World Team Tennis: Agassi, Breakers are golden

IRVINE — On the eve of the London Olympics, former world No. 1 tennis player Andre Agassi discussed Monday what it meant for him to win gold in 1996 in Atlanta.

Agassi, who played against the Breakers in 2009, has always been a big supporter of World Team Tennis. He wasn't playing Monday night, but he made a special appearance at UC Irvine's Bren Events Center for the Orange County Breakers' 24-17 home victory over the Springfield Lasers.

"Being a part of the greater athletic world, seeing all these athletes giving their whole life to this one moment, you felt like you were a part of something much larger," Agassi said of his Atlanta experience in a pre-match news conference. "During the experience, I started to actually believe that this is something I want for reasons that surpass tennis accomplishments.

"The Grand Slams are obviously the pillars of our sport. But to have a gold medal, I would put up a [heck] of an argument as to why that's the one you should pick [if you were to pick a most significant tournament win]. To win a gold medal at Wimbledon, which is what's going to happen this year, to me that only adds to the importance of it."

Agassi said he is headed to Milwaukee on Tuesday morning to open up a school for Lighthouse, which is one of the top charter school operators in the country. One place he said he doesn't plan to go is back to the Olympics this year. He talked about holding down the home front with his family, former women's tennis superstar Steffi Graf, their son Jaden and daughter Jaz.

"I figure wherever millions of people congregate, I want to avoid," Agassi said.

The crowd cheered Agassi as he put on a serving exhibition before Monday's match, even after his first couple of serves went into the net. The crowd could cheer the Breakers too, after they pulled out the important victory.

Orange County (4-6) moved into sole possession of second place in the Western Conference, ahead of Springfield and Kansas City (both 3-7). The top two teams in each conference advance to the playoffs.

The Breakers opened Monday's match with a 5-4 tiebreaker victory by J.P. Smith in men's singles, over Amir Weintraub.

Jana Juricova then beat Springfield's Maria Sanchez, 5-3, in women's singles.

Juricova, the 2011 NCAA singles champion while at Cal, is playing at home for the Breakers this week.

Anna-Lena Groenefeld will miss the rest of the season for Orange County because she is competing for Germany in the Olympics.

Opening ceremonies in London are Friday.

Twitter: @mjszabo

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