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That forehand has become one of the more deadly weapons of tennis's Open era. The funny thing about his exaggerated looped backswing with the elbow flying is that it goes against all laws of teaching, as does finishing with most of his weight on the back foot. But with his hip rotation initiating the power, his arm transferring the enormous torque and his wrist snapping so swiftly and emphatically—again, a no-no according to the form book—he generates tremendous power. His brother-in-law, Gonzales, points out that this method—"he sort of hangs the racket back and lags it behind the body like a slingshot"—puts less pressure on his elbow than the conventional stroke. Agassi has never had an elbow injury.
Not that he suffers much wear and tear in practice. The Davis Cup team marvels at Agassi's match readiness even after barely token workouts. U.S. captain Tom Gorman usually stresses tough, two-hour sessions, but he had to adjust when Agassi came aboard. "If the kid works hard to a fine-tune one day, he doesn't seem to need to work at all the next," says Gorman. "In that icy wind at Buenos Aires he warmed up with two or three forehands and backhands and a few serves and said let's go. Then he routed Jaite. It was amazing."
Agassi's natural ability "disgusts me," says Flach, laughing. "His hand-eye must be extraordinary. It's just the power of visualization. He just visualizes himself kicking ass and taking names. Now he's got the big first serve, he's varying his pace, his shot selection is vastly improved. He knows when to loop the ball and when to smoke it. Anybody can see his feel for the drop and the lob. And considering his power, his lack of unforced errors is remarkable."
Not everyone is enamored of Agassi's game, however. Tiriac, for instance, has this to say: "Agassi could revolutionize the game, but I hope he doesn't. If a player hits as hard as he can all the time, matches will turn into shooting contests and the beauty of the game will disappear. His is a limited game that has nothing to do with finesse. He's never going to be a serve-and-volleyer or have the fluid touch of a Nastase or the sensitivity of a McEnroe. I just hope everyone doesn't start playing like him.
"Boris [Becker], at 17 and 18, was a completely different breed," Tiriac continues. "If Agassi is a pop singer, Boris is a symphonic orchestra. There are so many pop singers that I cannot remember their names. But there are only two or three great philharmonics."
After Paul Annacone lost to Agassi in the finals at Stratton Mountain last July, he said, "It was like feeding a ball machine." Still, feeding the frenzy of admirers and detractors alike is what Agassi seems to live for. "I really enjoy his spirit," Yannick Noah says. "It's great seeing somebody having a good time and not taking anything for granted."
Agassi has said his goals are "to make the other players hope they never have to play me again." And further, "to entertain the audience, that's what they come to see." He has also said, "There's nothing mental about tennis. Once I get out there my body takes over."
Maybe soon this daring young man on the multiple trapezes of stardom, religion and contradiction will finally risk the big stunt, outgrow his naiveté and take control of the direction of his career.