© Ella Ling

Tennis balls

Agassi: Winning gold was an out of body experience

   

Interview with Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf – this is the transcript of an interview that is being shown on CNN’s Open Court over the coming days (see below for timings).

Patrick Snell: Both of you are so decorated in your field of expertise. Thirty slam titles between you, how does the one gold stack up against all of those grand slams?

Steffi Graf: To me this was bigger than a grand slam, it was more special. Standing on the podium and listening to your national anthem and getting the medal around your neck, seeing the other athletes there that supported. It’s a different feeling, it’s very unique and definitely more special.

Andre Agassi: I think it puts your life and your hard work and your profession, it puts everything into perspective when you sort of get stuck in the context of all these amazing athletes who dedicate their lives for this one moment. We do have a lot of opportunities as professionals to get out there and redeem ourselves and four times a year we get a chance to win the pinnacle of our sport. Well, Olympics; every four years you get a chance and if you have a career that allows you the chance to play twice, it’s a pretty darn special career.

PS: Steffi, lets go back to 1988. Seoul, South Korea. When you look back on that achievement, what are your thoughts now?

SG:  Great thoughts, great memories…we left Frankfurt on the flight with a lot of athletes. I grew up admiring track and field. I mean that was one of the sports we watched a lot of television and I loved track and field myself. So, we had a lot of the track and field athletes on board and it was for me just a feeling of being part of the Olympics. I stayed in the village for quite a few days until it got too loud and noisy and when I had to move back to the hotel, but just experiencing, just being among everybody, I mean I was out at the boxing, I went to see some of the track and field, some of the swimming competitions, so I was really trying to take it all in, but also try to play. It was yeah, being able to get through the first few rounds and then playing for the gold medal was extraordinary.

PS: Let me take you back to 1996 Atlanta Olympics, what do you remember about that run to gold?

AA: I also remember the achievement of it, to be out there in finals against the Spaniard named Sergei Bruguera. I remember the heat and how hot it was there outside Atlanta , 102 degrees with full humidity, just after a rain shower. I remember how much I was so thankful for the preparation I’d put in. Then I remember being on that podium and I remember that feeling of seeing it so many times over the years, what someone might be feeling when that gold medal is put round their neck. Just tears came to my eyes and my father in the crowd who was an Olympic boxer, so I was kind of enjoying it on so many levels.

PS:  You mentioned your father and his Olympic experiences. How special was it to have him there on that occasion?

AA: That was a real big deal for me. It was a big deal because tennis is a sport is that is so lonely and to be able to play it for someone else, for something else, for something bigger than you yet still connected to you is a great sense of fulfilment and for me to be playing for my country and on top of it to be playing to achieve what my father had hoped and what he had not accomplished in his Olympic experience, I just felt like I was playing for something  kind of larger than me and him being there was part of that.

PS: Get back to that podium moment for me, was it just when you were up there, you’re heard the national anthem, was it like this is it, boyhood dream realised?

AA: It was an out of body experience. You know when I was a boy tennis was not in the Olympics, but it was of many things my father had predicted in my life, that tennis should be in the Olympics, would be in the Olympics and you are going to win a gold medal, so being on that podium was a boyhood dream in many respects. I still remember standing there one of the few times that I was actually taller than my opponents standing on the gold medal spot, but yeah the medal round my neck, the national anthem, tears in my eyes. It’s an out of body experience, it’s surreal.

PS: And nothing like a bit of pressure from Dad, did that spur you on?

AA: Well, I guess fear can be a great motivator!

PS: This is my first trip to Las Vegas and I like what I see. You are born and raised here, you’re kids are growing up here. How special is this place for you Andre?

AA: Well if you like what you see after just arriving, stick around! I love living here.

SG: It’s most important who you’re with rather than where you are. You know having my mum here and having my brother and his kids, so having my family and Andre’s family around us. You know the weekends, even last night having a BBQ, having all the kids together, having all the cousins together, it’s just, it’s very comforting and its something we shared of importance of close family as well

PS: There’s something around your neck, Andre.

AA: It says. ‘Daddy Rocks’.

PS: I think I can guess who made that, but tell me about that.

AA: My son made it for me and he was about 4 and a half years old. I haven’t taken it off in 6 years.

SG: You can barely read the letters.

PS: Does mum get something similar?

SG: I get a lot of hugs!

PS: Tell us a little bit about your kids, how are they?

AA: Unbelievable, healthy, strong…

SG: A lot of different interests, very active. They keep us on our toes.

AA: 10 and 8 years old. To give you an example of our Saturdays. My son was competing in a double-header in baseball that my son was competing in, a tournament, which is full on in baseball. We have a horse competition…

SG: A horse show and a hip-hop…

AA: And a hip-hop competition and that was just Saturday…

PS: Just one Saturday?

AA: We’re officially professional chauffeurs, we’re professional cooks, you know, we’re professional babysitters

SG: The best job in the world.

PS: Do they ever pick up a racket?

AA: A couple times a week Jaz will play.

SG: Jaz will play a little bit and Jaden, he’s very focused on his baseball. I mean he will go when we go over to Grandpa’s he will get on a court and play little bit, he has a lot talent. But baseball is his sport. Jaz will play a little bit, she’s the one that will try everything, a little tennis, a little hip-hop, a little horse-back riding, piano. She hasn’t made up her mind to which direction she has gone.

FULL AIR TIMES ( UK TIME):

Saturday 21 July at 0830 and 2200
Sunday 22 July at 1730
Saturday 28 July at 1730
Sunday 29 July at 0830 and 2200
Duration: 30 minutes.