Do you want to know how to beat Andre Agassi? Take it from the man who beat him twice, once in a Master Series Event and once in a Grand Slam Rd. of 16 match.
As great as Andre Agassi was, he still lost 274 matches over his 21-year career on the pro tour. Of course, he won 870 matches. But Iâ€™m more concerned in this book with the matches he lost. A great number of players found ways to beat Agassi, one of the ten greatest players in the history of the game. I, myself, beat Andre twice after losing to him the first three times without winning even a single set. Iâ€™m going to tell you why Agassi was so great, but also how I turned a losing game into a winning one against Andre, and how you can do that against your toughest opponent. Every tennis player has an opponent that theyâ€™re dying to beat and with a little more practice (this book is going to instruct you on how to get the most out of your practices), better technique (Iâ€™m going to improve your strokes), and a sound game plan (read this book and youâ€™ll learn how to break down your opponentâ€™s game), youâ€™ll do just that. ANDRE AGASSIAndre Agassi was so difficult to beat because he had arguably the best forehand-backhand combination in tennis history. Other great baseliners like Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Jim Courier never reached Agassiâ€™s level of having equally dominant wings. They all had more lopsided artillery of excellence with either their forehand or backhand being their dominant shot. The discrepancy of Andre's right and left swing ability was so minute that it revolutionized the sport. Agassi's opponents on the pro tour realized that it was possible to hit outright winners from both sides consistently and now young players like Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are employing this ambidextrous proficiency to rise in the rankings .Both Agassiâ€™s forehand and backhand are what tennis coaches call, â€œreproducible weapons,â€ in that he could hit both shots for winners on a consistent basis. Every player strives for this balance and power. Agassiâ€™s picturesque mechanics, technical genius and repetitious perfection were what enabled him to win a Grand Slam tournament on every surface, hard courts, clay and grass. Was Andre the most mentally tough player ever? The fittest player ever? The best server, volleyer or strategist? While he was right up there in most those categories what made Andre Agassi great was his ability to stroke the ball evenly well on both the forehand and backhand sides. Since Andre had no apparent weakness, no side you could attack successfully or faulty stroke you could exploit, how do you beat a player who is so dangerous? Every player needs a strategy and it took me three losing matches in succession against Andre to form my own game plan for beating him. 1. Strategy for beating Double-A:The key to beating a great baseline ball-striker is to keep him off balance so he can't set up and hit his shots. If you were pitching to Barry Bonds, would you throw fast balls down the middle? No, not unless you want to get a crick in your neck from seeing your pitches then launched over the right-field fence. Whether itâ€™s pitching to Barry or dueling with Andre you need to learn how to dance around such powerful foes. Speed, pace and the spin or slice of your shots are how you keep an opponent off balance. And against Agassi, you need to plot your sequence of shots very carefully. If he reads your shot-making strategy too easily, heâ€™ll get in the zone and have you running from side to side of the court in no time. Even Pete Sampras, who had the gameâ€™s best serve ever and exceptional weaponry, plotted and used tactics and careful shot selection to beat Agassi. Because Andre hit the ball on the rise and played right on top of the baseline, he gave his opponents little breathing time and even less time to react to each of his shots. He loved to make his opponents run back-and-forth, side-to-side, like a yo-yo. But even Andre had minor weaknesses and this is what you had to detect while playing against him or studying him as he played against other opponents.No matter what the level of your opponentâ€™s game, whether he is a junior, club, collegiate, rank ATP player, or even a legend, there's a point at which somethingâ€™s gotta give. Nobody is perfect or has conquered every shot and movement. This breakdown was true in the games of Rod Laver, Sampras, Agassi, Roger Federer and Nadal.. The court is approximately 38-feet wide and a player can only be so good at each foot of this distance. For example, Andre moved more explosively to his leftâ€”towards his backhandâ€”than he did going rightâ€”towards his forehand. That's why his running forehand, although good, was not the best in the business. So Rule # 1 in beating Andre Agassi was to force him to try and hit difficult, running shots going to his forehand side because his mobility was slightly compromised when moving in this direction.Rule # 2: Andreâ€™s serve improved as his career progressed. He served more strategically than Sampras, who threw caution to the wind and always hit his first and second serves with abandon. Andre liked to kick his serves, particularly his second serve, out wide and high so that the returner would hit an easy shot down the middle for Andre to jump on. So I tried to routinely attack Andreâ€™s second serve, which only ranged from 85 miles-per-hour to 100 mph. Andreâ€™s tendency, particularly on the ad-court box, was to kick a heavy second serve out wide and yank his opponent off court. Andre would set up in the middle of the court, knowing that his opponent would mostly return crosscourt because itâ€™s the easier and higher-percentage return. This would lead right into Andre stepping up and hitting his best shot, a backhand down-the line winner. Rule # 3: Know your opponentâ€™s tactics. Instead of returning cross-court, I would hit the return down the line off that ad court kick serve because while I knew Andre would place it out wide, he didnâ€™t hit the serve hard enough where I couldnâ€™t get a good return back if I anticipated well. I moved out wide quickly and hit my return to the long line corner, down-the-line. This type of return would force Andre out of his comfort zoneâ€”remember this term because we will come back to it again and again when talking about exposing opponentsâ€™ weaknesses-and he have to run out wide to his forehand corner, where he wasnâ€™t quite as adept. Rule # 4: Take your opponent out of his comfort zone.Even a player as great and as experienced as Andre gets rattled and makes bad decisions and hits errant shots when heâ€™s taken out of his comfort zone. When this happened to Andre, he would get frustrated and have a tendency to rush and maybe throw a free point your way by double faulting or hitting an unforced error. Free points are great for your scoreboard total and you have to look to win as many of them as possible. Andre fell out of his comfort zone when he was pushed wide right on the return of serve, but also when he had to come into net early in a point. Brad Gilbert, Andreâ€™s coach during his heyday, opened Andreâ€™s eyes to working on his net game and finishing the point earlier, saving Andreâ€™s legs and making his life on the court easier. Rather than hitting six perfect ground strokes, Andre needed only four or five and then he came up to net and finished the point with a sitter volley. This tactic also got his opponent wondering and cautious about hitting anything short. He had to constantly hit with great depth.But even with Gilbertâ€™s help, Andre never turned into a great volleyer, he was only serviceable. His agility and his agility at net wasn't parallel to his legendary baseline ease and movement. I didn't use the tactic of bringing Andre to net to beat him because it wasnâ€™t my game style. But I saw Marcelo Rios do it with great success at the 1998 Miami Lipton Final. Hitting a combination of drop shots and then winner passing shots and lobs, Rios made Agassi look like a vertigo victim at the top of a skyscraper. Rios beat Agassi by taking him out of his comfort zone.Rule #5: Know your opponents strengthsGoing into a match with Andre, you know he can hit better than anyone because of his compact swing, his unprecedented racket speed, his brilliant hand-eye coordination, and his ability to pick the ball up off the bounce at a blur and scoop it into a treacherously blinding shot. He was the master of maneuvering his serve into the corners of the box to keep his opponent off balance. Once he had you leaning one way, he may hit his next serve to the other side of the box with the same ball toss, throwing your perception off completely. His backhand down-the-line, his inside-out forehand, his impeccable footwork, his return of serve, his passing shots were all devastating.I made rules up that I followed when playing Andre: 1. No soft servesâ€”I only hit serves at speeds of 95mph to 120mph that made it possible for him to move only one or two steps maximum and then reach to return the serve. 2. No short ballsâ€”If he had time to move into a short ball, I was a sitting duck. 3. No steady pattern of hitting balls in his strike zone during a rally. 4. No coming to net unless he's taking at least two steps and stretching out to hit his passing shot. 5. Make Andre run forward not laterally (unless itâ€™s wide to his forehand side). If I was aware of these factors and followed them to the T, it helped me win an extra few points and those few points meant the difference of winning and losing in the first match I beat him. I won it in a third-set tie-breaker. Rule #6: Throw in tactics that play with your opponentsâ€™ mind.1. Wrong-footing-- Players like Andre, who are especially adept at moving side-to-side, don't stop and recover as well. By hitting the ball behind Andre, it handicapped his natural movement and created the slightest bit of indecision. Making Andre guess by hitting two or three shots deep into the same corner (perferably his weaker, forehand side), and then changing the direction quickly for another two or three shots can be effective. Agassis forehand was incredible. His forehand on the run was good but sometimes hit short if you drove it deep and made him run hard. Again, Mareclo Rios had a great record against Andre because he utilized this tactic to perfection. He was skilled at disguising his shots, and hitting the ball behind his opponent. Holding his release to the last second made Agassi unsure of where to move after the ball is hit. The old school theory of going back to the middle of the court after a wide hit is no longer a staple at the elite playerâ€™s level of game because players hit the ball so well and are capable of hitting any spot on the court with precision angles. Combine wrong-footing your opponent with good depth, speed and angle shots and youâ€™re playing winning tennis. 2. Depth- Do you want to become a champion? Then learn to hit with depth. Itâ€™s the game plan to beat practically anybody you want to beat. By hitting about 3x3 feet (this gives you enough margin for error) inside the baseline and from corner to corner, freezes your opponent, even one as scary-skilled as Agassi. Now he doesnâ€™t have enough time or the position to hit outright winners. If he attempts to hit winners, he doing so with much higher risk. If you hit hard enough, he can't angle the ball either. Andre had a tremendous driving, angle backhand that he with with a slight arc. By hitting it, he pulled you off the court so he could start you running his yo-yo dance, and make you feel pain. But if you hit with depth and sufficient pace, Andre couldnâ€™t use his favorite tactic 3. When the opportunity is ripe, go for winner down the lineâ€”A famous coach once told me, the first one player hits down the line deep in a rally will win the point. If the shot is there, go for it because if you don't, your opponent will. 4. Slow your opponent downâ€”Andre loved to play to fast cadence, he was a momentum player. You have to judge whether your opponent is a momentum or plotting player and give him less or more time accordingly. If Andre got on a roll, it was important to rush him with a surprise net attack. Anything to take him off his rhythm. If I was up a game or a set, I would throw a high looping deep ball into his backhand corner. The last thing any player wants to contend with when theyâ€™re losing is a high, out-of-reach ball that lands deep in their court. Its requires patience, nimble footwork and discipline not to try to just blast it back. 5. When winning, play with the style that got you out in frontâ€”Normally, when you're winning, you want to continue playing the way that got you the lead. When youâ€™re losing, you have to try a different approach, experiment, change your style of play, but not exclusively to the point where youâ€™re playing a style you canâ€™t win with. 6. Know your opponentsâ€™ personality--If you play an overachiever, know that they will never give up, but their shots may not be of the killer variety. Match their intensity, and they will often fold because they canâ€™t beat you on desire alone. If you play a phenomenon with no mental toughness, then hang in and weather the storm of his brilliant shot-making and he may fold after his initial onslaught. Andre was born with more talent than grit. Maybe it was 51/49, but talent was his calling card. He became a champion by putting it all together, but the ability came easier than the mental makeup, which he acquired by hard work that built his will. Still, his desire and psyche was more easily exploitable than trying to hit him off the court. it No matter how fit and focused he became, his desire, his will to win a match was what gave in well before his ability to hit winners off of both wings. The final straw, the most important racquet in a playerâ€™s bag, is his or her ultimate resolve. Like anything in life, unless you want to win, believe you can win, and execute your game plan and shots, you wonâ€™t come out on top without the desire. When I beat Agassi both times, I was reminded by my coach that I had to want it badly, and believe I would win. He told me, â€œDon't play the outfit, or the Nike contract, or the commercials or the fact that he spent money more on plane fuel in the last year than youâ€™ve made in the past three years.Be a man on a mission, a serious mission.â€: So whether you need to improve your talent, work ethic, speed, technique, time management, fitness, mental skills or all of the above, letâ€™s get started. Weâ€™re going to have fun because tennis is about all about a grunt and a smile.Everyday you wake up you have to challenge yourself to get better. Look, I beat Agassi, so I know how to beat the Agassi on the other side of your net. If I did it, you can, too.