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Tennis: Former great Andre Agassi headlines SLC tennis tournament

First Published      Last Updated Apr 08 2015 04:06 pm


Tennis » Former megastar still has full plate, but game is only part of it these days.

Andre Agassi says he accepts this stage of his athletic life because of the limitations that come with age.

And that's just fine with the former tennis megastar.

However, Agassi, the face of tennis during a career that stretched two decades, can't shake the thrill of competing and entertaining. Which is why the 44-year-old, who won eight Grand Slam titles, will be one of four former greats to play in Tuesday's PowerShare Tennis Series tournament at the Huntsman Center.

"It brings a lot to the table for me," he said of playing at this level. "Now there's no more downside with the stress of competing, even though you want to do well in these events."




Accompanying Agassi will be Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis and James Blake, who won last year's PowerShare Series stop at EnergySolutions Arena by beating John McEnroe in the one-set final.

Agassi and Courier will face off in the first semifinal Tuesday, with Blake and Philippoussis battling in the other. The winners meet in the final. All three matches are one set. The event starts at 7 p.m.

Growing up in Las Vegas, Agassi recalls playing in Utah as a teenager as part of the annual intermountain sectional tournaments. But it's been close to 30 years since he's competed in Utah, he said, guessing it was around 1985 to 1986.

Agassi says he plays tennis now only when he feels the "rush of blood" to do as well as he can. But the game is long past being his top priority.

Agassi and his wife, Stefi Graf, the former German tennis superstar, reside in Las Vegas with their two children. Their 13-year-old son Jaden plays baseball and 11-year-old daughter Jaz is entrenched in hip-hop dancing. When life as a dad isn't tying him up, Agassi says he tries to find time to work out or spend time on his foundation, which raises money for children.

"Just wish there was more time in the day," Agassi said.

His return to the court allows him to keep tennis in his life, but it's "in a confined scope that's achievable for me."

It's hard to forget the hair, the flair and the skill that made Agassi one of the most well-rounded players ever. The hair's long gone, but the talent — albeit at an age-adjusted level — and charisma remain.

"You never lose sight of the fact that it's just enjoyable moments for all of us — the crowd included. So, as a result, it really works well for all of my priorities," Agassi said.

What might take some getting used to Tuesday is a new wrinkle introduced in the 2015 PowerShare Series.

The tennis circuit will be the first to exclusively use electronic line-calling system technology throughout its 12-city tour, which start in Salt Lake City. The series will only employ a chair umpire for matches and players will be allowed unlimited challenges during each match.

"Will I see the ball every bit as well when the heat's on me to make the actual call? It was never easy for me in practice," Agassi said. "I tried to err on the side of giving points away to overcome that challenge."

ckamrani@sltrib.com

Twitter: @chriskamrani

 

AT A GLANCE

2015 PowerShare Series tennis tournament

O Tuesday, 7 p.m., at the Huntsman Center

Semifinals

» Andre Agassi vs. Jim Courier

» James Blake vs. Mark Philippoussis


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