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Andre Agassi Inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame. Wimbledon Champ Petra Kvitova. Tennis Coach Nick Bollettieri. Martina Hingis Swaps Tennis Court for Paddock.

Aired August 11, 2011 - 05:30:00   ET


PAT CASH, HOST: Welcome to OPEN COURT. This month, we're coming to you from the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum in Newport, Rhode Island, USA.

The Hall was founded in 1954 to recognize the greatest players and contributors to the game of tennis. And this year, one of the greatest players of the modern era was inducted into the Hall, Andre Agassi.




CASH: We chart the amazing journey of the kid from Las Vegas, Andre Agassi. We speak to the newly-crowned Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova.


NICK BOLLETTIERI, TENNIS COACH: Increase that racquet head speed.


CASH: And I take to the court with one of the game's most famous coaches, Nick Bollettieri.

Back in 1987, as the newly-crowned Wimbledon champion, I got the shock of my life when I came a cross a brash young American called Andre Agassi. Andre may have been a superhero on the court, but off the court, he was very much human.

Eight Grand Slam titles. Olympic Gold. Number one in the world in 1995. And two years after that, 141 in the world. And two years after that, he was back to number one.

Set with the task to unearth the real Andre Agassi, we turn to fellow Hall of Famer, the flamboyant commentator and author, Bud Collins, to ask the all-important questions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1994 Hall of Famer, Bud Collins.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bud. Thanks for signing my Pancho Gonzalez racquet.

COLLINS: It's a rare racquet.

I've been as a journalist over 50 years, television, writing.


COLLINS: Thank you.

Every year, there are new people added to the list of the tennis immortals. I went in in 1994.

Here's an educated kid. He asked for the signature instead of the autograph.

And now, I know you're going to like this year's entrants, one of the few men who have a career Grand Slam. Andre Agassi, it's just about time for him to be in the Hall of Fame.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I get our hometown here, Mr. Andre Agassi.


ANDRE AGASSI, INTERNATIONAL TENNIS HALL OF FAME: I'm thrilled, humbled, quite terrified, to be honest, to stand in front of you right now


COLLINS: Congratulations, Andre. You're in the Hall. I don't know just what it means to you, but you've spent a major portion of your life on a tennis court. When did it come to you the Hall exists?

AGASSI: Well, as a young boy, my father gave me a lot of orders in life, and one of which was to get -- to make it here, so my dad --

COLLINS: Parental order.

AGASSI: Yes, it was --

COLLINS: Hall of Fame.

AGASSI: It was a mandate.

COLLINS: Your boy, Andre Agassi is going into the Hall of Fame. When did you first know about the Hall of Fame?

MIKE AGASSI, ANDRE'S FATHER: Hall of Fame? I don't know. All I know, when he was a little child, I knew he was going to be great. The reason I knew, when he was watching the ping pong they were playing, everybody would look at the ball like this. But his eyes -- he looked straight, and the eyes were going left and right.


MIKE AGASSI: I said, what an eye combination.


COLLINS: You've had in your career more ups and downs than an elevator operator.


COLLINS: It just -- he's there, he's wonderful, he's the greatest player of all time. He's down here, what's he doing? He's 141 on the ATP rankings.


COLLINS: How did you dig yourself out from that? Why did you?

AGASSI: You know, I -- I did because I needed to choose and take ownership of my life. I felt like my father chose the game for me when I was young. I stayed with it out of fear. Fear of what this would mean to walk away from something I've just known my whole life.

But I've always had that slight disconnect with it until I was about 27 years old. And when I was 27 years old, 141 in the world, I gave myself permission to quit. I should say, I've quit a thousand times in my life, but I've never allowed myself to stay away.

And I said, "I'm going to choose it for myself." And that's when I started to think about the school, my academy in Las Vegas, and I started to play tennis to change the lives of these children, and I started to find out that, geez, this is really fulfilling me, and tennis is a reason why I can do this.

From that day forward, I started a love affair with it.



AGASSI: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Andre! Andre! Andre!

COLLINS: And what did Gil mean to you? Gil Reyes?

AGASSI: Gil's been everything to me. I call him my lifeguard. Physically, he knows the body better than anybody I've ever met, kept me playing until I was 36. He's been one of those influential people in my life. My father, Gil, and my wife.

How funny that the three most influential people in my life, English isn't their first language, but we found a way to communicate.

COLLINS: Gil, what was your first feeling when you met this little punk, Andre?

GIL REYES, ANDRE AGASSI'S FITNESS COACH, 1989-2006: Special. Just something different, something special.

But I think -- I sure learned soon enough that that's what the tennis world saw, as well. I could see within him how important his dreams were, how big his fears were, and he was man enough to discuss fear with me.

And that impressed me, because he was 18 years old when I met him, and he discussed fear and courage in the same breath.

AGASSI: Dad, when I was five, you told me to win Wimbledon. When I was seven, you told me to win all the four Grand Slams. And more times than I can remember, you told me to get into the Hall of Fame.

And when I was 29, I don't know if you remember this, you told me to marry Steffi Graf.


AGASSI: Best order you ever gave me. So, Dad, please don't ever stop telling me what to do.


COLLINS: It was tough with your father, we all know that. He had loved you in his way. You loved him, I think, in -- but you had to get away from him. Is that correct?

AGASSI: I think so, and I think he knew better than me. I think that's why he sent me away. He saw what tennis had done and relationships with my other siblings. He's a man that was passionate about tennis and believed tennis was the fastest road to the American dream.

COLLINS: He's in here, now, he's in the Hall. Can't get rid of him. What do you think of that?

MIKE AGASSI: I thought he should have won more Grand Slams.

COLLINS: Yes. True, true.

MIKE AGASSI: He should have won more Grand Slams. He was just very stubborn.

ANDRE AGASSI: He's a complex person, like we all are, and I had to learn a lot. I had to grow to understand him and reconcile with him, which we've done.

COLLINS: Paris, French Open, 1999. Winning that tournament in Paris, you became one of the very select seven guys who've won all four of the major championships.


COLLINS: You get to the final against Medvedev, and you lose the first two sets. What was going on?

AGASSI: Scared out of my mind. I mean, here was me 29 years old, a tournament I should've won ten years earlier, could've won ten years earlier. Twice favored in the finals there, the last of the four Grand Slams for me to win.

I never thought I'd have another chance at it, and all of a sudden, here's my chance. And I didn't know what to do. I was just frozen stiff, and thank God for the rain, because the rain --

COLLINS: The rain saved you.

AGASSI: The rain cost me ten years earlier, almost. Nine years earlier. And the rain came in and returned a favor that day. Gave Brad a chance to give me one of the most famous lectures he's ever given me in my life in the locker room.

BRAD GILBERT, ANDRE AGASSI'S COACH, 1994-2002: Every once in a while, you get a gift, and I was able to just light a fire in him for a little bit. I can't exactly say the choice words that I said, but yes, I was able to light a fire in him, and he went out and did the rest.

COLLINS: And you did, and then soon followed with your romance with Fraulein Forehand.


AGASSI: Yes. Paris was the Holy Grail for me, and Steffi was of the sort, so I figured after winning Paris, maybe I'm now worthy.

And the person that means more to me than words can express, the woman who still takes my breath away every day, Stefanie Graf.


COLLINS: Now, she beat you to the Hall of Fame. She has more major singles titles than you do. Is there domestic problems that could -- ?

AGASSI: You know, I can't beat her in anything. That's fine. I don't mind being second in my house. It keeps me humble.

COLLINS: And that's a good way to leave it, Andre. I stand up to you. Thank you very much.

AGASSI: Thank you, Bud. Thank you.


CASH: Well, what an amazing career. And it's so nice to see Andre with some joy and a sense of belonging in the game of tennis.

Now, time for a break, but when we come back, we're going to meet the new Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova.


CASH: Last month at Wimbledon, Petra Kvitova at the age of 21 became the first player born in the 90s to win a Grand Slam title when she defeated Maria Sharapova in the Wimbledon final. CNN's Paula Newton caught up with Petra in Toronto on the eve of her return to the game after that success at the Old England Club.


PETRA KVITOVA, WORLD NUMBER SEVEN: Well, I was very nervous before the final. It was something I know -- I couldn't be with anybody.

But something beautiful for me. But it was just like a dream, and I couldn't believe that I won.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Petra can be candid about her lack of confidence at times, but it was a legendary compatriot and another left-hander who predicted her Wimbledon win.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA, 59 GRAND SLAM TITLES: I actually called this at the French Open, I said, "I think Petra is going to do it at Wimbledon. She's got the perfect game, she's playing better and better, and she has a lot of belief in herself.

And I could see how hard she's hitting the ball, and I thought on the grass that it would really pay off for her.

KVITOVA: I met her after when I -- from the court, and I think both we were crying after when we meet each other, so it was so nice.

NEWTON: There is little trace of ego or pretense or even the star power that goes with them. Just weeks after winning Wimbledon, OPEN COURT took Petra off court and into the kitchen.

KVITOVA: During Wimbledon, I ate only rice and pineapple. My coach cooked for me. He made sweet rice.

NEWTON (on camera): Oh, right, like rice pudding.


NEWTON: Did you like it?

KVITOVA: Yes, the first two days, but after -- after, not.

NEWTON (voice-over): Kvitova's whole aura is reserved, paced, not pressured. Remarkably, even when it comes to winning.

NETWON (on camera): You like it?

KVITOVA: Yes. It's good.

I want to win some other Grand Slams, but it's not like you have to do or something. Everybody can beat everybody, so it's tough to say who can be the first one.

NEWTON: What's it like to play Petra, with the left hand, especially?

KIM CLIJSTERS, WORLD NUMBER TWO: Rough. It's very tough. She is one of the cleanest ball strikers out there, and then she's also a lefty, so that makes it even more tricky.

I was just amazed to see how well she handled the pressure of being in her first Grand Slam final. She was just so focused on trying to play her best tennis when it was necessary, and that was in that final.

NEWTON (voice-over): Growing up in a small town in the Czech Republic, this 21-year-old had her dad as coach, her older brothers as hitting partners, and an approach to tennis that was deliberately low key.

Still today, Petra Kvitova and her mostly Czech team keep it simple.

She claims she usually doesn't even look at her draw in tournaments. After a win, her coach tells her who's up next.

KVITOVA: Sometimes he tells me, "I don't know, I didn't check."


KVITOVA: So, it's funny.

NEWTON (on camera): It is funny. It's a bit like going into the matches blind. OK, who's next? But it worked.


NEWTON (voice-over): As grounded as her modesty keeps her, her methods and discipline need to continue to pay dividends on court.

KVITOVA: I don't know if it would be more pressure. Maybe, yes. Probably after dealing with them.

But no, I just -- I like the US Open, and I play very well there, and I'm looking for the matches there and I just want to play my best tennis, and we will see.


CASH: Well, I think Petra's got the game to be at the top for many years to come. So, what does it take to get to the top?

Well, I think I've got a fair idea, but to get another perspective, I thought I'd ask somebody who's seen it all, a man who's helped numerous Grand Slam champions, Nick Bollettieri.


BOLLETTIERI: And here's my man Borg. And I asked him, I said, "Bjorn, what made you special."

He said, "Nick, I hit the ball over the net one more time than the other guy."

All right, everybody.

CASH: You very much changed tennis, Nick, in the late 80s and 90s. You turned it into a power game.

BOLLETTIERI: I think what happened is that when I created the Academy, Jimmy Arias came in 1979. I put him on court three with Chip Hooper.

CASH: Oh, my goodness.

BOLLETTIERI: Chip was six foot eight, Jimmy five foot five.

CASH: One of the biggest serves you've ever seen.

BOLLETTIERI: Jimmy hit the ball, Pat. Came up off the seat, racquet around the back of his head. He had this cockamamie grip. I call my staff, "That's the new Bollettieri forehand," and Pat --

CASH: No kidding.

BOLLETTIERI: -- that started the power game.

There's Andre, there's the character, man. They should've thrown him out a hundred times, but I knew he had something special, and he sure did.

CASH: So, a player like me, who's a slow volleyer, what would you do to change my game or to make me a player today, that I could be a serious competitor with these big hitters?

BOLLETTIERI: I wouldn't take that away from you. I would have you serve and volley part of the time. But I would work on your return to service.

All right, let's take a little look here. Now, if you notice, Pat has the one-handed backhand. That a boy.

CASH: Oi! There we go. So, is there any hope for me, Nick? I want to -- is it too late for me, do you think, or -- ?

BOLLETTIERI: No, it's not too late, but I think --

CASH: Go on, give it to me, you can tell me, I'm a big boy.

BOLLETTIERI: No, but I think we should take a look at his backhand, because Pat hits with a one-handed backhand. The two hands probably have an advantage, if you can move your feet.

CASH: Well, let me try it double-handed, here.

BOLLETTIERI: Remember, in a two-handed backhand, the top hand is the big boy.

Going to have Pat just rally and play with just his top hand.

CASH: Whoa, left -- with my left hand, all right.


CASH: This could be interesting.

BOLLETTIERI: That a boy!


BOLLETTIERI: Increase that racquet head speed, excellent! Now, put your right hand on.

CASH: All right.

BOLLETTIERI: Use it as a support, but use that left -- beautiful!

CASH: Ooh, look at that!

BOLLETTIERI: Beautiful! You know what?

CASH: Oh, that wasn't too bad.

BOLLETTIERI: I'm changing his -- I'm changing him from a one-hand to --


BOLLETTIERI: Now, that's going to take about two months --

CASH: Two months? Oh, I can do that.

BOLLETTIERI: And that'll buy me a new Mercedes.


CASH: At least. At least. I'll need a lot more lessons than that.


CASH: Well, it's always great fun catching up with Nick. He certainly has a lot of energy for an 80-year-old. In fact, he just celebrated his birthday by jumping out of a plane.

Well, time now to take a break, but when we return, we'll catch up with the original Swiss Miss, Martina Hingis.


CASH: Welcome back. Now, Martina Hingis hasn't made the Hall of Fame of yet, but having won 15 Grand Slam titles and reached the number one ranking, I think it's just a matter of time.

Even though she retired from tennis at the young age of 26, the competitive spirit still burns brightly. But now, she's swapping the tennis court for the paddock.


MARTINA HINGIS, FIVE GRAND SLAM SINGLES TITLES: The helmet is on. The worst-case scenario, I hope I don't have to use it.

Are you ready today? Yes? You'll be nice to me, right?


HINGIS: This one is my oldie, my professor. He's already 14, but not the first time he's doing this.

This is something I've always wanted to do, and it's not at the same level as when I played tennis, but I'm happy having -- it's a hobby and it's a passion that I always followed even during my tennis career. So, I'm happy doing this competition.

Still putting myself a little bit under pressure to have a nice clear round, not to disturb the horse too much, because he's great and doing a good job with me.

When I was -- became two years old, there was a friend of hers asking her, "Have you started hitting with her?" And my mom was, "No, not yet." And they're like, "Why not?" You know? And that was kind of shocking to her. "Are you saying I should?"

And that was the day, I guess, she started picking up playing with me. At first, it was a small wooden racquet. She cut out the grip, and we played in the room back at home.

And later on, at three, four years old, I was already hitting over the net like 300 times. And then we lost count. We stopped counting that day. And at four, five years old, I played my first tournament.

Probably my favorite Grand Slam was the Australian Open. That was the first Grand Slam I won in 97. And the next two years, I won as well, 98 and 99.

And 97 was a great year. I won Wimbledon, as well, and the US Open. And yes, the French Open, that's the one missing, but I have a couple finals, and I have great memories from there.

When I was 14, I bought my first horse with my first prize money. We had the tennis court in the back yard plus the horse. So, once I was finished with my tennis practice and the running and the fitness and all that, I was allowed to go horseback riding.

So, that was always my gift at the end of the day that I could go pamper my horse and go off and be in my own world.


HINGIS: So, yes, I'm pretty happy, that is, you didn't come for nothing, a clear round.

He's been very good. Oh, yes. Say "hi" to the camera.


CASH: Well, good luck to Martina in her show jumping career. Certainly takes a different sort of skill, but requires the same determination that saw her win all those titles.

Now, at the end of this month, the tennis world heads to New York and the last Grand Slam of the year, the US Open. Now, I'm tipping Serena Williams to go all the way in the women's, and the men's, I think Novak Djokovic is going to continue his amazing run of form and grab his first US Open title.

Until next month's episode, see you later.