- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 24, 2006

Andre Agassi has picked up a tennis racket only once since he played his final competitive match at the U.S. Open earlier this month.

“I hit for 30 minutes with my wife,” he said, “because she wanted some exercise.”

The eight-time Grand Slam champion might be enjoying the chance to stay away from the courts, but it sure didn’t take him long to find something else to do with his new spare time.

Three weeks after closing his 21-year professional tennis career, Mr. Agassi is entering a partnership with Steve Case’s luxury vacation club, Exclusive Resorts.

“In tennis … you work, you train and all that so that you can maybe add something to somebody’s life for those couple of hours,” Mr. Agassi said, “and this is a great way of channeling that desire that I have to affect somebody for longer than that.”

The 36-year-old Mr. Agassi and his wife, former tennis star Steffi Graf, have two children.

“I feel like I’m really connected to what a family’s looking for on vacation. When they decide to take time together, they’re not looking to do things separately — they’re looking to connect stronger with each other and also themselves,” Mr. Agassi said. “It’s not just about relaxing. It’s about rejuvenating. It’s about re-energizing as well.”

Mr. Agassi’s arrangement with Exclusive Resorts will be announced formally today.

Mr. Case, co-founder of America Online, bought Exclusive Resorts three years ago. The group has about 2,400 members who each pay at least $225,000 for access to nearly 300 residences in North America, the Caribbean and Europe.

Mr. Agassi will help identify and develop real estate for the club, and “bring more of a family-centered approach” to the Agassi-Graf Tennis and Fitness Centers that will be built at various sites, Mr. Case said.

“We first started talking about this a number of months ago,” Mr. Case said. “He was trying to figure out where to focus his time and energy and passion when he retired from tennis.”

It’s too early to tell whether retirement suits Mr. Agassi — “You’ve got to ask me that in a few months, really,” he said — in part because he has been used to pretty much shutting things down after the U.S. Open each season.

He plans to stay involved in philanthropic work, which began during his playing career. His foundation, which benefits children in need, holds its 11th annual fundraising event Oct. 7.

“I just hope that the next 20 years of my life eclipse the last 20 years. That’s what I hope for,” Mr. Agassi said.

“I hope the impact I have can only continue to grow, through my foundation, through meeting the needs, and giving people a platform to really have their lives affected.”

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