Andre Agassi is adored in his native Las Vegas and, granted, winning eight Grand Slams and 60 men's singles titles might have a bit to do with that.
Everybody loves a winner, after all.
Las Vegans, though, adore Agassi for far more than his ability to run down a shot or return a serve. He's become an icon in the community with his philanthropic efforts, particularly his work to improve the quality of the American education system.
If there is a worthy charity out there, chances are pretty good that Agassi has helped raise money for it. He said that he has raised around $175 million to aid charity.
Most famous is the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas, which includes elementary, middle and high school students.
"It's my life's work," Agassi said of fighting on behalf of children.
The amount of money he's raised is enormous, but it is not what motivates him.
"I don't function by taking stock of what we've achieved or the distance we've covered," Agassi said. "It's about moving forward, finding solutions and trying to give every child an opportunity."
He'll be in a familiar position on Saturday, when he competes in the PowerShares Tennis Series Tour's Cancer Treatment Centers of America Championship along with John McEnroe, Jim Courier and Michael Chang.
It will be a fun night, he said, and a chance to give the locals a good show. But playing a game is no longer what he is about.
Along with his wife, Stefanie Graf, he's committed his life to philanthropy, with most of his emphasis on children.
Education, he said, is a top priority.
"We are failing our future on an unconscionable level," Agassi said. "We are failing in globalized testing. We are losing millions of kids to dropouts. … We have a few wins here and there, but we are not doing the job we could and that we should be doing."
Fixing that problem is why Agassi has worked so tirelessly on behalf of charities, though he said "the issue isn't simply one of funding. I wish it were so simple."
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