Andre Agassi's Battle With Back Pain
After fighting painful, chronic back pain for years, tennis great Andre Agassi retires from the court and prepares to serve up the next chapter of his life.
"It was such a perfect end to what I consider to be a wonderful journey," Agassi says. "My goal was to do this as long as possible, and even if I'd been in a healthy place, I would have had to make this decision eventually."
When WebMD spoke with Agassi, about a month after his final match, he had yet to begin adapting to his new life. In fact, he says, it's business as usual.
"Of course, I [no longer] have to worry about training, about physical rehabilitation. I don't have to focus in those confines. But I'm as busy now, if not busier. It's quite typical, really. After each of the last 11 Opens, I've tended to shut down a bit and try to make up for lost time," he says. "My goals and commitments are always pushing me forward. I don't think the new lifestyle has been felt yet."
One thing he doesn't feel anymore, he says, is the pain.
"Now, I'm fine. I haven't been pushing my body to its limits. Tennis -- it's a pretty ballistic sport that we play. The pain has been a function of what I've asked of my body."
Born to Win
Agassi played his first professional match at age 16. But tennis had been part of his life even before he was conscious of it. As an infant, a tennis ball dangled above him as he lay in his crib, hung there by his father, a former boxer who had represented his native Iran in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics. Emmanuel "Mike" Agassi, who immigrated to the United States as a young man and settled in Las Vegas, wanted his child to be a champion.
He got his wish. In 1992, Andre, his fourth child, took the title at Wimbledon. He was 22.
Victory piled upon victory, as Agassi won both the U.S. and the Australian Opens, rising to No. 1 in the three years after Wimbledon. He became famous, however, for more than just his playing. Agassi brought an upstart's attitude to the game, flouting convention in spandex, denim cutoffs, and rock-star hair. His millions in prize money bought him a Lamborghini, a Ferrari, and three Porsches. On TV, he was the face of the Canon Rebel camera. You remember the slogan: Image Is Everything.