How tennis legend Andre Agassi's biggest achievement came off the court

When tennis legend Andre Agassi stepped away from the game in 2006, he didn't rule out coaching but his transition to the sidelines renewed his passion for the racquet.

There's also less pressure when you're not the one on court playing an opponent confesses the 49-year-old, who is currently in Melbourne for the Australian Open as coach to Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov and open the first Longines boutique.

For the record, he doesn't get paid to coach – although the offer has been made many times – preferring to take on the task because it resonates with his competitive spirit.   

Essential experience

Agassi was approached by Novak Djokovic in 2017 to be his coach (which he did until March last year) and now is Dimitrov's best chance at progressing in the Open.

"When I decided to coach Novak, I thought ok, maybe I can offer him something," says Agassi, who in an all black ensemble is looking more rock'n'roll than retired tennis legend.

"Maybe a little of what I have gone through could go a long way," he adds.

"Novak had also accomplished more than I had and was looking to do it a different way, at a different time in his life and I thought the game deserved it."

The new generation

A self-confessed problem solver, Agassi has found his feet side of court.

"When Grigor approached me it wasn't hard to say yes," he says.

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"He is an easy person to care about. He has been incredibly trusting and I can't fail that. He lived with us for a month heading into the season," says Agassi.

"He came to Atlanta over the summer and followed us to Southern California for a couple of family trips and has immersed himself into wanting to grow as a player and a person and added to our lives in the process."

Timeless passion

Sitting at the Crown Towers with his wife of 17 years, Stefanie Graf, the pair also celebrates 10 years as ambassadors for the Swiss watchmaker Longines, which Agassi describes more as family than a partnership.  

The luxury brand has crafted 10 limited edition Conquest V.H.P model watches in their sporting honour.

"It was a collaborative design process, but I wasn't into micro-managing people who make watches better than I ever can," says Agassi.

"They're timeless elegant pieces," adds Graf, resplendent in a navy blouse and white skirt.

"Seeing how the watches are put together and the detail and love that goes into the brand is amazing. From the history and commitment to quality and also about giving back to community makes it a great partnership for us," she says.  

Money on the wrist

But before you think you can access one of these watches, think again. They've already been sold – two saved for the Australian market and snapped up before the prestigious timepieces could even walk into the boutique's new door. One lucky owner got their photo taken with the couple at the boutique while the other remains an anonymous buyer.

Globally, the 10 sets raised more than US$300,000 dollars with proceeds going to the power couple's respective charities - the Andre Agassi Foundation and Graf's Children for Tomorrow.

Agassi's foundation work has had huge impact on underprivileged kids in Las Vegas where he resides. For someone who dropped out of school in eighth grade to focus on tennis, he is all about giving to those who have less.

Furthering the future

So far the Agassi Foundation has opened 90 schools and he shows no sign of stopping either, encouraging private donors keen on giving back to community to join him on his journey.  

"We can't wait around for government funding when it comes to education," says Agassi.

"But we can innovate and I have a business model with the private sector which creates a win on multiple fronts," he adds of the charter schools.

"It's for investors who aren't looking to make a killing, but scaling it in a sustainable way. In the last five years we have built 90 plus schools. It took 15 years to build one, but if you can think outside the box you can innovate and create a win for everybody," he adds.

Agassi admits that no number of tournament wins compares with buzz he gets seeing underprivileged kids get an education.

"It's a huge accomplishment, but not just to pat myself on the back about," he says. "It's what these kids inspire in me on a daily basis that is the biggest reward for me. "

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