Suffice it to say, the one-time rebel certainly has a cause. Andre Agassi was game and lively in an appearance Thursday in Indianapolis, the site of his 1996 disqualification from the RCA Championships.
"I'm making up for being disqualified the last time I played [here]," he joked.
The reason for his showing was to celebrate the grand opening of another charter school, one funded by the Turner-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund in which he is obviously a partner. He was happy to oblige casual and die-hard tennis fans in attendance as well, though, saying about wife Stefanie Graf's Grand Slam haul compared to his:
It's a timeless quip, one that never fails to deliver, and Agassi is happy to trot it out for fans, but he's also dead serious about education reform. The Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy (AACPA) opened in 1994 and saw a 100-percent graduation rate during its first few years. Agassi is clear-eyed about it, though, calling the process of building a charter school "a Herculean task."
He's up for it, though, as evidenced on Thursday—but he was also ready to switch gears and talk about his French Open player to beat, John McEnroe's enduring fitness, and Serena Williams' selection to the TIME 100 list.
Who’s your favorite for the French Open? They’re all up and down lately.
AGASSI: It's true. I still say, going into the French, when somebody’s won it eight times and only lost there once—and you’ve got to get over the hump of beating [Rafael] Nadal in three out of five [sets], he has proven to be the Everest there at Roland Garros. So I’m gonna have to see that to believe it. But with that being said, watching [Stanislas] Wawrinka’s performance in Australia, watching him start his clay season the way he did in Monte Carlo, knowing that [Novak] Djokovic has always been a threat on the dirt, one or two things could happen and could open the door for a handful of guys. I would be speculating to guess at those things. What I’m not going to guess that is that Nadal deserves the respect of being that favorite for his years of dominance.
So those are your Top 3 for the French, not [Roger] Federer in the mix?
AGASSI: You know, again, I think there are four or five who could do it, depending on what happens. Federer would need a break. I think Wawrinka would probably need a break or two. It’s going to be hard to go through Federer, Djokovic, and Nadal. It all depends on how things end up lining up and where that draw is and who gets that difficult match when they have time to recover. So that’s a handful of guys who could do it, but I’m going to stick with Nadal until somebody can beat him there.
On Valentine’s night in February, John McEnroe—two days before he turned 55—won the PowerShares Series title over Jim Courier. What do you think of his fitness and prowess in tennis still?
AGASSI: I think it’s great to see what he’s able to do, ‘cause it gives us all hope that we can feel that good at that age, so I’d sign up for it. With that said, at 55, I hope I’m with my wife on Valentine’s.
That’s actually why Jimmy Connors’ wife wouldn’t let him play.
Serena was named overnight to the TIME 100 list. What do you think about that?
AGASSI: I hadn’t seen that, so I think, from an athletic perspective, I’ve always had a great deal of respect for what she does out there on the court. I’ve struggled at times with the fashion in which she’s gone about it, but she’s one heck of a competitor. And sometimes we see the worst of it, but most of the time we see something that we all should admire.
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