Andre Agassi has a fan in the Duchess of Cambridge, who recently revealed that as a young girl, she loved watching him and his wife Steffi Graf take to the courts. Speaking to HELLO! Online at Wimbledon, the former World No. 1 tennis star opened up about his brief encounter with Kate, and not fully understanding "the whole royalty thing".
"We sat next to each other and watched the semi-finals about five years ago," said Andre, who was in the royal box with his wife Steffi as well as Kate's husband Prince William in 2012. "She's a sweetheart of a lady. She's a real sweetheart. I don't know her well and quite honestly I don't get the whole royalty thing – in the sense that they're celebrities on steroids or something. I can empathise with some of that, but it's fascinating to watch from the outside. You have to be on your game all the time!"
Prince William and Kate attend Wimbledon in 2012 with Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi
Andre and his wife Steffi, who was also ranked No. 1 during her career, have a son Jaden, 15, and a 13-year-old daughter Jaz, but their children are showing no signs of following in their parents' footsteps. "No, not at all," said Andre, when asked if they were future tennis players in the making. "My son's into baseball and my daughter gets into a lot of different things seasonally – dance one year, one part of the year kickboxing. She's really active, but there's no pressure. It's their choice and I'm glad they didn't choose tennis. It's a tough world. I want them to have choice and ownership of their choice. I didn't have that. I learnt what I don't want to do in many cases from my father."
"She's a sweetheart of a lady. She's a real sweetheart," said Andre of the Duchess
Fans will have watched Andre win Grand Slam after Grand Slam in the nineties. His breakthrough came at Wimbledon some 25 years ago – his first Grand Slam victory – so it's no surprise that the tournament still holds a special place for him. Andre is currently coaching Novak Djokovic, but the retired tennis legend, who has been very open about his love-hate relationship with the game, admitted it took some convincing to get him on board.
"I never decided to go into coaching," said Andre. "It kind of morphed about seven weeks ago when Novak was pretty persuasive, persistent. I was reluctant because it's not a convenient time in my life. I've got a lot on my plate. But I did see the ability to take someone as good as him, who has had as much experience as he has, and give them some tools. And I think a guy like that could do a lot with those tools. If he feels like I can help, then I'll always consider a long-term partnership. Novak's a really good man, he's a special person."
"Novak's a really good man, he's a special person," said the tennis coach
Andre, who was pushed into professional tennis by his father, added: "As far as loving the game, I don't think I ever went overnight into loving the game. I learnt to get out of my own way and see the game for what it was and then I slowly had experiences on a tennis court that allowed me to feel grateful, and then that built and built through the latter part of my career. And now it's different. The edge has gone, I respect what it's done, it's also taken a lot, it's been hard on my body. I don't know if it was ever a switch to love. It was a learned appreciation."
Andre is global ambassador for Lavazza
Andre was not only attending Wimbledon as Djokovic's coach, but as a global ambassador for Lavazza, the official coffee of the championships for the seventh year running. Unsurprisingly, Andre is a big coffee lover. "I drink two to four espressos a day, straight to the point, it helps," he said. "I'll have a couple in the morning and then like one in the afternoon to get me over the hump. As for my diet, I can't out train bad habits anymore because of my body. As tough as it is, I stick to a lot of protein, not too many carbs after a certain time – just some basic rules of engagement."