Andre Agassi practicing at the Darling Tennis Center in Las Vegas, Nev.
© Jen Pottheiser
By Jeff Sikes, USTA.com
Players at the 4.0 USTA League National Championships at Darling Tennis Center in Las Vegas were treated to the ultimate impromptu guest appearance Friday afternoon when the man, the myth, and local tennis legend Andre Agassi showed up for an unannounced practice session with former coach, Darren Cahill on the Stadium Court.
The 8-time Grand Slam champion dropped in a little after 10:30 a.m. , surveyed the scene, and asked what the buzz of court activity at Darling was about. When told by a USTA staff employee that the League National 4.0 Championships were being held, Agassi sheepishly asked if he and Cahill could get in on the action.
Word spread like wildfire around the complex that the former world No. 1 was banging balls with Cahill, sending players into a tizzy, and scrambling for their cameras and cell phones, while jockeying for up-close views for keepsake mementos of the Vegas legend. Agassi is a regular at Darling when he’s in town, often coming out for casual hits with wife, Steffi Graf.
Players were beside themselves and swooning at the mere sight of Agassi and the clean, crisp strokes that were rocketing off his racquet. Robbie Vittitow of Team Texas had a front-row seat to see her tennis idol before being called away to the court to play No. 1 singles against Southern. Here for her National Championships match, she almost looked dismayed to have to go play.
“I think I just peed my pants,” said Vittitow jokingly, who was a bit frazzled when accepting her court assignment at No. 1 singles. “I’ve been an Andre fan forever, from day one almost. He came through Abilene when he was just getting started on the Pro Tour and we saw him then and have been following him ever since. “
Agassi was pretty much all business at Darling, but did get a rise out of fans a few times after some jaw-droppingly hard-hit forehands that zoomed past Cahill. He playfully screamed “Vamos” after winners and also joked with fans that, “I obviously have a little girl at home with a towel like this”, referring to a worn out Little Mermaid beach towel he pulled out of his bag and used to wipe down.
“Andre used to come to the San Francisco Tennis Club that my team plays at quite a bit back when he used to live there, but it’s always amazing to see him up this close,” said Dan Henderson of the Northern California team.
When he was done with his just-over-an-hour practice session with Cahill, Agassi was met by a throng of league players. He attempted to volley a few questions as he was walking out, hurriedly posed for a photo with the host Intermountain 4.0 team from Las Vegas, then scurried for the exits.
Agassi was in and out like a flash, staying just a bit, but leaving a lasting memory many League Players can take home with them from their trip to this year’s National Championships.