There wasn't much mystery when the International Tennis Hall of Fame chose a Las Vegas school as the location to announce the name of a 2011 inductee. Because, really, who else was going to be celebrated at an event at the Andre Agassi College Prepatory Academy?
The worst kept secret in tennis was finally made official on Thursday, when officials named Agassi as the newest inductee into the Hall of Fame. The announcement was made at a pep rally celebration at his school, which was created to aid disadvantaged children.
"I'm truly honored to be recognized alongside the greatest players of tennis," Agassi said. "My tennis career afforded me the opportunity to make a difference in other people's lives and it was truly special to share this exciting moment with the students of Agassi Prep."
Agassi will be the sole inductee in the Recent Player category. Other inductees will be announced at a later date. The ceremony will be held in Newport, R.I., on July 9.
The truth is, the Tennis Hall of Fame needs Agassi far more than he needs it, but his induction allows us to debate an always-entertaining question: How will history judge Agassi's career?
Comparisons to players of different generation works best in baseball (and then not even very well). In a sport like tennis it's nearly impossible. Back in the early to middle part of last century, travel was tougher, the talent pool was smaller and tournaments like the Australian and French Opens weren't as important as they are today. To compare Agassi to old-time greats like Bill Tilden and Don Budge would be ill-informed speculation, at best.
While ranking the best players of the Open era last year, I rated Agassi as the ninth-best, ahead of Mats Wilander and just behind Rafael Nadal (who will surely move up the list as his career progresses). He lived up to the immense hype that accompanied his junior career, failed to do so when he hit his prime and then exceeded everyone's expectations in his twilight.
His highs were tremendous -- he was the first man to win the career Golden Slam and hoisted the trophy in Melbourne four times -- but his lows were unprecedented for a great player. That may knock him down a few pegs compared to Lendl, Connors and McEnroe, but it was that career arc which makes Agassi's tale so unique.