Andre Agassi, Former World No. 1-ranked tennis player, interviewed by Darren Cahill, tennis coach and ESPN analyst
“I’ve been known to take calculated risks in life,” said tennis legend Andre Agassi. “Wearing jean shorts on a tennis court and a mullet takes a lot of nerve, I assure you.”
But the risks he took on the court pale in comparison with the $40 million mortgage he took out to finance the construction of the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas. Ambien was no match for the sleepless nights that resulted.
But Agassi doesn’t do things halfway. Once he realized that education was his passion, he poured his energy into helping children have a choice. He’s raised more than $175 million to make sure his school will remain open in perpetuity — and he has turned his thoughts to how to help kids in need across the country.
Agassi decided to look at the problem in a different way. The best charter schools really work, but all too often they have to spend precious time and energy looking for a permanent home. It was time to bring in the private sector to get the school buildings built.
The resulting fund has $550 million to deploy. Twenty-seven schools are open and running today, and another 25 are in the pipeline.
Agassi has attacked the problem with his trademark determination — the same determination that powered him to become the best in the world at a sport that he grew up hating. It’s the same determination that led him back to the mountaintop after he plummeted from the top spot in tennis.
“I did [that downward spiral] as well as I did my tennis,” Agassi said.
But when he found his passion, he found new energy and a fresh perspective. Ranked 140th in the world, playing and losing to players who were happy just to meet him, Agassi found contentment, because he knew he could get better every day.
And he learned that whether you’re No. 140 or No. 1, the overall approach is strikingly similar. It’s all about getting better, one step at a time — either during the climb or, once you’re there, outpacing your opponents.
And it’s about taking those calculated risks. “Treating every day as an opportunity … that goes as a tennis player and as a person,” Agassi said.
Former No. 1-ranked tennis player
After turning pro at the age of 16, Andre Agassi rose to international fame, earning 60 men’s singles titles, including eight Grand Slam singles championships, over a 20-year career. A former World No. 1 player, Agassi is the only male player ever to win all four Grand Slam titles and an Olympic gold medal. He was also a member of three winning Davis Cup teams (’90, ’92, ’95) and in 2011 was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. While his tennis career took him all over the world, Agassi always stayed connected to his hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada. In 1994, at the age of 24, he created the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education. Early activities included building a shelter in Las Vegas for abused and neglected children, creating the Andre Agassi Boys and Girls Club, and developing Team Agassi, a tennis program that nurtures professional players and puts college within reach. In 2001, in partnership with the Clark County School District, the Foundation opened the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy (Agassi Prep) in Las Vegas. Recognized as a model charter school, Agassi Prep has graduated its first three senior classes with a 100% college acceptance rate.
Tennis coach and ESPN analyst
Darren Cahill is a tennis coach and former professional tennis player from Australia. Cahill turned professional in 1984 and won his first tour doubles title in 1985 in Melbourne and his first top-level singles title in 1987 in New Haven, Connecticut. As a singles player, Cahill reached the semifinals of the 1988 US Open and a year later made it to the finals in the men’s doubles at the Australian Open with fellow Aussie Mark Kratzmann. As a member of the Australian Davis Cup team, Cahill reached the finals in 1990 and compiled a 6–4 career Davis Cup record. Upon retirement in 1994, Cahill moved on to become a successful tennis coach, having worked with high-profile players such as Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt, Fernando Verdasco, Ana Ivanovic and Andy Murray. Under Cahill’s direction, Agassi won the 2003 Australian Open and became the world’s oldest No. 1 player. Cahill continues to work with the top world players through the Adidas Players Development Program. Aside from his coaching responsibilities, Cahill continues to be a force in the tennis world through his work as a tennis analyst for ESPN, covering all four Grand Slams.