Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Full house as Agassi holds court

Local sporting elite among sold-out crowd treated to candid evening with tennis star.

Andre Agassi meets a few of the 1100 fans who attended book signings for his frank autobiography Open at Paper Plus in Newmarket, Auckland (above) and Christchurch. Photo / Richard Robinson
Andre Agassi meets a few of the 1100 fans who attended book signings for his frank autobiography Open at Paper Plus in Newmarket, Auckland (above) and Christchurch. Photo / Richard Robinson

He entertained tennis fans around the world for 20 years as a professional player and last night it was Auckland's turn.

During an event at the Langham Hotel sponsored by the Mad Butcher, Andre Agassi spoke about his childhood and life on the professional circuit which reaped eight grand slams.

Personalities listening to the 42-year-old included Sir Graham Henry, Olympic gold medal-winning rower Mahe Drysdale, young professional boxer Joseph Parker, former Black Cap Martin Crowe and ex rugby player Inga Tuigamala.

Agassi's frank autobiography Open, first published in October 2009, in which he spoke about his drug use, marriage to actor Brooke Shields and resentment of tennis at an early age, won him new fans, and last night he touched on those topics.

In an emotional video introduction, Agassi said his hatred of the game stemmed from the way his father Emmanuel, known as Mike, forced him to practise.

Agassi, who hails from Las Vegas, said the object of his hatred was a machine which spat tennis balls at him at a speed of more than 160km/h, which he called The Dragon. He only wanted to do well in the game to please his Iranian-born father, he said.

In a question-and-answer session at the sold-out event, he added: "I wasn't born to play tennis, I was made to play tennis, so this conflict - became the central core of my life. That started my resentment for the game."

"I was sent away at 13 years old to an academy which was all about tennis. There was no adult supervision, it was like Lord of the Flies with forehands."

"I never accepted that ... I worked really hard to succeed only to be hit with the realisation that succeeding doesn't fulfil you," he said.

On Wednesday night he spoke at a function in Christchurch. Book signings at Paper Plus stores there and in Auckland's Newmarket attracted crowds of 1100 people.

In his book, Agassi, who is married to former women's No 1 player Steffi Graf, spoke about the dullness of his great rival Pete Sampras.

There was little dull about the confessions last night from the first man to win all four grand slams on all three surfaces - grass, hardcourt and clay.

- APNZ

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