Tennis became the only thing I could do: Agassi

Eight-time major champion Andre Agassi opens up about his love-hate relationship with the sport

Andre Agassi

‘Image is everything.’ It’s the phrase that has haunted, as much as defined, Andre Agassi throughout his career.

Agassi burst on to the scene as a rebellious teenager and left it as an elder statesman. But he never stopped being an original.

One of his long-time sponsors, Nike, will pay tribute to the eight-time Grand Slam champion by featuring an Agassi-inspired clothing line at the upcoming US Open. It has been 30 years since Agassi helped Nike launch the ‘Challenge Court’ collection, with accents of neon and denim, at the 1990 US Open.

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In an interview with B/R Kicks, Agassi, now 50, said that his partnership with the apparel giant had been about finding his ‘own identity.’

“It’s paying tribute to, you know, an unbelievable company meeting a young kid who didn’t know any better, as it related to my own identity and we both were willing to search it out together,” said Agassi, who began the collaboration with Nike in 1988.

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“To explore it and communicate it.”

The American, who skipped a few editions of Wimbledon early in his career because he didn’t want to wear all-white clothing and abhorred the rigid traditions, also opened up about his love-hate relationship with the sport itself.

Agassi in the famous denim-and-neon outfits

“Tennis was never a choice for me,” the American, who retired in 2006, said.

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“It was always something I had to do. And then at some point, it became the only thing I could do. And I think there was a lot of resentment in that, but there were a lot of rewards in it, too.

“So there was a lot of contradiction and conflict and I felt like what I wore was something that I could kind of choose and take ownership of, and I chose to kind of go down that anti-establishment road, because of that resentment.”

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Agassi, who had briefly returned to the top league as Novak Djokovic’s coach, added that it was fun to help Nike recreate the 1990 Challenge Court collection.

“Going through this process all over again has been a lot of fun, handpicking some of the stuff that we crafted together, a long time ago,” the former world no 1 and eight-time Grand Slam champion said.

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“I suppose if you wait long enough in life, everything has come back again, even, you know, even a mullet maybe one day.”