Tennis sentences to ponder

by on March 23, 2017 at 2:49 am in Education, History, Sports | Permalink

[Andre] Agassi pauses when asked if he and his wife [Steffi Graf] sometimes hit a few balls in Vegas – for old time’s sake? “No. It sounds a nice idea. But as soon as you hit the first couple of balls you remember you can do this. But you’re also reminded of what you can’t do. I just thank God I played the game long enough to enjoy lots of good moments. It gave a lot and it took a lot. I think me and tennis are about even now.”

Here is the full interview, interesting throughout.

1 Axa March 23, 2017 at 3:11 am

So, fun was never part of playing the game, only results matter. That is sad.

2 Philip Crawford March 23, 2017 at 8:41 am

If he is like me, then over time the memories of what he could do will fade and he’ll find enjoyment in the sport. I agree that it is sad that he can’t yet find that enjoyment as tennis is a wonderful sport as you grow older.

3 The Anti-Gnostic March 23, 2017 at 10:33 am

Once you start doing something for money it changes from “fun” to work.

Somewhat related, Steve Irwin is a good example of what happens when your mind forgets what body it’s in. Steve Irwin died at age 44 because he thought his reflexes were still quick enough to save him when he swam around stingrays.

4 RustySynapses March 23, 2017 at 3:02 pm

Why do you think that? He died in a freak accident – stingray whipped its tail and it hit his heart – he was just a little too close above it and it happened at exactly the wrong time. I don’t think he was thinking “If it whips its tail, I can get out of the way.” That would be foolish for even Michael Phelps to think.

5 The Other Jim March 23, 2017 at 4:59 pm

There is a pretty-good-sized, wildly-ignorant “Steve Irwin deserved it!” crowd. But since this is such an old subject, I thought they had all scuttled away. But I guess these people need to say something other than “Get off my lawn!” once in awhile.

6 The Anti-Gnostic March 25, 2017 at 12:32 am

Then Steve Irwin committed suicide, except he didn’t seem depressed, he had a thriving young family, and his career was really hitting its stride.

Steve Irwin thought he could get out of the way, but his 44-year old body refused to obey the commands of his still-youthful mind.

7 Stuart March 23, 2017 at 11:13 am

I think if you read his biography, you’ll see he has a totally different relationship to sport than not only most children, but even most kids who go on to be spectacular athlethes.

His dad was obsessed with tennis and bought a house in Nevada specifically so he could build (from scratch) a tennis court for his kids. He would make a very young Andre skip days of elementary school so he could fit in more practice. By age 6, Andre’s dad made him his 2,500 tennis balls per day, knowing that would mean he would hit 1 million shots per year, and who can beat a kid who hit 1m shots per year?

It certainly worked, but the intellectual and mental toll on Andre from that and a lot of other things was pretty devastating – and didn’t really leave him with the chance to have a somewhat normal relationship with the sport.

8 Kevin- March 25, 2017 at 12:33 pm

Sometimes I like to read Tyler’s posts after the usual commenters have had their say and the dust has settled. Here you’ve provided the crucial real-world context for why Agassi would feel the way he does, and say what he said, and it’s completely ignored. Meanwhile, most everyone else demonstrates the power of preconceptions and confirmation bias, all the while posturing that they know some unique truth, oblivious to the stereotypes they embrace.

Not that anyone is reading these comments at this point, but thanks for posting this. I didn’t know that about Agassi.

9 buddyglass March 23, 2017 at 11:48 am

I think he probably had fun. It’s just tough playing and being confronted by how much less able you are now than you once were. I’m in my 40s, but there’s nothing I was ever able to do in my 20s that I do less well now. Because I was never an athlete.

10 Rajib March 23, 2017 at 3:17 am

He didn’t say that.

11 Todd K March 23, 2017 at 9:07 am

He pretty much did in his 60 Minutes interview several years ago. At least he said he hated a lot of it.

12 Rapaz March 23, 2017 at 11:10 pm

“Fun was never part of playing the game, only results matter.” Why’s that sad? Professional tend to want to be successful. If having fun helped them do that, they’d have fun. Not everything is about having “fun”. Not having “fun” is not necessarily sad. What? Now it’s sad to get paid a lot of money to do something you’re real good at, and can stop doing for money if you want and start doing it for fun. Poor Agassi, having to play tennis for money instead of fun.

13 So Much For Subtlety March 23, 2017 at 3:38 am

So Agassi swore blind he was innocent of using Crystal Meth when he tested positive. Then in his autobiography he admitted he had been using.

He is a perfect example of the decline in decency in tennis. If he was sensible he would not play with his wife because swearing at her, accusing her of cheating and lying about line calls is probably not good for marital harmony.

14 Stuart Torr March 23, 2017 at 4:01 am

“He is a perfect example of the decline in decency in tennis.”

Decline from McEnroe, Connors and Lendl?? Right.

15 So Much For Subtlety March 23, 2017 at 4:21 am

It was a long way down and Agassi did not do it all on his own.

Although I don’t know what Lendl is doing on that list.

16 Art Deco March 23, 2017 at 9:02 am

I think you mean Nastase. If you remember Ilie Nastase, it’s hard to argue there’s been a secular decline in the quality of sportsmanship in professional tennis. It was more like an abrupt drop at the tail of the bell curve between 1972 and 1979, not affecting the central tendency.

Agassi used drugs and made annoying TV commercials. Big deal. Chris Evert’s a serial adulterer; Billie Jean King had an abortion, cheated on her husband, divorced him at age 44, and took up a late life career as an evangelist for lesbianism.

17 rayward March 23, 2017 at 6:20 am

What Agassi meant is that his skills have declined with age, but his mind remembers when his skills were at their peak; that disconnect informs him to stay off the tennis court. That same phenomenon applies to all of us, whether an athlete, a writer, a lawyer, a doctor, or an economist. I grew up playing competitive golf, and as I aged and my skills declined, my frustration would rise along with my score. One day I decided that rather than a slow decline, I would just walk away from the game. Similarly, I was a daily runner for almost thirty years. As time and the miles progressed, the discomfort in my body became too much to deny (though I tried). Rather than a slow decline, I just walked away from running. And I know the day will likely come for my work, when the experience I have gained from a lifetime of work will be more than offset by what I forget. Such is life.

18 quigley March 23, 2017 at 9:35 am

+1 That pretty much sums it up

19 John March 23, 2017 at 10:01 am

This is exactly how I interpreted it too. He was already one of the most dominant tennis players of all time and did everything one can possible do in that sport. What else is there for him? Maybe he can pick up squash now instead.

20 Art Deco March 23, 2017 at 11:41 am

Or swimming. Or hiking. Or bicycling. Or cricket. Something you do just for enjoyment.

21 Jevon Jaconi March 23, 2017 at 11:30 am

sublime comment – thank you for posting;

22 byomtov March 24, 2017 at 10:12 pm

I think rayward captures it very well.

Once you have performed at the top level of whatever, it is extremely difficult to enjoy the activity at a lower level. I have a friend who was a concert pianist for a time. She can no longer stand to play with friends because she hears how she should have played.

23 Anon March 23, 2017 at 6:31 am

“Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.”

24 Art Deco March 23, 2017 at 8:50 am

It was work, and they’re both retired. What puzzles me is why anyone would want to live in Las Vegas. I gather he grew up there (when it was a much smaller city). By some accounts, not only has his wife consented to live there, she persuaded her proximate relatives that it was the place to be.

25 NNM March 23, 2017 at 9:32 am

It seems to me that Germany may well be the most uptight place on earth for a self-made hyperwealthy individual to live. It’s not just the taxes, it’s the thousands of unwritten rules and mores governing what you can say and do and spend your money on.

Las Vegas, by contrast, is probably the least uptight place on earth in which to live as a rich person.

26 Slocum March 23, 2017 at 9:35 am

There’s no income tax, it’s warm in the winter, and there are a lot of spectacular places within a few hours drive (Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Zion, Bryce and the other southern Utah National Parks). Vegas is extremely hot in the summer, but there are 11,000 ft mountains within an hour’s drive and LA is 4 hours away. I can think of a lot of worse places to retire.

27 Cliff March 23, 2017 at 10:07 am

Plus, it IS a dry heat, so 100 is very bearable for short periods of time (up to 10-15 minutes, which is how long it takes you to walk from the parking lot)

28 Art Deco March 23, 2017 at 11:32 am

Five other states have no income tax, including Florida and Washington state. Eight states have a flat tax; The median rate among them is about 4.5%, with none over 5.5%. In several other states, the top bracket is under 5%. If you want warm in the winter, you have to bake in the summer, unless you’re willing to live with AC 24/7. A proximate body of water will moderate the temperature, but that’s just what you don’t get is Las Vegas. What you do get is a vast (ever growing) urban carbuncle, shot through with gambling joints).

29 Thor March 23, 2017 at 12:51 pm

Washington State is darker (being further north), and if you are on the coast of the state, far far wetter and more dreary. Florida is very humid.

Of course Vegas is awful, if you are talking about the downtown area. Outside of the city, it can be lovely … especially if you like that geography/topology. (I love the Pacific Northwest myself, but I can imagine feeling less enthused about another stand of soggy misty cedars when I’m in my 70s.)

30 Al-ex March 23, 2017 at 9:55 am

The whole fun was about improving his game, and being one of the best players in the world. I can totally understand that feeling.

31 Slugger March 23, 2017 at 10:17 am

I found his autobiography worth reading. He was not 100% candid nor self aware, but he came closer than most. Achieving the heights that he did can not ever be easy, and the sacrifices that got him to the top were not purely voluntary. He acted out as a consequence. His flaws made me like him better. The sweetness of his victories contained the bitterness of his sweat and sacrifices. I understand his ambivalence about the game. Very few people actually become a world champion in anything; there is a price.

32 Art Deco March 23, 2017 at 11:39 am

Guy’s managed to stay married for 15 years, after a false start with Brooke Shields. You don’t see his children in the police blotter or on gossip pages…yet. A nest of his in-laws are willing to live near him (in Las Vegas!). He doesn’t have any bastard children. So far, pretty good.

33 Dick the Butcher March 23, 2017 at 1:17 pm

I dunno. Apparently, Mr. Agassi hated nearly every minute earning millions beating up on a little, yellow ball. I can understand that.

Who could he play that could stand up to him? It would be no fun. He’d have to play half-speed. Maybe he wants to avoid enraging his wife. She likely could not return his serve.

Anyway, he could take up ballet.

34 Yancey Ward March 23, 2017 at 12:42 pm

You lose interest when you can no longer improve your performance. This applies to most physical endeavors, and it is a stark reminder that you are getting older. I fully understand Agassi’s point being a few years older than he is.

35 Thor March 23, 2017 at 12:55 pm

Yeah, can you imagine how many tennis balls he’s hit? Why would he do that again? Boring!

I’m a historian. When I retire I will certainly read. But I will read what I WANT to read. And I won’t stand around by a blackboard with a piece of chalk in my hand, just because that’s what I used to do, sometimes, for a living.

I find that unless you are doing it with friends, it — whatever it is — can be boring.

Board games, card games, golf in a group, or group biking/hiking/jogging. Those are fun. YMMV

36 Dick the Butcher March 23, 2017 at 1:20 pm

“You lose interest when you can no longer improve your performance.” I gained interest in waking up each morning and finding that almost everything still works.

37 Tom T. March 23, 2017 at 6:57 pm

“You lose interest when you can no longer improve your performance. This applies to most physical endeavors, and it is a stark reminder that you are getting older.”

I feel this way about masturbating.

38 Noumenon72 March 23, 2017 at 8:42 pm

No matter how I strive to improve my performance I can never attract more than 50 spectators.

39 Matt March 23, 2017 at 1:05 pm

I don’t know what sort of injuries Agassi has had, but this made me think of a story about Don Mattingly, from when he was a coach for the Yankees some years ago. He talked about the players, in spring training, talking him into getting into the batting cage and hitting a few balls. It was fun! But, he soon remembered that he’d largely had to retire because of debilitating back injuries caused by swinging the bat, and so stopped after just a few pitches, even though he felt fine – no reason to be in permanent pain because of hurting himself doing something that he didn’t need to do anymore. I suspect that this is a real worry for many former top athletes.

40 Ray Lopez March 23, 2017 at 2:39 pm

Does TC still play chess? Does Kasparov? I suspect they do, but they’re not telling.

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