Magazine article The Spectator

Immortal Ephemeral

Magazine article The Spectator

Immortal Ephemeral

Article excerpt

IMAGE is everything. That was what Andre Agassi said, and he said it gleefully, because he was paid good money to do so. The brand-name is long gone, but the image remains: Agassi on the platform of a London bus, shoulder-length hair flying in the breeze -- exactly as laid down in the contract - smirking and clicking his camera.

The man was all image, no substance. He was flash in London, a show-pony in Melbourne and a show-boater in New York. Doubtless the French had a term for the same thing when he played in Paris.

His was a talent to amuse. He was the sort to decorate the early rounds and make the girlies scream a bit. Every tournament needs one and once he's gone we can get down to the serious tennis in the second week.

Columnists could write about why so brilliant a ball-player would never be a champion. It's all about character, you see - and Agassi didn't have one. Jetting about with the largest entourage in the history of tennis, he was more than a tennis player, and less than one; more than a film star, and less than one. He didn't win Grand Slam tournaments and he didn't make films, but the image was great: teenage rebel millionaire.

He didn't bother to play at Wimbledon, and let it be known that it was because he would have to wear white shorts instead of cut-off Levis. A tennis player with an agenda that included more important matters than Wimbledon. You cannot be serious.

Then Agassi kindly relented and turned up at Wimbledon to make the most winsome entrance in the tournament's history. He warmed up in a neck-to-ankle tracksuit, before stripping off to reveal the outfit. …

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