Professional tennis champions Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf have begun new endeavors in the world of philanthropy after years of triumph on the tennis court.
The couple, who married in 2001, are now using their achievements to create a platform to create change.
Both their fathers introduced them to tennis at an early age, instilling in each of them an intense work ethic. That ethic led Agassi to win eight Grand Slam titles, and Graf to win 22 Grand Slams and 1 Golden Slam title. Despite their honors, both said they felt an utter sense of relief and calm when it came time to retire.
“One can sit here and think that life is about some destination,” Agassi said. “You know, finish your career and you’ve earned this luxury and go lay on the beach somewhere with a drink and umbrella, but the truth is you realize pretty quickly that life is about how you engage with today. Period.”
In 1994, Agassi started the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education to assist under-privileged youth in Las Vegas. As a teenager, Agassi left formal school behind to train full time, a sacrifice that has ultimately influenced his approach to philanthropy.
“I kind of felt trapped in my life, and the instinct and reaction to that I think is to dream about the day when you can take a child who feels this way and make them feel differently,” Agassi said.
Agassi opened the first Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas in 2001. Since then, he has opened 38 more schools across the country and established a number of other programs to assist children through education and athletics.
The focus of Graf’s philanthropy has been global. She started her own organization, Children for Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization that supports children and families who are victims of war, persecution and violence. The program works with children in Uganda, Eritrea and Kosovo, providing services to help the children process their traumatic experiences.
“Even with the specialized therapy that we provide, they’re not always guaranteed to succeed in therapy,” Graf said. “The violence that they grow up with is, unfortunately, the violence they’re going to fall into as well. It’s just this extreme cycle that these kids grow up in and it’s up to us to break that cycle.”
The tennis legends sit down with Full Frame host Mike Walter in Las Vegas to talk about their professional careers, as well as their lives away from the court. Follow Andre Agassi on Twitter @AndreAgassi