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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Andre Agassi

Aired August 20, 2003 - 20:51   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Getting ready for the open?

ANDRE AGASSI, TENNIS PLAYER: Yes, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Such is the life these days for Andre Agassi. He and his wife, retired tennis champ Steffi Graf are expecting their second child later this year. And in the meantime, the eight-time Grand Slam champion is preparing for the start of the U.S. Open next week. At the age of 33, he goes into the Open as the oldest top seed in tournament history. And he's taking some time off from his busy practice schedule to join us now. Welcome.

AGASSI: Well, thanks.

ZAHN: Nice to have you in town.

AGASSI: It's my pleasure, glad to be here.

ZAHN: So this will be your 19th U.S. Open. You haven't missed one since you started playing professionally. And we talked about coming in as the number one seed and the oldest number one seed ever in this tournament. Who is it that you fear the most?

AGASSI: My body. If my body holds up, I'm good to go. But you know, it's been a long time. And every year gets tougher and tougher. So I'm hoping I feel as good as I do right now the rest of the tournament

ZAHN: When you talk to people who train with you, they say you work out not only until you're sweating, until your lungs are actually hurting. What kind of physical shape are you in right now?

AGASSI: Well, I'd like to believe as good as I've ever been in. You know, being healthy and being in shape are two different things. For me, being in shape is a necessity. I need that, at this stage of my career especially. But I feel good. I've learned a lot about my body over the years, I've learned how to train smarter, I've learned how to be pretty efficient with what it is I do, and I care about it a lot more than I ever have.

ZAHN: Why is that? AGASSI: Well, I just think I'm older. I think we all have an ability to appreciate sort of rare opportunities in our life, and these are such fleeting moments, aren't they, that they go by so quick. So this is the U.S. Open. I don't know if I'll be back. And it's important to me.

ZAHN: When someone like John McEnroe says you're not only defying the odds, you're defying nature, then you'd agree with him, wouldn't you?

AGASSI: Well, I suppose. You know, I mean, in some respects we don't see too often in a tennis player's life where their career extends into their 30s like mine has. But you know, with that being said, I'm not convinced that you're on the downward hill at 30. You know, I'm still thinking I can have some more years.

ZAHN: You know, when you look at the transitions you have gone through, you were number one in the world for a long, long time. Then you had a period of time where you dropped to 141 in the world; now you're back with a vengeance. What keeps you so hungry?

AGASSI: Well, at this stage having a second life out there is great. I mean, when I fell to 141 in the world, it was like I wasn't ready to give up the game. But I didn't have a choice. I had to change things, or stop, and...

ZAHN: What were you doing wrong then?

AGASSI: I just wasn't focused on tennis. That was a time I had other things that I was more focused on, and in some ways regretfully so, but I find myself pulling out of that stage of my life with a lot more awareness as to sort of what I want from myself, and I have got some great support at home, and I'm just loving to be out there.

ZAHN: What kind of impact has it had on your game to have Steffi Graf in your life, a very celebrated tennis player, a woman who has 22 Grand Slam titles. Has she changed your game or your focus?

AGASSI: Well, she's made a big difference to me in my life. So any time your life sort of takes a big step up, so does everything else. And you know, while she's accomplished so much, she teaches me more by me just watching her every day than anything, the way she goes about everything she does. And it's not really what you talk about, it's what you don't have to talk about that feels so wonderful, to share that intimacy with your spouse, something that you both know so well. It's a great thing.

ZAHN: But any of us who have our spouses that are athletic know they can never give you advice on the tennis court, they can never give you advice on the golf course. How tough is she with you?

AGASSI: Well, advice is one thing, I mean, but it's more just about understanding. You know, I mean, at this stage, you realize so clearly that, you know, what somebody needs to do for themselves is always different than the person next to them. In an individual sport, it's always that way. If you look at the way I went about my business or the way Pete went about his business, entirely two separate approaches. And you know, with Stef, it's the same thing. So she gives me, you know, certainly a lot of freedom to be who I am, but I have the luxury of knowing that she can add a lot when I need her to.

ZAHN: It's so fascinating to see everything you've gone through, the perception Americans had of you, this punk in these crazy blue jean shorts you used to wear, and the great hair, I might add, and now here you are, the elder statesman. How do you view all of those transitions?

AGASSI: Well, I look at myself back then, and I was, you know, a little boy in front of the world growing up. You know.

ZAHN: You had fun, though?

AGASSI: I did. But I also sort of carried a lot of burdens with me and did a lot of unnecessary fighting of battles. So come a long way since then. I look back and I think life is definitely -- definitely growing for me.

ZAHN: And you've talked about how your home life has obviously made you more centered and perhaps made it even possible for you to focus more on the game. Baby number two on the way. Talk about how baby number one has changed your life, Jaden Gil?

AGASSI: Yes, well, it's changed my ability to keep up with my friends, that's for sure. I've lot a lost of time. But he's been an incredible addition to my life. I mean, he's the sweetest little boy in the world. And I just look at him and I am just overwhelmed with him.

ZAHN: Has any signs of a two-handed backhand yet, you think?

AGASSI: You know, he loves any kind of balls to throw, to hit. He'll pick up a tennis racket, he'll pick up a baseball bat, anything that he can sort of swing, so.

ZAHN: Well, we wish you tremendous luck. And in the interests of full disclosure, I should say your number one fan, my 9-year-old son, is sitting over in the corner of the studio, and he will be rooting you on, Andre.

AGASSI: Oh, perfect.

ZAHN: Again, good luck. Thank you for dropping by and visiting with us.

AGASSI: My pleasure.

ZAHN: Good luck with baby two. Get used to sleep deprivation. You will not sleep for the next three years, Andre.

AGASSI: I'm prepared for it.

ZAHN: Take care. Good luck. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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