August 3rd, 2012
08:51 PM ET

Behind the scenes with Graf and Agassi

Tennis stars Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf married in 2001 and have two children. (Getty Images)
Tennis stars Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf married in 2001 and have two children. (Getty Images)

Roger Federer, Alex Ferguson, Mike Tyson, David Beckham and even Tiger Woods!

I’ve been fortunate and truly blessed to have interviewed some of sport's biggest names one-on-one, but for years there remained a glaring hole in my professional resume.

Or rather two glaring holes: Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf. I’d have taken some time with even just one of them, but the two of them together and the chance of a first ever trip to Las Vegas? Not something I was about to pass up!

While I never got to interview either of them at the peak of their playing powers, this was in a sense much better. I found both very welcoming, friendly, relaxed and very eager to talk.

What struck me was just how much winning Olympic gold means to both of them. Steffi shocked me when she said her gold back in 1988 was actually bigger in her mind than a grand slam title. Then I got to thinking ... the German has a total of 22 majors, after all, and only one Olympic gold! Or two, maybe, if you count the gold she won for her country when tennis was an exhibition event at Los Angeles ’84.

I concluded that no-one who’s won everything would want to end their career without a prestigious Olympic title.

I knew the celebrity couple rarely did this kind of thing, at least together, and having never before actually spoken to either of them I didn’t quite know what to expect. I’ve been doing this kind of thing for too long to actually get nervous, but there’s no question I was feeling a fair few butterflies! I’d done my homework though and felt well-prepared.

Both arrived early and went into make- up. Steffi emerged and, after introducing myself, we engaged in casual chat and took a trip down memory lane in recalling who she’d beaten en route to that 1988 gold. In an instant, I relaxed and when Andre arrived it was just like chatting with a pair of long-lost friends.

I only once ever recall feeling a few nerves in an interview situation before. That occasion was with Mike Tyson after a fight in Denmark. Though he’d won the fight, he hadn’t performed to the best of his abilities and looking back I don’t think he really wanted to do it. It’s to his credit that he did, of course, but some of his answers were brief to say the least!

Andre and Steffi spoke passionately throughout. I could sense their pride in their achievements, and the setting for the shoot was even more special – especially for Andre. We were recording in the special workout facility of Gil Reyes –Agassi’s fitness trainer for 17 years. They remain firm friends, and what caught my eye was the fact that every one of Andre’s 8 grand slam trophies was on display for all to see.

Golden moments: Agassi and Graf relive Olympic glory

Our 30-minute segment flew by. I know I relaxed greatly during the shoot and I feel they did too. The couple’s love for the game was all too apparent. Steffi’s command of the English language is excellent but I sensed her husband’s reassuring presence allowed her to wax lyrical about her terrific achievement in South Korea.

By the way, Andre’s memory is incredible. He was able to recall every opponent en route to taking gold at Atlanta '96. Pretty much every scoreline too. Now that’s impressive!

You can always tell when interviewees really want to be there in the first place. Andre and Steffi most definitely did. In fact, after the main half-hour slot, Andre hung around for general chit-chat off camera then agreed to record a separate 10-minute piece for us before shooting off to join his wife in picking up his other pride and joy – their children.

Just before we all went our separate ways, Andre gazed out of the window of the Reyes gym. His eyes were focused on the court that was just yards away. Had I brought my racket with me I may well have asked for a hit with one of the game’s all-time greats.

I really do think he would have accepted my challenge too. Who knows, maybe we can leave that for next time we meet!

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Filed under:  Olympics • Tennis
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Spartacus

    He is my favorite tennis player in history! He is 100% Pure "Class". His autobiography is Incredible stuff, and he is one of those people that rose out of an impossible childhood to become a great human being not just a great sportsman.

    Stefi and he, from what I know, are/were made for each other.

    Theirs is an almost magical union.

    And if they are ever in Montreal they are invited over for BBQ and Sangria !

    August 3, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Reply
  2. Bill

    How/why did this happen?? I watched a couple of bouts,some involving the US, many not. In every case the boxer who I thought was the aggressor, who launched and landed the most punches lost at the very end, much to the dismay of EVERY TV commentator I heard. I think the judges had a list of who should win and NO Americans were on the list. There was talk early in the year of judges taking money so certain boxers would win. I heard the figure $10 million, and the London Olympic organizing committee was part of the deal. Why haven't the US boxing coaches expressed their outrage?? Why hasn't the USOC weighed in?? If this repeats itself next time, US boxers should BOYCOTT the Olympics.

    August 4, 2012 at 1:34 am | Reply
  3. Meg Swain

    You are a lucky man. This is one of my bucket list gets. To have dinner with the two of them.!!!
    Thank you for sharing
    Meg

    August 4, 2012 at 3:52 am | Reply
  4. Darma

    Agassi?? OMG.. He is the one my favorite Tennis player... I always sat down in the front of the TV every single game he played. Wish i can meet him someday, in real. Mostly i like about him, His attitude, humble and never saw him rude at the court. Always respect to his opponent. I would love to fly to USA from Indonesia if I could see him and Steffi Graft.

    August 5, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Reply
  5. Jane

    Was there a story here? Or an interest piece? This reads like a diary entry of no import....

    August 5, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Reply
  6. mike

    yawn

    August 5, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Reply
  7. dougt401

    Jane , Jane , Jane don't be so dreary!

    August 5, 2012 at 10:47 pm | Reply
  8. Ritchie

    They are two of my most favorite athletes of all-time. I would've died if I ever get in the same room as the two of them.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:23 am | Reply
  9. sanji

    oooh , that was awesome!! lovely couple, amazing Agassi, gotta say I am little biased for daddy who rocks.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Reply
  10. Darma

    I will never forget the moment that his Son gave him that "Daddy rock" necklace before played and surprised me he sill wear it until now. That's amazing.

    August 6, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Reply
  11. Jax

    Lovely couple. And Andre's photographic memory in action. I am not surprised at all that in Open, he was able to recall all those details. Yes, Daddy rocks.

    August 7, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Reply
  12. yadin fleschhut

    This couple is so admirable. Inspite of their stunning success in their profession, these two are so down-to-earth and unpretentious.

    August 8, 2012 at 6:56 am | Reply
  13. linda hayes

    ANDRE AND STEFI ARE A GRAND COUPLE. SO DOWN TO EARTH
    AND GRACIOUS. THEIR TENNIS WAS AWESOME. I LOVE THEIR ADVERT WITH THE KIDS, THEY LOOK SO AFFECTIONATE AND CARING. GREAT PEOPLE. I LOVE THEM.

    August 9, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Reply
  14. Eduardo

    Andre and Steffe presence in every Tennis tournament brought extra excitement to all tennis players and fans including me. Great humble husband and wife! We need more people like them.

    August 10, 2012 at 11:31 am | Reply
  15. Sahar

    "Steffi’s command of the English language is excellent"

    How ignorant of you! She has handled herself in front of the worlds media as a tennis star for years!

    August 10, 2012 at 11:48 am | Reply
  16. ronjayaz

    A great couple & an inspiration of every kind!

    August 10, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Reply
  17. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Steffi and Andre served tennis with dedication and distinction.

    August 12, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Reply
  18. Philip k

    Talk about a "match made in heaven" they couldn't be more perfectly suited for each other. The type of personality it takes to be champions of there caliba andr there equalr passion for the sport, there family, and most of all each other says it all. Andra' you definately got iright the
    second tme around by finding a wife that is as beauriful on the INSIDE
    as she is on the OUTSIDE. I literally used to dream about marrying Steffi myself, but obiously could never happen, and if I had to choose a husband for her it would be YOU. BRAVO !!!!!

    August 14, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Reply
  19. Tom

    Great couple! Great athletes!

    September 11, 2012 at 7:27 am | Reply
  20. amor825

    Great interview. Andre's memory is indeed incredible. I noticed that, too, in his autobiography.

    February 12, 2013 at 2:12 am | Reply
  21. bonz bustria

    Andre and Steffi are good role models! We need more their kind in this materialistic world. Job well done!

    April 5, 2013 at 8:38 am | Reply

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