Andre Aggasi: U.S. tennis hopes made of clay

Tom Hall, former UNR Alumni President, purchases raffle tickets from cheerleaders Tristanne Gallardo and Hayley Canfield at the Governor's Dinner Friday.

Tom Hall, former UNR Alumni President, purchases raffle tickets from cheerleaders Tristanne Gallardo and Hayley Canfield at the Governor's Dinner Friday.

Andre Agassi established himself as one of this nation’s all-time greats in tennis, playing in a time with rival Pete Sampras that could be consider one of the golden eras for United States men’s tennis during the 1980s and 1990s.

There’s no denying U.S. men’s tennis has seen better days and Agassi said for this nation to regain greatness in men’s tennis it has to see red — red clay courts, that is.

Agassi made his comments at the Governor’s Mansion on Friday before he was to speak at the 46th annual Governor’s Dinner to benefit University of Nevada athletics.

The tennis great, who excelled on clay, said a lack of red clay courts in this country is hurting the development of this nation’s players. Agassi said clay court-type surfaces provide the “discipline right now it takes these days to compete at that level,” commenting on the elite level. “The game has changed a lot for a lot of reasons.”

“It’s not going to be an easy road,” Agassi also said about this nation regaining its greatness in tennis. “I think it has to start a lot at the grassroots level.”

Agassi said tennis players at the youngest levels in this country need to learn how to succeed in clay court-type surfaces in order to be able to eventually excel at the international level.

In his retired life, Agassi’s mission has been to help youth succeed at the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in his hometown, Las Vegas. The academy is a kindergarten through 12th grade free public charter school.

But as Agassi noted, he’s established 39 academies across the country and said one day he will have an academy in Northern Nevada.

“The waiting list is getting longer and longer,” said Agassi about his academies.

“We’re looking to move up here as well,” he said. While he said he didn’t know where the academy would be located, he did say there should be an academy here in “just a matter of a few years.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval also has been supported of his efforts in education, Agassi said. “The Governor’s been an advocate and supporter of education,” he said.

About his work in eduction, Agassi said, “It’s really given me my purpose. The real rewards are greater than anything between the lines.”

Along with education, another cause Agassi has done a great deal of working in is fighting against Alzheimer’s and brain-related diseases.

Agassi has the distinction of being the first Nevadan to be the keynote speaker at the Governor’s Dinner.

“I can’t believe we haven’t had a Nevadan, yet,” he said. “It’s a privilege.”

When asked what he would speak about at the Governor’s Dinner, Agassi said. “I don’t know. I’ll kind of play it by ear. It’s kind of a relaxed event.”

Agassi played competitively while growing up a great deal in Northern Nevada and said playing at altitude and the conditions of this area played a huge role in his future success.

“It played a part in my accomplishments as much as anything,” he said. “I feel like I’ve come full circle.”


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