April 29 is a fabled day in the history of tennis – well, specifically, American tennis. On this day, three all-time greats were born.
Start in 1970 with the birthday of Andre Agassi. Move ahead eight years later to the birth of Mike Bryan. Two minutes later, his brother Mike.
These are three of the most dynamic, engaging players in tennis history.
Agassi’s charisma took a path like none other. Early on, Agassi revolutionized tennis, showing a bold new level of power off the ground – a forehand-backhand combo that to this day might well be the best in tennis history. But the supersonic speed of Agassi’s strokes, coupled with a rather indifferent attitude towards competition, threatened to derail his career. For long stretches, Agassi was more prone to blasting balls than problem-solving his way through matches. In time, though, aided massively by the tactical savvy of Brad Gilbert and the strength coaching of Gil Reyes, Agassi found his own equilibrium. At the age of 29, in the spring of 1999, Agassi had won three Grand Slam titles – an excellent player, but perhaps capable of even better results. Within four years, he’d stepped it up considerably, winning five more Slams, cementing his legacy not just as a champion for some time, but for all time – and doing so more as an intelligent grinder than sizzling shot-maker.
Agassi’s last Grand Slam title came at the 2003 Australian Open. The Bryans came that year too, at Roland Garros. Lest you think doubles a mere sideshow, explore the unwavering commitment of these two and you will see it in a whole other light. To watch Mike and Bob practice is to witness discipline at the highest level. Groundstrokes, volleys, transition shots, overheads, serves, returns – it’s all there, the two moving swiftly through stroke after stroke with persistent urgency and engagement. While Agassi has frequently spoken of his disdain for tennis and the way his father forced it on him, often rather cruelly, the Bryans show nothing but love for the sport. Father Wayne was a teaching pro. Mother Kathy was a top player, once ranked 11th in the country. These two are court rats of the highest order. One year shy of 40, they remain supremely engaged.