Professional tennis players reach their peak around the age of 30. After that they tend to ride off into the sunset, perhaps commentating or playing the adult tour for kicks. And in 1999 it seemed Andre Agassi was headed down that path.
He tumbled to 141 in the rankings, put on weight, and seemed to be enjoying his new life in Hollywood alongside wife Brooke Shields. However, it suddenly dawned on him that regardless of his age he could still compete.
Andre was born on April 29, 1970, to Mike and Betty Agassi. His father, a former boxing champ and Olympian from Iran, settled in Las Vegas taking work as a tennis instructor. And as soon as little Andre could walk, Mike taped a racket to his son's hand and hung a tennis ball over his crib. "He was convinced that if my eyes were going to move around as a little baby, I might as well be looking at a tennis ball," says Andre.
By the age of ten, Andre was beating fellow up-and-coming US players including Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Michael Chang. Aged 13, he'd simply learned all he could from his dad. Mike shipped his son off to legendary coach Nick Bollettieri's famed tennis boot camp in Bradenton, Florida. But Andre didn't take to the rigours of the tennis academy and began to rebel, growing his hair and even wearing jeans to tournaments. In 1986 he left the camp, but retained Nick as his coach, turning pro aged just 16. And he never looked back. "I always planned on being a professional, and I figured I might as well just get out there and do it," says Andre.
His bad-boy image proved popular with both corporate sponsors and the ladies. Millions of dollars worth of endorsement deals rolled in and he was seen on the arm of a bevy of women, including Barbra Streisand
. In 1992, he jetted off to Wimbledon at the last minute after nearly deciding to skip the All England lawn event entirely. Smart move. He shocked even himself, defeating Goran Ivanisevic in the finals and claiming his first major title.
When his relationship with Nick soured, Andre turned to fellow American and pro Brad Gilbert to coach him, and over the next couple of years he claimed two Grand Slam trophies and an Olympic gold medal. In 1993 he started dating Suddenly Susan
star Brooke Shields and the two married in California on April 19, 1997.
"I was playing a lot of golf, going out a lot, enjoying Brooke's world," says Andre. "It was awesome... It was nice not to have the responsibility I've known since I was a child." However, the charms of Hollywood soon wore thin and the couple divorced amicably just ten days shy of their two-year wedding anniversary. "Love is not enough for a marriage to work," he says.
Realising he missed playing competitive tennis, Andre started on a much-chronicled weight training programme and diet and began training with a purpose. With his 1999 win at the French Open he became the first man since Rod Laver in the Sixties to win all four grand slam events in his career and the only player besides German tennis star Steffi Graf
to win all four plus an Olympic gold medal for singles.
Fittingly, he and Steffi soon began dating - and two years later the couple announced they were expecting their first child. "He's always tried to walk this balance between his life and his tennis, and here's someone that supports both," says Perry Rogers, Andre's manager. "So there is this complete balance. It just funnels right down together." The high-profile pair wed on October 22, 2001, in a private ceremony in Las Vegas. Steffi gave birth to a baby boy, Jaden Gil, just four days later. In October 2003 the happy couple announced the birth of their second child, a girl called Jaz Elle.
While his personal life was going from strength to strength, so too was his tennis career. In 2004, the then 34-year-old became the second oldest singles champion ever to win the Cincinnati Masters - which, in turn, took the number of singles titles he'd won to 59.
Andre announced his retirement from professional tennis at the US open in 2006 and received an eight minute long standing ovation from the crowd. Since then, he has dedicated his time to charity work, and in 2007 he co-founded Athletes For Hope - an organisation to encourage professional athletes to get involved with fundraising.