Kisses not misses during Graf and Agassi’s love game

Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf kiss on court

Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf kiss on court

Sometimes, somebody, somewhere has a brilliant idea.

It is not recorded whose masterstroke it was to invite Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf to be two of the four players chosen to play the exhibition Centre Court Celebration event under the new roof, but – whoever it was – give that person a gold star.

If there is a more popular, higher-achieving couple in tennis history, then it is a tad difficult to come up with their names. When asked just before their mixed doubles match which of them would be calling the shots on court, Agassi knew his place.

He may be one of just four men in history to have won all four Grand Slam titles but he feels that even that just doesn’t cut it by comparison with the achievements of his wife.

“I defer to 22 Slams, definitely,” said Agassi. “She moves better than me, and she looks better than me.”

Actually, on that last point in particular, the fact is that at 39 and with two children Steffi Graf still appears to possess precisely the physique she owned 21 years ago, the year she won the “Golden Slam” of all four majors plus Olympic gold.

But actually it was her husband who hit the first really killer stroke of their mixed doubles match against Tim Henman and Kim Clijsters, with his very first serve of the match.

Initially Agassi grinned sheepishly at the Belgian, requesting that she at least stand a little further behind the baseline to receive his first serve. But when he delivered a whistling ace, it was clear that his old habit of hitting the ball as hard as possible is one he has not lost.

Later it emerged with unintentional clarity again, when Agassi drove a powerful backhand into Clijsters’ midriff, causing her to reel away, much to his embarrassment. Graf gave her husband a few whacks with her racket in mock disgust.

The whole day was, of course, littered with smiles and jokes on court – and, in the mixed doubles, not infrequent kisses between Mr and Mrs Agassi.

Graf and Clijsters, too, enjoyed their in-jokes. An early rally became, at first unintentionally and then as rather a good running gag, an organised duopoly of a dozen forehands between the two women, with their male counterparts left standing so idle that their hands were literally on their hips. The punchline came when Clijsters eventually delivered the ball to Agassi, only for him to fumble the required volley into the net.

Little wonder that the crowd lapped it up, one person calling out near the end: “Come on, Mr and Mrs!” But it was their opponents who prevailed in the tie-break, whereupon all four exchanged kisses at the net – including, comically, Agassi and Henman.

“I just want to say that my wife is so much better at tennis than Tim’s wife,” joshed Agassi, as Lucy Henman grinned at courtside. “But really, I don’t know if I ever smiled as much on a tennis court.”

For a man who has himself brought so many smiles to Wimbledon over nearly two decades, that’s a big statement – and a definite thumbs-up to whoever it was who decided the launch of a new roof was a good occasion for Centre Court to host its own version of Mr & Mrs.

11 Comments

  1. rose
    Posted 17 May, 2009 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    yeah it had to be something big to get the tennis couple to play on such an occation am hoping to see an appearance from them at Roland Garros for there is where their love story started!!!

  2. Lakshmi
    Posted 17 May, 2009 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    It was so very wonderful to see Steffi and Andre so happy together and so fit and fine 🙂 Almost 7 years after marriage, and a long time away from the game, its wonderful to see them so closely bonded, so very happy and playing prim-and-proper. Great Idea. Hats Off. Hopefully, we can get to see more of them – this has just been the appetizer. May be, Steffi should just go ahead and ask for the wild card she joked about.

  3. aree
    Posted 18 May, 2009 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Yes, I think the worldwide tennis fans were stunning with the game on Sunday.How great for such good feeling to see our great players playing together again.
    Hope so much to see more in the future.

  4. Christine Fowler
    Posted 18 May, 2009 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Sunday really was a day to behold, I have waited 10 years to see Andre Agassi play and it was well worth the wait. It was also good to see such a relaxed fun match I don’t think I could ever have stood the tension watching him play for the Championship! All of the palyers were absolute stars and made this a very special day for everyone there.

  5. Posted 18 May, 2009 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    A dream come true!!
    Always wanted to see Andre play and my dear daughter Heather secured tickets for my husband and I. A wonderful, memorable, magical day. A bonus to see Stephanie with Andre, and Kim and Tim and so many other special people.

  6. Les
    Posted 18 May, 2009 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    I recorded Agassi and Steffi and watched the replay which was excellent, but was upset as I was not able to see the full match between Agassi and Henman due to multiscreen availability – why did the BBC not explain this beforehand!! Really!!!!

  7. Buachan
    Posted 20 May, 2009 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    I myself couldn’t stop smiling to see this dream match.It was great to see my favourite tennis couples playing tennis in this great occasion.I love how they four entertained us with so much fun and overjoy.Thank you

  8. ploie
    Posted 21 May, 2009 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    just reading from Twitter’s tweet-by-tweet accounts kept me smiling and made the frequent glance at my twitter enjoyable

  9. Prakash
    Posted 1 June, 2009 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Hi Steffi,
    Its really wonderful to see you in Wimbledon after long time.
    And I believe you are the living legend in Tennis and Wimbledon as well.
    I love you so much,
    Prakash

  10. Anibal L.
    Posted 3 June, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Steffi without you … Wimbledon is not the same … I miss you so much.

  11. simon
    Posted 23 June, 2009 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    has beens


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