Being Just Andre means blowing kisses to the crowd, belting balls into the stands and handing out haberdashery—or even a pair of his with-it, signature denim shorts—to the courtside maidens. It means applauding opponents' winners, although this happens almost exclusively when Agassi is in the process of administering a severe butt-whipping. (It should be noted that, during Agassi's meteoric rise in less than three years from No. 230 to No. 3—his highest ranking, from which he slipped a notch two weeks ago—such whippings have been administered to only three players in the Top 10.) "Hopefully, Agassi will stop embarrassing players," says McEnroe, another Cup teammate. "People don't like to get their faces rubbed in it."
Being Just Andre also means Federal Expressing chicken fingers from a Las Vegas restaurant called Tramps to his childhood bosom buddy. Perry Rogers, now a sophomore at Georgetown University, at the end of every semester or "whenever I'm stressed out and in a financial bind," says Rogers. "Look, Andre is the warmest, purest, most loyal friend a guy could have. He thinks deep thoughts. When he became a Christian two years ago, he shared his feelings with me. I wasn't surprised he would devote his life to God, only that he came to that decision on his own. Any of these negatives in tennis must have come from his naiveté."
McEnroe believes the players' suprisingly tolerant response to Agassi's smiling, nonchalant nastiness actually shows their failure to understand that he is insulting them. "I was more straightforward." said Mac. But this new guy Agassi is nothing if not open with his disdain:
•Catching Martin Jaite's good serve in a Davis Cup match in Argentina? "He had no idea the commotion that would cause," says Rogers. "Andre called me from Buenos Aires the night it happened, worried that anything good that people felt about him before had been destroyed."
•Announcing after beating Jimmy Connors 6-2, 7-6, 6-1 at the U.S. Open that he had told a friend he expected to win "three, three and three," and adding, "I didn't know Jimmy would have that much in him"? The friend was Rogers, who says, "It wasn't lack of respect. Andre will say stuff like that all the time. It's like a prizefighter psyching himself up. Hey, you know other players talk like that. They just don't do it in public."
•Humiliating with taunts and gestures an overmatched Hugo Chapacu of Paraguay during the recent U.S. Davis Cup victory in Fort Myers, Fla.? "It was time to rub it in. I'm not making fun of him" Agassi said. "I'm making fun of Paraguay." Earlier he had voiced his opinion of that morning's bloody coup in Paraguay with this nifty sound bite: "I don't even know how to spell 'coup.' "
"Andre is deep, perceptive, reflective," Rogers says. "We'll go over my business law cases and he'll predict the judge's decision every time. Look, I'm surrounded by brilliant people whose life is reading books, but Andre is smarter than any of them. His life is 'I want to know.' "
Now that he has traversed the globe, Agassi's vast knowledge presumably extends beyond cowboys and Indians. But when he played Davis Cup matches in Peru last year amid threats of an attack by neo-Maoist guerrillas who practice some of the ancient customs of the Incas, Agassi said, "What's an Inca?"
Well, what in heaven's name is an Agassi? If "naive" is as good a working definition as any, it has been reinforced by the nearly paranoiac web of security being spun around the young phenom by still another of tennis's tedious coteries. In Agassi's case, the obligatory "brain trust" doesn't seem to evince either much brains or much trust. A remark Phillip Agassi once made to The Christian Science Monitor is instructive. Phil, now 25, a former fringe player on the satellite tour, is Andre's brother, traveling manager and sometime bodyguard. Phil told the Monitor that Andre is still the baby in the family, "and it's not as hard keeping him focused as people might think when they see his hair."
Among the other prominent working members of the Agassi entourage is Andre's father, Emmanuel, a.k.a. Mike, who boxed for Iran in the 1948 and '52 Olympics. (Initially, Dad Agassi was invariably identified as being from Iran. In recent newspaper accounts he has become "an Armenian who was born in Iran," which may or may not distance him from the Ayatollah.) In any event, Mike Agassi emigrated to Chicago in 1952 but became so immersed in tennis that he decided to move his family to a warmer climate and settled in Las Vegas; he is now a captain in the showroom at Bally's Casino Resort on the Vegas Strip. Completing the lineup are Agassi's deeply tanned and reputedly famous coach, Nick Bollettieri, and, finally, his agent with International Management Group, Bill Shelton. An exceptionally tailored fellow, Shelton has been around, flitting from tennis-camp and racket-company jobs to positions at ProServ and Advantage International, the other top management firms, before landing at IMG, and he should know better. Know better, that is, than to: