:17 PM

"Imagine if Pete had come back saying something like, 'What, a meth head is calling me cheap?'"

Now THAT would have been funny.

Andre really seems to be doing his best to return to the image many had of him before the late-career rehabilitation. But hey, at least he's doing his best to continue to make money (though I realize this event was for charity) from the sport he professes to hate and that he seems hell-bent on embarrassing at every turn these days. I would have much rather seen McEnroe and Federer v. Nadal and Borg. Tennis may have driven JMac crazy at times, but few have ever loved the game as much.

Posted by S 03/13/2010 at 03:17 PM

I'm a big Andre fan, but as the match wore on, I started to get a little annoyed with him. He got way too personal with Pete. Pete definitely needed to lighten up too, and in retrospect should have said something witty back to ease some of the awkwardness but that's not his forte.

I don't know Steve, I expected a little more from Andre yesterday.

Posted by Should of kept it classy 03/13/2010 at 03:21 PM

The skills of all four players on the court last night are what make them champions and legends. The main difference in the character of those four is at least three of them know when to check their ego at the door. Andre's comments were inappropriate and belonged no where near any tennis court. Using a professional filter in difficult moments is what distinguishes "Great" champions from the rest.

Posted by Cosi 03/13/2010 at 03:23 PM

I'm thinking that Andre may have turned out alot more like his father than he would have ever liked to be.....

Posted by sally 03/13/2010 at 03:31 PM

i think agassi was on meth last nite,
shame he has relapsed.
time to go to rehab, dre.

Posted by skip1515 03/13/2010 at 03:37 PM

A. It was sad. Upon re-watching it (youtube) I can see that Sampras didn't help things with the serve hit at Agassi (unlike you, Steve, I saw that as pretty aggressive), but Agassi is the more verbal of the two by far and exploited that against someone unable to respond in kind; Sampras' only possible retort was to either go harder ("Hey, meth head" or "Whatever you say, you still have 8 and I have 14.") or retreat. In the end he retreated and his play showed as much.

B. In addition to his verbal skills, Agassi's tennis talent was on display big time. Besides that 105 mph forehand, his serving (before he seemed to tighten up) was pretty big and, more impressively, incredibly accurate and controlled. Twice he dialed up serves within 1 mph of what was asked for or promised; a 114 mph to Federer, who'd asked for 113, and a 123 flat ball up the middle to Fed when Agassi had said 122 was coming his way. He also quick-handed a groundstroke or two, from right on top of the baseline, and it was 10 years ago all over again.

C. I'm neither a Pete nor Andre guy, preferring one at the expense of the other, just in love with the game. If Sampras isn't Mr. Articulate I'm not sure Agassi was right to "call him out" on that. He might not have been wrong in his assessment of Sampras' performance, but that doesn't mean it was right to say it out loud.

D. Agassi was very funny at first, and the hot hand on court, too, but he showed a bullying side of his nature last night when he could have dialed it back and didn't.

It was sad.

Posted by nyc 03/13/2010 at 03:49 PM

I thought Agassi sucked the life out of all the players. Before he turned on Sampras he was being down right mean to Nadal. Rafa was totally silent and seemed uncomfortable. He said things like, 'they don't make athletes like they used to' and 'you seem faster on tv.' Not cool. I don't think English was the problem, b/c Rafa seemed fine in Australia, and was cracking up w/the rest of them. He was also teamed w/Roddick, a more effusive Anglo, which worked out well. Pobre Rafa.

Won't even discuss Agassi's treatment of Sampras...

Posted by Fangorina 03/13/2010 at 03:55 PM

Hi, all. Dropping in again. I am with Pete on this. Big surprise. I thought Andre's verbosity and animation were fine in the beginning and helped to loosen things up. but he got ruder, more annoying and more out of hand. Pete was not invited to play in the exo because of his comic timing, after all. I wanted to see some tennis, not Andre getting so mouthy that even the polite Rafa told him to 'stop with the lip' or words to that effect. Everyone that ever complained that Pete never showed enough emotion on the court should have be thrilled to see him try to bean Andre with the serve. He showed lots of emotion, and got appropriately angry at the attention-hogging 'rude America' Agassi. And still Andre did not stop. He has no filter or no real sense of awareness of others. He is a rude, egotistical jerk in the end. I can't imagine how Steffi can stand him. Still, the planned exo's between Pete and Andre next month just got a whole lot more interesting.....

Posted by Fangorina 03/13/2010 at 03:56 PM

Sorry for typos galore!

Posted by Fangorina 03/13/2010 at 03:59 PM

*rude American*. I am one so I can call it. ;)

Posted by Nine of Nine 03/13/2010 at 04:00 PM

The best response for the Agassi impersonation would have been a Sampras impersonation. If Andre was looking for a big laugh with the tip comments he bombed twice. A comedian gets feedback from his audience and the feedback was no. I too asked myself if he was high, and I was not even thinking about the meth thing. It just seemed like he couldn't control whatever emotion he was having at the time. Probably a lot of 'stuff' going on between those two that the public isn't privy to and hopefully never will be.

Posted by Yet Another Lurker 03/13/2010 at 04:15 PM

Well, tennis players are people, and as such are prone to grudges, pettiness, misjudgment -- the vanity of human wishes etc. Perhaps the problem is miking these guys up in the first place. Why not put extra microphones around the court to pick up banter, asides and chat, and let these guys just play tennis? Both Sampras and Agassi still play well enough to have provided some fantastic doubles last night. There were hints of it in that flashing Agassi return, that sequence of Federer volleys near the beginning, a beautiful half-volley from Federer, a Sampras serve, Nadal's athletic overhead. It could have been spectacular, exhibition tennis, instead the organisers seem to want 'jokes'. Last night was an opportunity wasted.

Posted by Deborah 03/13/2010 at 04:23 PM

Bringing this comment over here from the prvious blog.

I'm an Agassi fan and I thought he was over the line. Pete, with his lack of skill at repartee does what any good American male would do: aim a shot at Andre's head. Thank goodness the European gentlemen showed up. Roger, who kept up the banter at the Aussie, exho, tried to keep it light but you could tell he was deferring to the "legends" who acted less like former ambassadors for the sport than their younger counterparts. For once, I bet Nadal was glad his lack of English skills kept him out of it. Though he made his share of funny comments at the Aussie exho as he kept referring to his need for confidence. It's not as if the players stayed away from edgy comments in the first "Hit". Roddick even made a joke about Serena and her foot fault. Maybe Andre was trying too hard where the players in the first seemed to be, to quote Roger's favorite phrase, "more relaxed"

Posted by Ivo 03/13/2010 at 04:30 PM

First of all I am not a fan of Agassi nor Sampras. I used to be a fan of both:). But I do have to disagree with Steve's assessment last night. In fact I totally agree with Cosi and also with skip1515.
Agassi, first the positives:
1. From a tennis point of view, he was by far the most impressive all the four (Federer coming second). The way he was returning and serving was really amazing. Now I know people will scold me for saying this: but Rafa looked next to Agassi like a junior tennis player. Maybe it's just a question of style preference, but Agassi's timing on his shots was just so much better than Rafa's; his hits were clean, beautiful.

2. From a tennis ponint of view, Agassi also showed his greatest weakness last night: the game at the net. He never had it and he never will. I think that his net game really diminished his otherwise absolutely flawless tennis.

3. Agassi as an entertainer: if he had not been there the whole thing would have been not funny. Agassi ran the show, he was the man of the night. Federer helped a lot and they had a wonderful dynamic until SPITEFUL and AGRESSIVE Agassi appeared. I totally disagree with Steve from this point on: 1. Agassi was trying to provoke Pete to do more than being quiet (which i think he had the right to do given the fact that the whole show rested on Agassi's shoulders up until that point). 2. But when Pete finally did something funny - Agassi's impresonation - which was in my opinion really cool - did you notice Agassi's look on his face: he could not wait to get back at Sampras: and the way he did...that's the "sad" part. That's where he reminded me of realy bad "white trash" behavior. Agassi, single-handedly made the show great, and he single-handedly took the spirit out of it. From then on I could only think: yeah I can see how this guy can take drugs, deny it, yet play and profit from a sport, which he made himself great, which he hated and whose reputation he eventually tarnished. I could see how this guy can accuse others of "not being able to take jokes well" (as he did with Sampras last night) while really not taking them well himself. I can see how generous this guy can be by working for the benefit of the poor kids while not being able to say anything close to what Sampras said in front of everybody at the end of the game: "man I love you".

4. I still don't get it: Graf, again and again, shows pure class. Agassi, again and again, shows how he lacks a certain "class" - or belongs to one which Graf denies with anything she does: from the way she walks, talks or dresses.

5. Did you see how bad Sampras's backhand was? It was always his weak side but really not having played it for a long time the old woes are just so much more obvious.

6. And a speculative at the end of the day: if Sampras, Agassi, Nadal and Federer met in one tournament at the peak of their careers, who do you think would come out victorious? From what I've seen yesterday I thought that Rafa would be outplayed by all of them. And I would still give the edge to Federer.

Posted by cavedweller 03/13/2010 at 04:59 PM

"And a speculative at the end of the day: if Sampras, Agassi, Nadal and Federer met in one tournament at the peak of their careers, who do you think would come out victorious? From what I've seen yesterday I thought that Rafa would be outplayed by all of them. And I would still give the edge to Federer."

Ivo, surely the only truly interesting speculation is who would be victorious if Sampras and Nadal met in one tournament at the peaks of their careers? After all, between Sampras-Agassi, and Nadal-Federer, we already know the head-to-head...nothing speculative about the record, which does give some factual basis to who-outplays-whom.

Posted by Ivo 03/13/2010 at 05:07 PM

fair enough though I meant it in a different way: if these guys met on a day that each of them seperately would say was their best tennis in their entire life, who would win? (i.e. you know the days when both just play great...something like the Wimby final in which Federer lost to Nadal).
As for Sampras-Nadal...that would be an interesting match-up. I could see how Nadal would rattle Sampras with his high topspin into the backhand side of Sampras the way he does it with Federer. Though the serve and volley skills would help Sampras beat Rafa on all the surfaces other than clay.
I have no doubts that on clay Rafa would still beat of all them.
As for other surfaces i'd say it'd be Federer, Sampras, Agassi and Nadal with Nadal and Agassi being the most entertaining matches.

Posted by Sofia 03/13/2010 at 05:15 PM

I never thought about it that way. While I was watching I thought what Andre was saying was all in good fun which it was. But now that I think about it. He was such a jerk. And I agree that if Nadal would have been treated nicer, he would have pitched in a little more.

Agassi stole the show. In an awful, awful way.

Posted by USAF Captain 03/13/2010 at 05:15 PM

Maybe Andre resorts to such behavior because of how much Pete owned him on the big stage through the years.

Posted by Marina 03/13/2010 at 05:30 PM

I was at the Melnourne Hit and I only saw this one on TV but the one i went to seemed just lighter, more fun - and that i think was because there was a better choice of players, all contempories, two very funny guys in Roddick and Novak, and two women who mixed in really well - Kim and Serena.

Rafa was also better there and he and Roger were very relaxed together with lots of self deprecating jokes. I felt there was more ego involved in this one with both Agassi and Sampras letting theirs get in the way of the fun.

Roger, when he's allowed to be, and Agassi didn't allow it really, is a really great leader in these exhos, funny but not scene stealing. And I missed Novak- he'd have been great.

Posted by Dana99 03/13/2010 at 05:40 PM

No question Agassi sucked the air out of everyone else last night. Yes, he was funny for awhile, but over time it became clear he wanted to dominate. Fed and Nadal and even Sampras were willing to let him do so and not stand in his way, as they saw he was helping the crowd to laugh and such. But, overall, Agassi's jokes turned out to be more and more ABOUT his colleagues and not jokes made WITH his colleagues. Too bad, 'cos he sure lowered the respect I had for him. In fact, I couldn't help but think how pissed off Steffi would be with HIS performance!

Posted by Alan Moore 03/13/2010 at 05:43 PM


What a huge surprise! Agassi is still boorish, Pete is still boring and there are still a legion of Americans (fans and journalists) who've put the blinkers on, drunk the cool-aid and think the manure those two dish is pure gold.

Posted by joger 03/13/2010 at 05:44 PM

Agassi acted as a jerk last night. That's it. No need to expand on the subject any further. I've changed the prospective about him as a player once he said how much he hated tennis actually. In other words he used tennis to promote himself and do something out of his messed up life. Pete played out of pure love to the game. So does Roger. That's what makes them best among the best.

Posted by ka 03/13/2010 at 05:44 PM

totally mystifying remarks by you and someone at the latimes. the msm is covering up. weird?! why?!

agassi was a jerk. end of it. he's a narcissist. charsmatic and totally unaware of boundaries and without empathy. why is steffi with him? because narcissists usually treat someone who they believe can help them well. they are looking for gurus all the time. steffi is a guru. the narcissist will be on their best behavior with the guru as long as they believe the guru is helping them. and who knows steffi might have a npd as well.

it seems the people defending agassi didn't watch the whole event or just read about it. it was deflating and pathetic.

sampras's response was uncalled for with that serve. but i think i would've decked agassi after the moment sampras said the this getting personal line. agassi should've stopped, but didn't. these guys have known each other for decades. they know what gets the other's goat. it was ugly. if they know how to hurt the other they also should know how to diffuse it. sampras was innocent here. he was defending himself. it wasn't the best line of defense but he wasn't the instigator.

anyway i didn't take you as someone in support of bullying mr. concrete elbow. we aren't talking about boys, we are talking about adults. and people like you excusing this crap makes the world a whole lot worse.

that was a sad night for tennis. hit took on different meaning.

Posted by patzin 03/13/2010 at 05:45 PM

I think the first version in Australia, was more entertaining and natural. The players, men and women, related well to one another and they knew it was for charity. Everyone was really equal and their personalities were allowed to flourish. This version of the HFH seemed artificial and corporate. Andre was over the top towards the end, but he seems to like to clown around. This version had an identity crisis of sorts, are we to be serious and have a semi-real men's doubles match, or clown around. It didn't seem to know what it was supposed to be. Some funny moments and some uncomfortable moments towards the end. Roger tried to keep things light and lively; and I agree with the comment, Rafa was quiet and prob happy he didn't understand most of what was said during play. Truly appreciate the Roger/Rafa thing; they are great competitors and also trusted friends it would seem.

Posted by jbradhunter 03/13/2010 at 06:02 PM

"I got the impression that he thought Pete would find it funny"

Andre kinda treated this as a roast, and unfortunately Pete took himself a bit too seriously to just roll with what could've been a breezy comment-- Who cares if Pete is a lousy tipper? lots of people are, just ask any waiter/waitress...

Posted by Tony 03/13/2010 at 06:07 PM

The little respect I had for Andre is gone. Andre managed to suck the life out of what could have been a great event. The hit for Haiti in Australia was outstanding; this event in the states was a disaster thanks to Andre.

Posted by Ozone 03/13/2010 at 06:24 PM

Also, this whole thing about Andre being the best player of four yesterday, that ripping forehand etc.

Remember, both Federed and Nadal were quite reserved and measured in what they were doing. They didnt want to do more than what such a match warranted and they didnt have to prove themselves.

Agassi was just dying to prove himself and was too eager. Nothing more. Even Sampras was a bit eager to show his serve I think, but he didnt go out of his way to do that.

Otherwise, IMO, he is a distant 4 to these 3 in terms of pure Tennis.

Hell, Agassi would have this feeling to prove his worth, even in his own house hold...

Posted by fedfan 03/13/2010 at 06:25 PM

Pete has always seemed preternaturally shy. I always thought that was why he wasn't as fully embraced by the public or the media as much as he deserved. Of course Andre is the polar opposite, he can't stop talking. Having watched the video, I think Andre went a little too far, just as Steve says, but I think he was reaching for humor, and the engine of his natural competitiveness, and perhaps, his long history with Sampras, took him a little over the line. I hope this doesn't harm their relationship, which has always seemed respectful, if not close.

Posted by md 03/13/2010 at 06:40 PM

I didn't see the event but the comments here confirm what I have always thought - Fed and Nadal know how to behave. Sampras is a proud quiet guy who frankly cannot abide Agassi and becomes even more quiet when he is around. Agassi is a boor and a lout who does not have any idea how to behave. Remember Graf comes from a pretty dodgy background herself, so lets not get too enthused about classy Steffi and how does she put up with Agassi.

Posted by Legend of Borg 03/13/2010 at 06:46 PM

Either Andre wanted to intentionally make Pete feel uncomfortable or he has a heart of stone if he though "Pete would find it funny". The atmosphere was shot dead by Andre's malicious and insensitive remarks to Pete, a player who has and always will have ten times more class than the "statesman" Agassi. What a sham.

Posted by Gillian 03/13/2010 at 06:55 PM

Fedal rivalry kind of pales in comparison, doesn't it?

I had to mute my TV several times last night, due to Andre's babbling. It did become uncomfortable after a while. I think Roger was trying to join in (at one point he joked re: Andre, "It's like I'm scared [of him] now"). But Andre has always liked to be the center of attention, so this is nothing new.

If I compare this exo to Hit for Haiti in Australia, Roger & Rafa seemed to be a lot looser there and having a lot more fun than they were last night. Pity.

Posted by Ramana 03/13/2010 at 06:58 PM

These are top tennis players who did not make it through high school, so we cannot expect anything more from. My freshman daughter knows more than these sports millionaires and celebs

Posted by Ivo 03/13/2010 at 07:14 PM

everybody for reasons of comparsion, you can see, in a quite a good quality, the video from australia on youtube. It's really a marvelous exhibition compared to the one we were treated to last night.

Posted by BrooklynNY 03/13/2010 at 07:17 PM

You can even here Pete say in the beginning when Andre just pulled out his pockets, he goes
"oh about the tip thing" stops and smiles for a second to himself baffled, and then says "this guy, man" referring to how ludicrous Agassi is.

I to, had little respect for him, and now I have none.

Save that shit for the bar after work, not while youre in the office.

Posted by Observer 03/13/2010 at 07:18 PM

The whole thing was strangely corporate to begin with. There were suits and fake grins everywhere. The evening was destined to be an awkward slog.

Posted by Tony 03/13/2010 at 07:18 PM

Hope Andre's kids where not watching. Can't imagine how embarrassed they would have been.

Posted by peer 03/13/2010 at 07:19 PM

Agassi showed what a cheap guy he is, i hope the ATP will remember this and will not invite him for anymore events like this and for any trophy presentation like french open, he is low class.... he is a mess.... i hope someone brings who the real bad agassi is becoz his mouth needs to shut from making comments like this....

Posted by ? 03/13/2010 at 07:22 PM

Some people here need to chill was an exhibition, nothing more nothing less. Why are we judging people on such a strange, made-up stage. I'd bet good money that no one really even wanted to be there.

Posted by ? 03/13/2010 at 07:26 PM

Also anyone saying Agassi has no class must also type what they make in a year. Multiply that by ten and you'll be close to what he has donated and given to charities worldwide at 40+.

Posted by Peter 03/13/2010 at 07:39 PM

Exactly that is the point: it was an exhibition, so why did Agassi not chill out a bit?
would you do the counting for us and tell us how much has Agassi donated?
Also, while doing so, would you tell us how much he made while playing tennis instead of being suspended for drug abuse and lying about it?

Posted by Agreed 03/13/2010 at 07:44 PM

This is a great post: i could not agree more with you Mr. Moore.

Posted by Alan Moore 03/13/2010 at 05:43 PM

What a huge surprise! Agassi is still boorish, Pete is still boring and there are still a legion of Americans (fans and journalists) who've put the blinkers on, drunk the cool-aid and think the manure those two dish is pure gold

Posted by CK 03/13/2010 at 07:45 PM

I really wonder what Bodo will have to say about this? I am sure he'll find a nice way how to defend Agassi too.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 03/13/2010 at 07:46 PM

I must take a different view of what transpired last night. That's not to say I don't think Andre made some huge errors in judgment, the worst of all being that he underestimated just how defensive and prickly Pete can get when his buttons are pushed or he feels he's been wronged.

In case anybody missed it, Andre was trying to inject some fun and liveliness (even levity) into the mix in what otherwise would have been a very dull affair. Sure, they'd all have hit an impressive array of winners by game's end, but does anyone really believe for an instance that Roger or Rafa were going to step up their games and make Pete and Andre look foolish? And does anybody for an ninstant think that that's not precisely what would happen were they to bring their respective A games? There's still a world of difference between current world #1 and perennial #2 and a couple of former world #1s and all-time greats who haven't played top-level competitive tennis in nearly eight and four years, respectively.

So, if it's me with a ticket to the show, I'm going to pray that they mix in some levity and lively banter with their forehands and backhands. Otherwise, what's the point? And Andre was the only one with the presence of mind and capability to bring that to the event. Even after his many attempts to inject the play with humor (some of it quite good, like "You know, Rog, red is really not your color"and... "Is that all you got?" and later... "Don't hurt me, Rog; Rog, don't hurt me! Stop it, Rog!!!), andre found very little reciprocation from the other three. Pete was stone-cold dead. Rafa was grinning widely but contriuting little verbally. Roger was doing his best, and being bashful and modest and accommmodating. But only Andre could hope to pull off such a task.

Also, it was the team of Pete and Roger who first asked Andre about his legs and his long pants. Pete was insistent that Andre take them off, knowing full well that Andre has been going "commando" for years. Andre played it off well, I thought, rolling his pant legs up to mid-thigh and revealing the chalkiest pair of legs seen on a tennis court since Mark Cox of Britain played back in the 60s and early 70s.

Also, Andre was hitting in the zone, and Rafa actually chided him for it, asking him to "keep it down" or back off a little, apparently so that the others could do a little racquet magic off of slower balls.

So Andre complied, and then went to the humor card with a bit more gusto. Did he overplay his hand? Surely. He didn't have to blurt out during the point so often, and he could have held his tongue between serves, for example. But it all began to unravel when he joked that any kids watching would be wondering who the two old bald guys were playing with Rafa and Roger. I thought that was funny. Pete, apparently, did not, and put his fingers visibly through his thinning pate to prove that he still sported real growth. To which the sharp-witted Andre said, "Give it a rest, Pete" -- the game's up; everyone knows.... That made Pete bristle a little, and he took it out on Andre, who had asked him to lighten up and have some fun, by imitating his pigeon-toed shuffle and his habit of scrunching up the front of his shirt before receiving.

Personally, my friends and I trash-talk each other all the time. One guy, inparticular, can get pretty mean-spirited from time to time, callling out another player's weaknesses or tendencies with something like, "John doesn't own a backhand down the line, so no need to cover the alley." But it's all posturing and feather display. But not a single one of us would ever start imitating each other, particularly not some physical limitation of which we have little or no control. The shirt-scrunching? Sure. The pigeon-toed shuffle... never.

So Andre skewered Pete by pulling his pockets inside out and alluding to his (allegedly) notorious poor tipping habit. And then, the best line of the night, from Andre, of course: "It's all fun and games until somebody gets hurt, right Pete?"

Andre could have and should have had a little sideline conversation with Pete (holding his hand over the mic) to suggest that the loosen things up a bit and agree to some pointless trash-talking. He didn't. But Pete revealed that he's still walking around with a big chip on his shoulder. He even felt compelled to bring up the tipping incident in the on-court interview with Justin Gimelstob, who tried in vain to sweep it all under the rug. I felt bad for Pete by the end of the evening. Imagine that... he who banked $42 million in on-court earnings, has a lovely wife and kid, and lives in sunny California doing basically nothing. And I fely bad for him.


Posted by ka 03/13/2010 at 07:51 PM

most tennis players are pigeon toed. i myself wanted to be pigeon toed when i was four because i noticed this! i tried to become pigeon toed because of my tennis player love. it worked a bit. being pigeon in tennis is like being a heroin addict in jazz. it's got romance.

Posted by claudia celestial girl 03/13/2010 at 07:53 PM

All issues of personality aside, it was a fascinating evening of tennis, and I'll watch my tape of it again and again. For most of the night I felt like Justin Gimmelstob when Tracy Austin asked what had happened to him, and he said he was too absorbed watching to make pithy comments. Just the sort of match-up fans dream about, Andre and Roger were incredible fun to watch. As some have mentioned, Andre was still capable of some moves that took Roger by surprise. Some lengthy exchanges/volleys were thrilling to watch, and a sort of fantasy tennis mode.

Watching Rafa take on Pete was also fascinating. Pete made RAfa miss with a delightful half-volley, and Rafa returned the favor later in the match. This was more than fun, this was different generations going after each other. As Andre said at one point to Rafa - they don't make athletes like they used to! Rafa and Pete seemed to be interested in matching up and testing their skills against each other.

The personalities were nothing more nor less than what they were during their prime years of competition, and so also fascinating to watch, and watch again! Of course Andre took over. Ever the showboat! And Pete beat him down by the end of the match with a few signature strokes! Nontheless, none of the other players were nearly as entertaining, and what might proved a dull evening was mitigated by Andre's ability to generate a joke and a bit of dialog. The first hit for Haiti had more players and match-ups to make things interesting. Also, Roger behaved as one might expect given his personality. The first Hit for Haiti, he set the tone, picked the personalities to be involved, and was quite funny. Without being the lead guy here, he was a bit more at a loss, especially given the personality issues between Pete and Andre. Both Pete and Rafa are better letting their rackets do the talking (which they did in this exhibition), rather than playing straight man. (Roger seems to be very good at that role). Though at one point, Rafa pointedly asked Andre to tone it down. Also, Rafa changed the subject, when asked about the Shakira video, back to the subject of Haiti. So interestingly, Rafa also exhibited some of his classic skills - imposing his will on a match and other players.

In the end, if Pete had more personality skills, the comments by Andre would not have taken on the tone that they did. it was the fact that Pete's reaction, the fact that he got offended, that made the moment awkward. There are many different ways that Pete could have brushed those comments off. Still, it was nonetheless just like Pete always was! He comes across as being irritated by Andre. After getting angry, he got serious with the tennis racket. And so the situation was actually fascinating.

For me the evening was captured by Rafa's off-court comment to Andre when he told Andre 'You're playing unbelievable." That was the bottom line. All four of these guys came out and showed us the tennis skills that made them the champions that they are, the reasons that they, and not Roddick, or Blake, or Murray, were invited to participate.

Posted by Ivo 03/13/2010 at 07:56 PM

Slice-n-Dice, I did see the way you did in the beginning: Andre was trying to make it a really funny event, the other guys should have appreciated his efforts and helped him out. But over the course of the night Andre became aggressive, he didn't read the situation well and make everybody, including the people in the stadium and at home feel awkward. You cannot enforce fun can only put up a great show. And Andre, at some point, was forcing the issue than helping it.

Posted by Ivo 03/13/2010 at 07:58 PM

additionally: just watch hit for Haiti in Australia. That was incredible in comparison to this one..Rafa was so much more engaging - I guess it had to do much more with the players on the court than with Rafa's English, as many assume.

Posted by Texastennis 03/13/2010 at 08:04 PM

Ivo - Sampras absolutely didn't read the occasion well.

Slice n Dice - very perceptive overall re the event.

Posted by claudia celestial girl 03/13/2010 at 08:07 PM

I meant to add that I recall a match in 2006, Andre's last match at Wimbledon, and it was a young Rafa Nadal who beat him, and then stood by in appreciation while the crowd said their farewell. Rafa would go on to his first Wimbledon final. It seemed like Andre and Rafa remenisced about that match last night while sitting down together on the change overs. For a fan like me, it was a priveledge to see these two on the same court again, appreciating each other's skills.

I've also been studying Roger's final few matches with Andre. Early in the decade these two played some outstanding matches. Roger's game has evolved in the interim. So it was especially interesting to watch these two go at it, with a little trash talking (which both of them are capable of) in the mix. Entertaining, and interesting psychology, as Andre tried to get under Roger's skin (telling him he wasn't intimidating, and telling him red was not his color). Most of today's players (except for Murray) are too respectful of Roger to really get in his face with a little trash talking. So I found their exchanges really interesting as Roger once again showed that he was better with the racket.

Finally, I mentioned before how interesting I thought the Nadal/Sampras match-up was. Rafa has the most top-spin of anyone, and he began pushing Sampras off the court, at one point, with persistent groundstrokes. Andre started joking about - more top spin - more top spin, but that was an interesting match-up for me.

Posted by Tony 03/13/2010 at 08:07 PM

on the plus side the ladies where great. Martina the oldest among the players ,is still amazing.

Posted by Texastennis 03/13/2010 at 08:11 PM

PS Hilarious and true tweet from Jon Weirtheim -

"can we chip in and get sampras snappy comeback lessons? you have a hairpiece and crystal meth at your disposal...and you bring up obama?!?"

Posted by Ashkelon 03/13/2010 at 08:12 PM

Andre Agassi is a whiny, wig-wearing, spoiled little back-waxing freak. With a head shaped like a deformed melon. What more evidence does anyone need than his WAY overrated (and entirely ghostwritten!) book and the recent revelation that even Brooke Shields thinks he's a twerp?

Team Fed, Samp, & Nad

Posted by Ivo 03/13/2010 at 08:13 PM

I disagree with you. Sampras tried to smooth the edges, especially at the end of the match: his line about love for Agassi was quite amazing. Agassi didn't react at all - and it was Agassi rather than Sampras who was the first to show quite the irritation when it came to the jokes between the two: it was after the impersonation that Agassi really started unloading.
By all this I don't mean to say that Pete could have reacted much better and that his way of handling the issue was ideal. Far from it. I still see though that it was Andre who pushed the envelope.

Posted by ka 03/13/2010 at 08:14 PM

one other thing - people who say they trash talk with their friends. pete and agassi aren't friends. and if they were, you don't air your dirty laundry about your friends to millions of people without warning. or maybe you do? i don't consider those people my friends. you do it as someone else said in private and try and help them not humiliate them.

keeping trash talk to your opponent's tennis courts ticks and tennis weaknesses on the court are a different thing. it can be fun and it might help you win. but if my opponent starting screaming on a public tennis court about something personal that they didn't like about me that had nothing to do with tennis without provocation, whoa - messed up!

Posted by CK 03/13/2010 at 08:15 PM

I totally agree with Ivo. Agassi was inappropriately rude and self-centered. Sampras was only stupid in a way that he didn't know how to react better. he should have asked Agassi about his drug use...that's something all of us know as well so it'd be okay:)

Posted by Yet Another Lurker 03/13/2010 at 08:20 PM

Funny how differently people see the event... how people who share the same biases backslap each other for the acuity of their perceptions. Clearly Sampras and Agassi were both at fault. Spending paragraphs replete with pop psychology trying to parse who started it, who is more insecure, who more resentful, underscores the playground nature of this spat between two men who should know better.

I am surprised so many people wanted to hear the players talk. Agassi and Sampras are native English speakers, Federer (regardless of his impressive fluency) and Nadal are not. Sampras isn't comfortable with public banter. So clearly Agassi was going to dominate with the microphone. Were people really more entertained by his mild, lame trash talk than that massive 104 mph service return? Yesterday, the tennis should have been allowed to do the talking. I'd rather watch these four players hit casually than listen to what passes in Anglo-Saxon culture for jockish banter.

Posted by Tony 03/13/2010 at 08:21 PM

Slice-n-Dice - "pretend what we may, the whole man within us is at work when we form our philosophical opinions."

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 03/13/2010 at 08:28 PM

Was there a bit of passive-aggressive behavior going on there with Andre? No doubt. But I think it was in an attempt to get Pete to "come out of his shell" a bit. Maybe even to get him a little irked so that he'd fire off a one-liner or two of his own. Thye problem is that Pete isn't quick-witted. That doesn't mean he's not intelligent, either. There are different types of intelligence, and Pete's does not lie in the verbal communication realm. But yeah, had he found a better way to handle the ribbing from Andre, as Roger did, the evening would have ended on a high note. Andre's urging Rafa to put more topspin on the ball -- "more topspin, Rafa!" -- was terrific. And his calling out his serve speeds to Roger -- 113 and 122mph, which the radar gun recorded as 114 and 123mph -- was incredible. Anyone who thinks Andre doesn't have "feel" for the ball is whack.

Now, I realize I'm sounding like an Andre KAD, and I don't mean to. I always loved Pistol Pete, and still think if I had to hand the ball to one player who would have tpo play a single point against some alien force for the salvation or doom of the world, I'd hand to Pete and sit back to watch him serve up a 132mph ace down the T.

But I credit Andre with trying to inspire the others to "play along" with him, to spice up the evening with some trash-talk and lively banter. It's nbot an easy thing to do, and sometimes someone's ego gets a little bruised. You have to be able to laugh at yourself, first and foremost. And the gut who showed us all how best to do that was Roger. I came away convinced that he'd be a lot of fun to hang out with. He knows how to out his ego aside and just enjoy the moment.

Tracy Austoin, whose sommentary I ordinarily cannot stomach, had it right when she said that we were so fortunate to have champions and rivals like Rafa and Roger, who have so much mutual respect and admitration for each other. Too bad that Pete and Andre still have a few things to iron out. It's a complex dynamic, for sure.

Posted by Ivo 03/13/2010 at 08:33 PM

I don't share the opinion that tennis should have done the talking. Why? For the simple fact that in these exhibitions, tennis never does the talking: first the players will never be serious enough to even attempt to do play well (the lack of compelling reasons why they should attmpet to do so), secondly there's no rythm in matches like this to produce really any good quality match; thirdly not only the players but even the public doesn't expect them to go only for good shots.
Exhibitions almost never produce spectacular tennis - enteraining tennis (like some of the stuff in the Australian Hit for Hait) - yes, but not good quality tennis.
People watch these exhibitions because they love the players, want to share the moments with them in a jovial fun way - they want to enjoy their personalities on the court, have a feeling that not only the players but also the spectators can enjoy this together without any stakes.
Really, let's tennis do the talking is an extremeley weird position to take when you talk about exhibitions of this sort.

Posted by tennisfan#1 03/13/2010 at 08:35 PM

Rafa is not looking good at all. Not a good sign. Cheers.

Posted by BrooklynNY 03/13/2010 at 08:40 PM

Slice: Everyone understands that part of the situation. Everyone understands alittle poking fun is necessary.

You brought the example of you and your friends making fun of how someone lacks a backhand.

Thats completely different than what Andre did.
Andre didnt make fun of how many Pete's backhand would get possibly get destroyed by Rafa..

If one of your friends made fun of the other friend for working a shitty job, and not being as wealthy as you. Or other personal greivances like who you choose to have sex with, or how much you tip peeople

Thats not even near the same as saying your forehand is a spinny peice of garbage.

Maybe Pete was tight, but who wouldnt be. Its not like Pete got offended by the "half volleys dont get it done anymore" or the "old and bald" comments. Those are fun, what he did was not fun for anyone but himself.

Posted by Yet Another Lurker 03/13/2010 at 08:44 PM

Ivo... I don't expect the tennis to be "good", as in Wimbledon 2008 good, when there's nothing on the line... I simply mean spectacular. There were spectacular points last night. What about Federer's volleys? Not just the sequence early on, but the half-volley later. What about Agassi's returns? Speaking of the first Hit for Haiti, what about the point in which Federer hit a cross-court tweener and Rafa hit a volley with such ferocious backspin the ball bounced back over the net onto his and Roddick's side. But I can see that you'd rather have heard Agassi talk last night. I didn't hear anyone else say a word, except for the occasional Federer interjection. I'm not saying there should be no banter but miking up players led to Agassi's incessant talking, some of it funny, plenty of it not. Why not just have additional mikes around the court to pick up incidental banter?

I might describe as weird the mania evident in some posts here for overanalyzing a graceless moment between two magnificent players who appear to have little sympathy with each other.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 03/13/2010 at 08:50 PM


I agree with you. My example was of the kind of ribbing that my friends and I do regularly and find acceptable, if a little mean-spirited. It's all about getting into each other's heads. But I agree with your general thesis, and Andre did take it too far.

Where I'm coming from is similar to Steve, who write, and I agree: "I know it’s not Pete’s thing, but his silence over the course of the set was pretty conspicuous." Pete was not present for more than half the set. He not only was completely silent, he couldn't buy a return and missed a ton of first serves. He stunk up the court and was contributing. I think Andre recognized this and went to the humor and trash-talk to draw Pete out. And it worked, a little too well, in fact. Whether Andre did it intentionally or not, his barbs went a bit too deep, and that awoke the real Pete Sampras -- the tennis player.

I do think, in the end, it was a shame that Andre took it too far and went too personal. I also think it was a shame that Pete wouldn't have played along with Andre on the "two old bald guys playing with Roger and Rafa" joke, which might have then been the end of it. But who knows?... we can't rewind the tape.

Posted by BrooklynNY 03/13/2010 at 09:01 PM

Slice: Believe me, I like to talk my s**t. Who doesn't.
It sounds like we would play a fun game together. haha

But its about time and place.

Posted by SR 03/13/2010 at 09:05 PM

Very interesting reading everyone's comments. My thoughts:

1. This may the only column of Steve's I've read where I think he was a little off. What happened last night was a big deal and I think, regardless of whether you're an Agassi fan or a Sampras fan, you'd agree that the dynamics weren't pretty. I don't think it's a question of bias or prejudice. No one benefits when there's such palpable tension and bad feelings between such icons of the game as Sampras and Agassi, guys who are still ambassadors of their sport. They did not attend the press conference last night. I'd be surprised if they appear on court again together in the near future even though apparently they have another exo scheduled. That's a bummer for tennis.

2. Agreed that Agassi was trying to inject levity into the event and that Sampras should have been more talkative, made more of an effort. Since the guys were miked they were supposed to talk. (Whether they should have been is another issue...Melbourne rocked b/c Roddick, Rafa, Novak, Fed, Clijsters, etc. made a good team; perhaps someone should have anticipated fireworks given Agassi's book and Sampras' reactions to it. Given how stellar the tennis was at times - like that fabulous rally at the beginning - maybe that was all we needed. But I loved Melbourne too so I'm not sure.) Sampras seemed pretty mutinous from the start, even before things got sticky. I kinda feel like he was miscast. I know they wanted two legends and two active players, but they would've been better off with someone like Courier, who would've known how to laugh it off, give as good as he got, not take it personally, etc.

3. More grateful than ever now for the mutual respect Rafa and Roger exhibit. Somehow, Roger's class after Wimbledon '08 or Rafa's hug and encouragement after AO '09 seem even more touching and poignant now. Don't think such genuine feeling is possible in most top-tier rivalries, not only in tennis but in all of sports.

Posted by tina 03/13/2010 at 09:16 PM

The only video I have seen from this event was Pete serving right at Andre, and sometimes actions speak louder than words...

Some spectators didn't get what they wanted, and the organisers wanted "jokes"? well, all-told, what was the take for Haiti?

In their retirement careers, it is Andre who has all the confidence of someone who knows what he's doing and why. Pete is still trying to figure out what to do with his time, it seems. And is insecure about it.

Posted by BrooklynNY 03/13/2010 at 09:16 PM


I think it did fire Pete up, cause afterward he hit a huge serve to Andre and then just hit a huge volley right b/w Rafa and Andre on the baseline, like directly on the hashmark. And his game generally picked up.

I also agree Pete was kinda lackadaisical for the first handful of games.
And you're right. It did kind of fire him up a bit after, possibly too much haha. So maybe the outcome was needed, but the means to the end was not exactly the right path.

Side note: Rafa is serving for the match!

Posted by amanaceo 03/13/2010 at 09:19 PM

Andre's is jealouse of Pete, and that came out in the open during the match. Pete may be cheap when it comes to tipping, but the world saw who was cheap when it comes to personality. Shame on Agassi.

Posted by Ivo 03/13/2010 at 09:23 PM

Yet Another Lurker,
I see now what you mean by "tennis makes the talking". Yes I agree that that some of the shots, especially in the Australian exhibition but also yesterday were great - from the Aussie hit for haiti especially the one where Rafa finished the ball with a back-spin slice that ended on his side. In this sense I do agree that this tennis is worthwhile watching..but for this tennis to happen you need a jovial atmosphere...i.e. you have to the players goofing around and have fun doing it. I think that yesterday that atomsphere was just not there.

Posted by Sarah 03/13/2010 at 09:24 PM

I've been reading the comments with interest. I got to see a few Youtube moments . . . man . . . it was a little tense. I was glad that Sampras said what he said at the end of the whole ordeal.

Anyway, I have some sympathy for Sampras's "slowness." It's tough to suddenly become a gregarious, snappy-comeback kind of guy just because you're supposed to. And especially it's hard when *a whole lot of snappy comebacks are off limits*!!!

For all the talk about meth and wig and tanking in Agassi's book -- those kinds of "comebacks" were entirely off-limits to Sampras. So it's not as if he was allowed to "give as good as he got" and make it personal. I would have been very disappointed had he said something cutting about Agassi's former personal problems.

I've been in those situations before -- where I was supposed to be "quick witted" but every comeback flashing through my mind was NOT appropriate or kind. Then your mind has to shuffle through various other options -- and it ain't easy when the obvious ones are "taken" so to speak.

I don't know why Agassi behaved as he did, and I'm disappointed. I guess my new rule for Sampras would be "don't do exhibitions with Agassi -- you can't cut it because you're not as able to draw blood verbally."

That's a pity -- but that's what I'd advise were I suddenly to be his Advisor.

Posted by S 03/13/2010 at 09:32 PM

Cilic loses 7-6 6-0! Sorry, Steve:P
John Isner's up next...pressure's on him since Bodo has picked him to win!!

Posted by ANKNNY 03/13/2010 at 09:38 PM


From the start, Agassi seemed hyper to us. He seemed to be upstaging everyone and it stopped being funny within a few minutes. There were constant shots at Sampras (bald head, eyesight failing), Nadal and Roger, too. A bully, demeaning humor at the expense of anyone in sight. Sampras did not come to this exo to be humiliated. And everyone seems to have the same reaction, especially those who were actually there. It stopped being fun, it sucked the air out of the stadium and in our living rooms. And the fans seemed in a real hurry to get out of the stadium at the end.

Andre wants the love back. He seems desperate and he doesn't understand how he exposed himself as somewhat of a fraud in his book. Both Nadal and Roger condemned Agassi at that time. Somehow, Andre didn't figure that out in advance before he wrote the book.

All we could think of during all of this was what Rod Laver must have been thinking....

Posted by Yet Another Lurker 03/13/2010 at 09:38 PM

Ivo... I agree with you that the atmosphere was too tense. I know it's futile now to talk about it but I believe miking up the players, as SR said in a comment, puts the onus on them to be verbal. In that group of four only Agassi has the savvy and quickness to talk trash in English. Federer was game but he is too genial, Nadal's English is too limited and I don't think talking trash is natural to him and Sampras's reaction was summed up, as Tina pointed out in her comment, by serving at Agassi's head. I think more tennis would have been fun for everyone. And Agassi could still have got verbal shots in but without being miked up he might have resisted the temptation to talk between points, during them, before them and after them. I also agree with those who suggested that if you are going to mike up players Courier might have been a better choice than Sampras. And Roddick preferable to Nadal. For spectacular tennis though you couldn't have asked for four better players than those on court last night.

Posted by You all are Dumps... 03/13/2010 at 09:40 PM

Andre stole the show, the awkwardness was the best part of last nights show. Rafa and Sampras were boring as hell. Rafa is foreign and probably doesn't understand too much of american humor as english is a third language to him. I'm sure there was always tension way before anything that andre wrote and brought out to the public eye, just no one else caught it. Regardless of his former addictions, anyone bringing it up now would be a hipocrit(spelling?) in trying to make a low blow to andre in Sampras's behalf (but I can understand). Sampras = reserved and handled it well. Andre = wears his heart on his sleeve and was a bit of a douche. But hey, I laughed hard the entire time and Andre and Sampras hugged it out....

Steve Tignor still sucks....

Posted by Ade 03/13/2010 at 09:43 PM

ANKNNY- excellent post. I couldn't have said it more perfect..

Posted by zolarafa 03/13/2010 at 09:44 PM

great article, as always.

Seriously, aren't we lucky to be in Rafa/Fed era rather than Andre/Pete time?

Agassi talked too much and made the event really boring. I thought he didn't know how to behave. I was never an Agassi fan. Pete all the way! And last night's match definitely did not change my mind about him.

btw, Steve,
you really really jinxed poor Cilic!

Posted by Corrie 03/13/2010 at 09:51 PM

I think the point of these events is to show the players in a more informal relaxed, human mode, not to take their tennis seriously in a match that is meaningless.

The egos of the Americans got in the way of the light hearted "fun". Because of this it was a wrong mix of players. Roddick and Djokovic may be more minor players than the two "legends' but they sure have better senses of humour and they were great in Melbourne. They would have helped loosen up Nadal.

Fed did his best in increasingly trying circumstances. He was very good and funny in Melbourne and all the players there were far more capable of self deprecating humour than their older, supposedly more "mature" elders in this match..

Posted by Yet Another Lurker 03/13/2010 at 10:00 PM

Corrie... those four tennis players last night were the right players to put on a fantastic exhibition... are we so bored of tennis that we don't want to watch four of the best players in the history of the game play tennis?... precisely because they're not taking the match seriously, because the match is meaningless, because there is no pressure, the tennis could have been sparkling. And the banter could have emerged naturally, rather than being forced upon them by the attached microphones. Davenport even said last night to Steffi how awkward it was to talk during the changeovers.

Posted by Christopher 03/13/2010 at 10:04 PM

Personally, I thought the imitation of Andre's walk was very much in-bounds. It's hardly a disability or a physical deformity and in fact was always regarded fondly. In an interview now long after his retirement Andre was asked "if we'll get a chance to see that pigeon-toed walk on the tennis court again any time soon?" Sampras teasing him about that was basically on the level of Djokovic teasing Sharapova about her service ritual.

Andre came back with a direct insult on Pete's personality, essentially calling him a bad person who doesn't care to help other in spite of his own great fortune. And it was clearly the part of the book that pissed Pete off. I really think there's no comparison here. Andre's comments were beyond classless. I really had come to like Andre late in his career, as had so many others. The book (which I did indeed read all of) and things like his behavior in this match have really changed my opinion of him very much for the worse.

Posted by Cosi 03/13/2010 at 10:11 PM

FOr the complaints about Pete's play or sluggishness, he's fortyish and if anybody has noticed, he plays like this especially in the beginning of matches because he can't help it! He's very gimpy, has a bad back and probably all kinds of injuries, he can't come storming out on teh tennis court like a twenty year old, and I think it bothers him that he's slow and a little awkward now that he's aged... so no amount of teasing is going to make him "Fire it up" when he can't until he really warms up physically. ANd no way was Pete going to say "meth head" or something, that would have really upped the warfare quotient, it was a line that shouldn't be crossed and Pete is too classy to cross it. As I said, you put Jimmy Connors out there with Andre and he's going to fire right back with personal insults with abandon, that's just the kind of tough brawler he is, Andre wouldn't have gone there with someone less dignified than Pete..

Posted by Deuce 03/13/2010 at 10:18 PM

Where are Roddick and Djokovic when you need them? I agree with the overall sentiment that Andre was trying to lighten things up. Martina was the one who did the most talking for women and it was a bit dry out there, so some fun was definately needed. Roger did his usual bit and hung in there with some good comments. I though Rafa was oddly muted and didn't seem to have fun unlike in Melbourne. Did Andre go over the top? A bit. I thought most of what he did was right but could have used something different than the tip thing let alone say it twice. I also thought that both Pete and Andre had something to prove out there with the way some of the shots were.

Posted by Murph 03/13/2010 at 10:38 PM

Pete Sampras is hardly a class act. He was a bad choice for this event. Remember that these are just people that can hit a tennis ball. Albeit very very well...the great majority of them are self-centered misfits. Andre was the the showman and really carried the show. Then he went too far. It's a shame but it doesn't surprise me. Andre gets a pass from me because he is giving back and I love his school. Pete just needs to go away.

Posted by Morkalere Flampton 03/13/2010 at 10:40 PM

It's doubles, man. Exhibition doubles. I bet Agassi was trying to be entertaining. And since Pete has always let his racquet do the talking, his serve at Agassi's head was merely a verbal reply.

Posted by Morkalere Flampton 03/13/2010 at 10:48 PM

By the way, it was MEN'S doubles. That's the game where players hit the ball at each other.

Posted by Sammy 03/13/2010 at 11:00 PM

I don’t want to come across as an Agassi defender since I never was a fan, but I do believe that Sampras’s imitation of him got to him probably more than it should have since it was an imitation of his deformity (not to be confused with Djokovic’s imitations, which are imitations of other players’ mannerisms). Agassi has shown, especially after the release of his book, that he has a fragile ego, and a situation such as that can hit a raw nerve, which it apparently did and provoked his disproportionate retort.

At any rate, a more level-headed person wouldn’t have been terribly offended either by Sampras’s imitation or by Agassi’s retort, especially considering the occasion they were there for, which should make them rise above such petty concerns. Again, both Sampras and Agassi should take a page from Nadal’s/Federer’s book on how not to let sporting rivalry descend to personal bickering!

Posted by Morkalere Flampton 03/13/2010 at 11:03 PM

Tennis players are all different. Andre was Andre, and Pete was Pete, and it was all fine. Pete did very little in his life but hit a tennis ball and he made himself one of the greatest ever. He lets his racquet do the talking in order to not offend others and not make an ass out of himself. Good for him.

Posted by CrazyStuff 03/13/2010 at 11:16 PM

No one asked Andre to force things. Without Andre Agassi in Australia the first version of the exhibition was a great hit. He acted like a "prima donna" with no class. If we had let the match to progress it would have been interesting without the sense less banter and comments he made through out the match. No body asked him to be the hero/cheer leader here. He is just an egotistical meth taking wig wearing prima donna. The match would still be interesting without his trash talkes. people have gone to see the incredible serve (Pete), great returns (agassi), awesome forehands (Fed) and heavy top spin shots (Nadal) and not to be entertained by the banter.

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