Andre Agassi's Extraordinary Journey

Tennis Star Speaks Candidly to "60 Minutes" About His Life, Career, Drug Use, and Incredible Comeback

Andre Agassi's disclosure last week that he took a drug known as crystal meth, lied about it to authorities and got away with it, is only one of the startling revelations in the new autobiography from one of the most respected athletes in the world.

What Agassi has to say about tennis - the sport that earned him over $100 million - is also pretty startling. Agassi's book covers a life he says he didn't choose and couldn't escape, a life that often made him feel empty and depressed.

It's the story of a tennis prodigy whose flamboyant personal style and relentless game changed the sport, and the story of a man who was a star before he was a champion, a champion who fell to the bottom before rising to the top, where he matured to become an elder statesman, sports icon and philanthropist.

"60 Minutes" and correspondent Katie Couric caught up with Agassi recently in his hometown of Las Vegas in a place he doesn't visit very often anymore - a tennis court.

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It has been three years since Andre Agassi retired from tennis after a 21 year career, one of the longest, most successful and most colorful in modern sports.



"Open" was an arduous two-year effort, which Andre Agassi says he could not have accomplished without the help of Pulitzer Prize-winning author J.R. Moehringer.

Moehringer is the author of the New York Times bestseller "The Tender Bar."




We met him on a public tennis court not far from his home in Las Vegas, on a rare tennis outing with his wife Steffi Graf, one of the greatest female players ever.

"Is this a little fun for you? It must be or is it torture?" Couric asked.

For both Steffi and Andre, tennis isn't what it used to be.

"It is a little fun. Come on!" Graf replied, laughing.

"Yeah, it's fun," he said.

Maybe now, but in his candid and surprising new autobiography Agassi reveals that for most of his life he hated tennis with "a dark secret passion" but never let anyone know.

"I think I was just flat out scared," he told Couric. "Just didn't know what people would do if they heard the way I felt."

"You write that one day quote, 'I'll look an interviewer right in the eye and tell him, or her, the unvarnished truth.' Is this that day?" Couric asked.

"It is. It is," he said. "I have to call it like it is. And hating tennis was a deep part of my life for a long, long time."

From the time he was an infant, his father, Mike Agassi, a first generation immigrant from Iran, programmed his youngest child for tennis, taping ping pong paddles to his hands when he was a toddler and encouraging him to hit anything in his path.

By the age of six, he was practicing four to five hours a day.

"Your dad had a burning desire to have you be the number one tennis player in the world. What drove him to drive you so hard?" Couric asked.

"Well, I think he drove me hard because he drove himself hard. Tennis was a passion that he had from when he was a little boy himself. And he saw it as the quickest road to the American dream for his kids. Somethin' that, you know, he wanted for his family," Agassi explained.

But according to the book that's not how he felt. He wanted to quit, but was afraid to tell his father, who he calls "Pops."

"Did you ever look at your dad and say, 'Pops, I hate this. I hate it so much. Please don't make me do it'?" Couric asked.

"No," Agassi said. "I needed to do it for the family, possibly an unnecessary burden for a child, but one that I definitely carried."

"What do you think he would have done if you had said that to him?" Couric asked.

"'You don't have to love it. You're gonna do it. This is what we do. This is what you're gonna do. You're born to be a tennis player. You're gonna be the best in the world. And that's the end of it,'" Agassi said.

Being "the best" meant hitting the road, traveling to tournaments every weekend. And when he wasn't, he was taking on a ferocious ball machine Andre Agassi nicknamed "the dragon."

"It was really scary. Especially to a seven year old," Agassi remembered.

"Shooting tennis balls at one hundred and ten miles an hour to seven-year-old boy?" Couric asked.

"One hundred and ten miles an hour, because my dad put a souped-up engine in it. We didn't have ball machines that hit the ball that hard back then."

"He was a maniac," Couric remarked.

"He was a mad scientist, as well," Agassi said.

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