Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012 | 3:06 p.m.
Andre Agassi closely follows the political process.
And, the political process follows him.
Agassi is more than just a tennis legend, though he is certainly that. His appeal as a potential candidate for elected office has ignited interest from both major political parties. The dance is usually a party operative makes an overture to Agassi, and he swings back with the same ease that made him one of the greatest returners-of-service in the history of the game.
“I have been sought by both sides my whole adult life,” says Agassi, a registered Independent. Of the state’s role as a battleground state at the national level, he says, “It’s great to see that Nevada is a comprehensive barometer for our country, that we have that kind of diversity in a highly contested race. I like watching democracy play out.”
Agassi is back playing the sport that made him an international celebrity Saturday night at Mandalay Bay Events Center for the PowerShares Series Tour joined by John McEnroe, Jim Courier and Michael Chang. The night starts at 7:30 with Courier facing Chang. Agassi plays McEnroe in the second match, and the winners play for the one-night championship.
The series is formerly known as the Champions Series and features a tour of a dozen U.S. cities in a 7-week season (click here for ticket info to Saturday's event, which start at $50.25).
Agassi has long been an admirer of McEnroe, a transcendent figure in his playing career who has remained relevant for his pointed work as a network broadcaster.
“Watching him in retirement is nothing short of inspiring, how he’s been able to engage the public with his broadcasting and commentating,” Agassi says. “He still loves the game, and I have a lot of respect for that.”
As for his own contributions to the sport, Agassi says, “I hope I am somebody who left the game better off as a result of having played it. Any level I engage with the game, I hope I am helping it move forward. I am a fan, but I have been able to watch it over the years, since I’ve retired, and enjoy it without all the physical wear and tear.”
The 42-year-old Agassi has remained in optimum condition, saying his weight is “about 178” and when not competing is hard-focused on his Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy. In October 2011, after a $26.1 million haul at his annual Grand Slam for Children Fundraiser, Agassi announced that the Academy was fully solvent and could afford to take a year off from the fundraising dinner and show to focus on operations and expansion. Resort magnate Kirk Kerkorian’s UCLA Dream Fund contributed a staggering $18 million to the most recent Grand Slam.
“I’ve been very eyes-down on the goals and objectives of the Academy and helping people outside the political realm,” Agassi said. “We’re managing $550 million nationally. To watch this happen, to see lives change and kids in tears, is a very powerful thing.”
That $550 billion figure is in reference to the Agassi Charter School Development Fund, which finances the construction of schools in at-risk areas across the country. The first cities in which schools have been built are Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Phoenix. There are 15 more in the planning stages, and the long-term objective is to build 75 schools by the end of 2015.
Otherwise, Agassi says his wife, Stefanie Graf, their children Jaden and Jaz and he are very happy.
“These days, I’m just trying to hit pars,” he says. When reminded that he has used a metaphor from a different sport, Agassi laughs and says, “Well, that works for me.”