US tennis star feels some people don’t want Black players to succeed
AUSTIN, Texas — For Black tennis players, the Olympics are a chance to make their mark on the sport.
Tennis is a sport that has always been more about the man than the ball. Even when athletes are more successful at the amateur level, it still takes a coach — or a person who is supportive of the player — to help a player get to where they want to be.
At the world championships, which take place every two years, the athletes are on a high-wire act. They don’t want to lose, and neither do the people around them, says Andre Agassi, a former champion in both men’s and women’s doubles.
It’s not that they let the competition or anyone — including themselves — win. They do it because they want to make their mark on the sport, and they want to become one of those rare people who is on the level of his sport.
“Win or lose, you’re always going to lose at something,” Agassi said. “I have a better chance of beating John McEnroe than I have of beating Andre Agassi.”
Agassi grew up in a small town in South Florida. He played in regional tournaments in Florida, New York and Virginia. Then there was a tournament in Italy. He made the top three in both the men’s singles and doubles categories. For Agassi, there seemed to be an advantage to being a black tennis player.
The biggest advantage he gained by being black, however, was with coaches. There were black coaches, but at the time Agassi was competing, there were not many. In 1985, he had his first coach in Virginia, and that was his first real mentor. He started competing with him when they were freshmen at the University of Virginia. Agassi said getting a black coach in those days was a big deal because of a power dynamic.
“It meant that coaches were more important to you and therefore you had to get the best one,” Agassi said. He learned that lesson from his black coach, and it carried on into his playing days.
But the power dynamic could flip when Agassi left school, when he went to a smaller, less prestigious college that has a much smaller coaching staff. There was a difference in status between Agassi and the coaches