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July 9, 2011

Andre Agassi

Christopher Clouser

Peachy Kellmeyer

CHRISTOPHER CLOUSER: Good morning, everyone. I am not Tony Trabert. I'm Chris Clouser, chairman of the Tennis Hall of Fame. We are sorry that Tony cannot be here today, but we will announce at the induction ceremony that Tony Trabert is going to be named a life trustee of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
It's my honor to welcome the class of 2011, Andre Agassi and Peachy Kellmeyer.
This young woman here, Peachy Kellmeyer, from Wheeling, West Virginia, has been a driving force behind the growth of women's tennis worldwide. She was hired as the very first employee of the Women's Tennis Association in 1973 and she's still at it today.
During her tenure, Peachy has been involved in everything from player relations to policy decisions to tournament operations around the world. She was instrumental in arranging the famed Battle of the Sexes in which Billie Jean King triumphed over former No. 1 Bobby Riggs. She was also a trailblazer for Title IX having launched a lawsuit prior to this landmark ruling that dismantled an Association for Intercollegiate Athletics rule that prohibited athletic scholarships for women.
Today Peachy serves as operation executives consultant for the WTA. She oversees the WTA Alumni Program which keeps the sport's stars and legends engaged in the game. She's on the Fed Cup Committee.
In the 38 years that Peachy Kellmeyer has worked for the WTA, the women's pro tennis tour has come an awful long way. The number of WTA events has increased from 23 domestic tournaments to 53 events in 33 different countries, and the prize money has increased from $309,000 to more than $87 million all because of Peachy.
Peachy got her start in tennis as a very talented collegiate player. She was nationally ranked as an adult and she was a competitor at Wimbledon and the U.S. Nationals. Peachy's real name in Fern. However, she's gone by Peachy all her life and is called as such by everyone she knows except for her friend Bud Collins whose always called her Fern.
So, Peachy, as they say, welcome and congratulations. You're about to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
PEACHY KELLMEYER: Thank you, Chris.
CHRISTOPHER CLOUSER: In the recent player category, we're pleased to honor a man who literally needs no introduction, however I would remiss if I didn't highlight a bit of his remarkable success and career.
Andre Agassi of Las Vegas, Nevada, is an eight-time Grand Slam tournament champion, an Olympic gold medalist, and member of two winning Davis Cup teams. He held the No. 1 singles ranking for 101 weeks, and he achieved a career singles record of 870-274, winning 60 titles during his 20-year career.
Andre's talent, skill and charisma and popularity resulted in a devoted very fan base in tennis around the world. Andre turned pro in 1986 at the age of 16 and made his way into the top 100 in his first professional year, finishing the season ranked No. 91. He won his first tour-level title in 1987 and closed out his second professional season ranked No. 25 in the world. In 1988, his year end ranking was No. 3 and he surpassed $2 million in career prize money after playing in just 43 career tournaments, the fastest anyone in history had reached that mark.
During his career and into retirement, it's an understatement to say that he's been dedicated to philanthropy. In 1984 he found the Andre Agassi Foundation For Education, which is dedicated to reforming public education all throughout America and the world now. Since the inception of the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education over $150 million has been raised to benefit the mission of the foundation.
In 2001 Andre opened the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, a tuition-free charter school in Las Vegas, in Las Vegas' most at-risk neighborhood for kindergarten and now through 12. In 2009, 2010, and 2011, the school's graduating class had 100% acceptance rate for higher education.
Andre and his wife, Hall of Famer Steffi Graf, reside in Las Vegas with their two children, Jaden and Jaz.
Andre, on behalf of the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the international tennis community, congratulations, welcome. You are about to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Welcome to each and every one of you. It's one of the most special weekends we've ever had.
At this time I'd like to open the floor to questions for either Andre or Peachy, please.

Q. (No microphone.)
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, hard to get your arms around certainly. I can say that I'm really grateful for the opportunity, being here a few years ago on the other side of it, because it makes you slightly more aware of all the people that have helped make this day a reality, how they feel for me, the love and journey that's gone into this moment.
So it's a powerful feeling to be here. You think of your whole career, you never dream of a moment like this to be the case. I surprised myself when I won matches, let alone tournaments, let alone this. I never dared to dream of this, certainly.

Q. (No microphone.)
ANDRE AGASSI: Gosh, there's a lot of cameras in here was my reaction to it. A lot of people. Need to get an air-conditioning unit up there. It's pretty warm.
But, yeah, it really does somehow visually and symbolically put in perspective the road traveled, the journey, the choices, bad choices, outfits, hair, all the like. Somewhere I started to straighten up a little bit. Coincided with my beautiful bride.
But, yeah, it does really put in perspective how much of your life you've given to this great sport.

Q. (No microphone.)
ANDRE AGASSI: They weren't actually there. We haven't had the opportunity yet of just moseying through yet. Yeah, it's been busy, as I'm sure you can imagine. But we will get that.

Q. (No microphone.)
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, there's been a lot before me that set standards for me. My goal has always been to leave the sport better off for having me. I never always went about that in ways that made me proud. But tennis has enabled me for my life's work now, given me the gift to change the life experiences of others. That's just flat out a real fun thing to do, really rewarding.
I don't know if this is the place to say it or not, but more rewarding than anything that can happen on a tennis court. But it's because of the tennis court that I have my life's work.

Q. (No microphone.)
PEACHY KELLMEYER: Well, thanks for asking me a question. I'm so happy (laughter).
My hero has always been Billie Jean King. She founded the WTA in 1973. So that was special for me for lots of reasons, mainly that I got a job, a job and friends that have lasted a lifetime.
Moments that mean a lot to me? In 2007, when we got equal prize money in all the Grand Slams. We knew it was coming, but when it happened, it was a very, very special moment.
Needless to say, sitting up here with Tony -- well, not Tony. What's your name (laughter)? With Chris. But sitting next to a superstar I'm a little bit nervous. It's a special day in my life. Tennis has been my life and my passion, so I just couldn't be happier.
And thank you for asking.

Q. (No microphone.)
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, sure. I mean, I think it's fair to say because of Peachy and the likes of Billie Jean that we have daughters and mothers, sisters that not only have hopes for quality, they have a claim to it. It's a beautiful thing. It's changed the way we think of ourselves, it changes the way we think of each other, it changes the way men think about women and women think about men.
It's bigger than sport.

Q. (No microphone.)
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I suppose. I mean, it's not really a secret. What do you think the program is? Shall I say it? Does it really matter now? So just keep this between us (laughter).
I asked a young lady by the name of Simone Ruffin, who was in my first graduating class, who spoke to the kids at graduation. I chose a student because I believe the Hall of Fame really connects our past and our present and our future. It's what this establishment does so well.
I can't think of anything that represents us better than a child and their future, and the fact that tennis has given me a chance to allow a future of their choosing for them.
So there was a lot of symbolism to me with the past being connected with tomorrow. And her specifically because she really moved me at graduation in 2009. Chris just mentioned that my school was in an 'at-risk neighborhood'. He chose to use that phrase because she's been in my school since the third grade, and she said the day of graduation, I've been here since third grade and I've really struggled with us, all of us, being labeled 'at risk.' It's today that I realize that we're all at risk. We're at risk of going to college. We're at risk of coming back to our community and making a difference to the next generation.
She just blew the house away. I thought she really reflected what our mission is, what it's been.
And to my surprise, Chris told me, couldn't keep a secret, I'm grateful for it because I get to anticipate it more, which is more time to appreciate, he told me that a young man is going to be singing the Banner or the national anthem. His name ways A.J.
A.J. came to my school with his hands full of challenges, health issues, sickle cell anemia he's lived with his whole life. He never went to college, never graduated high school. He's the first person in his family to graduate high school and to continue.
He just happens to have one of the most incredible voices you've ever heard. So Chris has surprised me with flying him in to entertain us all.
CHRISTOPHER CLOUSER: A.J. and his mother arrived last night from Las Vegas. He's quite a performer and is a wonderful person. I want to thank Mark Stenning for letting us do it.

Q. (No microphone.)
ANDRE AGASSI: Hopefully they're getting some rest because they had weather issues. They were stuck in Philadelphia last night.

Q. Are they in college?
ANDRE AGASSI: Simone is in college in Southern California, a small school down there. A.J. I think is taking a year sabbatical to pursue some of his talents that have been discovered. I don't know what his long-term plans are, but you should see him smile.

Q. (No microphone.)
PEACHY KELLMEYER: Well, the first day on the job, I was with there with my friends. I was in Houston, Texas. Gladys Heldman was my boss. I spent a week there. By the week, the players were coming in. We were just starting the Virginia Slims Tour then. I remember it started to snow. It was in January a little bit. It never snows in Houston.
The first thing I remember, that Gladys had two cats, one named Virginia and one named slim. About every five minutes one of these cats would come in with a dead bird. She was trying to help me a little bit because she was explaining to me, we had to do the prize money breakdown, we didn't have any rule books, we were trying to write some rule books. That was my first day on the job is watching a bunch of dead birds come in (laughter).

Q. (No microphone.)
ANDRE AGASSI: Oh, yes. I could sit here all day and talk about my memories, especially there. It was a breakthrough time in my life, going there in 1986, where I qualified, ended up beating Tim Mayotte, who was ranked 12 in the world, in the quarterfinals. I played McEnroe, still I believe No. 1 in the world.
They had issues on the stadium court because matches were getting delayed. They moved our match out to a side court. We started our match on the side court. When the match finished on stadium court, 10,000 people waiting and waiting for us to come on, then a different match came on. They stampeded out of the stadium down this grassy knoll where the court was, started grabbing the fence and shaking it, chanting, Move the match, move the match. They wouldn't let us play on the side court. They actually got us to move.
Somewhere early in the first set, John and I are hiking through the crowd up the hill to the stadium court where the match proceeded to last about 22 more minutes.
I came back the next year and beat Pat Cash who just won Wimbledon. It was a horrible year between that year and the next one. My ranking had actually fallen. I had all these points coming off. I was pretty nervous about that. I didn't know what that meant. I looked at my draw. I had to play (indiscernible) first round, best junior in the world, first prospect, followed by Wimbledon champion Pat Cash. I didn't like my chances looking at it. I made it to the semifinals, beating Lendl who was No. 1 in the world. '88 I came back, upped the ante a little bit and won.
So a lot of memories. Then I cried when they moved it to New Haven. That's my memory.

Q. (No microphone.)
PEACHY KELLMEYER: I got more flowers in my room than ever in my life. But I've heard a lot from former players that I worked with. A lot of my friends are here. The WTA board of directors, many of them are here, friends. It's been very special. I've also heard from players that I'd forgotten about, to be quite honest.
To be sitting up here and to be here today about to be inducted into the Hall of Fame...
CHRISTOPHER CLOUSER: Peachy wanted the announcement to be made at the player event in Australia. Andre at his school. Unbelievable.
PEACHY KELLMEYER: I want you to know, it was the Friday after the holidays, during the Australian Open. To announce that I made it, Chris flew all the way down to Melbourne, made the announcement, then flew back the next day. So he'll be forever my Santa Claus.
ANDRE AGASSI: I think ultimately your peers mean the most to you because you're in the heat of battle. You see each other at your finest and darkest moments. It's kind of hard to hide who you are at those times.
If you want an example, just got a few more. Justin Gimelstob: Andre, congrats and good luck tomorrow. I'll be thinking of you. You enhanced your sport so much. A true Hall of Famer. Thank you for everything you've done and been for me over the years.
Some pretty cool stuff.

Q. (No microphone.)
ANDRE AGASSI: I would like to make sure it's there, the passion they're pursuing, not someone else's. Far too often, sports, tennis, little league, parents who have dreams for their kids that are prioritized ahead of the child themselves.
I suppose I'd like to see it start at home. I think those environments are great environments to get the most out of yourself. I think there are a lot of children who have that focus and commitment, passion to push themselves, those limits.
My experience growing up at Nick's academy is an entirely different experience than Courier being there. He had his own level of discipline and purpose in his life.
I don't know if those places need to change as much as we need it.

Q. (No microphone.)
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. I think it's probably one of the reasons why I skipped the first couple Olympics. I could live without the pressure, the additional pressure of doing something my father wanted to do. My father boxed, too. Didn't have the fortune of medaling. He wanted me to do it.
I put off going to Seoul, Korea in '88, ranked 3, qualified. There were a few, Brad Gilbert, Tim Mayotte, that wouldn't have the opportunity of going four years later, and I thought I would. I passed on it. '92 I couldn't bear the thought of going to Barcelona playing on the red dirt playing against all the dirt reds at that stage of my career and failing at the one thing I put a lot of pressure on myself to try to achieve.
'96 I came to Atlanta, and that's when I won it. It wasn't a great time in my life. I was slowly becoming disconnected with not just tennis but myself. But it was the one thing that stood out to me as a priority.
I'll never forget, I was standing on the podium, looking for my father in the stand, was a memory I'll never forget. Not seeing him, knowing that he was shedding some tears. A lot of memories.

Q. (No microphone.)
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I struggled for a healthy part of my life with that connection for the sport. Anytime I had an opportunity to be connected to something that was larger than me, it actually helped me get out of my own way, which explains why I always, no matter where I always found myself with tennis and my game, seemed to raise my level for Davis Cup, and certainly for the Olympics.
There was reason. We all need our inspirations in life. But I think I'm capable of doing a lot more harm not having inspiration in my life. So having that inspiration inside the lines at that particular stage of my development I highly embrace.

Q. (No microphone.)
ANDRE AGASSI: No, I don't. I found out two years ago she has a couple gold medals, plus a silver, plus a bronze. So I am out-classed in my own home.

Q. (No microphone.)
ANDRE AGASSI: Oh, sure there was. It was B, it was to please him. It was a choice that I never really had. I'm grateful in hindsight for many things. But I played for a lot of reasons other than myself until I turned 27. I felt that year is when I gave myself permission to quit. I thought, What if now at 141 in the world, with no real reason to have to do this anymore, but actually chose it.
I looked out a window and I saw a lot of cars in Germany. The coach wouldn't let me leave the hotel room until we decided to quit or start over. I saw a lot of people heading places. I didn't know where they were going. I assumed a lot of them didn't want to go where they were going, whether it was to work. Yet they find reason.
I gave myself permission to quit that day. Seconds later, typical of myself, I said, Well, now I'm going to choose it. It led to my school, it led to my team, reasons to be out there. Once I started to find my reasons, I started to appreciate the game in a way I never had before, which ultimately made me more successful after than before.
I'm grateful that my trainer and life protector Gil kept me healthy long enough to spend a few years loving it. A lot of people talk about my hate for tennis, because I wrote about it. But it was my disconnect and misguided use of tennis, my lack of awareness or knowledge of myself.
I grew up out there in front of everybody. But at 27 I started doing it for me. I got nine years. I love it. I got a wife from it, two beautiful kids. I enjoy watching it now more than ever. Don't have to (indiscernible) for it anymore.

Q. (No microphone.)
CHRISTOPHER CLOUSER: We yield on that one.
ANDRE AGASSI: Are you serious (laughter)? Ask me later.

Q. (No microphone.)
ANDRE AGASSI: Sure it was a little different. Might appear certain similarities. My dad was from the old country. My dad was very intense. My dad was very demanding, had high expectations. Had no choice. Held down two jobs, raised four kids. Was a fighter his whole life.
Steff's dad had subtleties, too, had ways to motivate. She wanted to be out there as a young girl, it was her place to get away, certain things.
She grew up differently than me in that respect. And I think it helps, too, when you win every match in 42 minutes. You kind of avoid some of the dramas, you know. For me it was different.

Q. (No microphone.)
ANDRE AGASSI: You know, I don't know. I'd be scared to have a slogan because it would haunt me all the way through the Hall of Fame moment. You know, I don't know if I could sum up what slogan I would want for myself.

Q. (No microphone.)
ANDRE AGASSI: It's my life's work, and for a long time now. That works for me at the moment.

Q. (No microphone.)
PEACHY KELLMEYER: I grew up in Charleston, West Virginia. I had a father and a brother that played all sports. I was considered back then a tomboy. Every day of my life after school I would follow along after my older brother to the tennis courts or whatever sports season it was at that time.
So my passion very early on was with tennis.

Q. (No microphone.)
PEACHY KELLMEYER: I think it's wonderful what's happened for women, the opportunities for scholarships, the opportunity to play whatever sport they might so choose.

Q. (No microphone.)
PEACHY KELLMEYER: I think it's good. I don't think there's anything wrong. I think it's accepted now that women are athletes, and it's looked upon very positively. I don't know if you're referring to women starting possibly too young. But I think it's a wonderful outlet for kids - boys and girls - sports.

Q. (No microphone.)
PEACHY KELLMEYER: I think it's our job to make it more attractive to them. I think all youngsters like to play sports with their peers. Tennis is a very tough sport. You go out on that court and you're going to come off either a winner or a loser, and it's all you. So it's a difficult sport.
I think it is the most difficult sport. It's another thing to go out with a team and have a bad day and get substituted. In tennis, you have to stay out there, 2-Love, 3-Love, suck it up, then get ready and go play the next match.
CHRISTOPHER CLOUSER: Presenting Peachy this afternoon is Stacey Allaster, who is the chairman, president, CEO of the Women's Tennis Association. There you are.
CHRISTOPHER CLOUSER: She was giving me that look.

Q. (No microphone.)
PEACHY KELLMEYER: Let's see. I was a tennis coach at Marymount College and had started to recruit and give very small scholarship to women players, Peaches Barkowitz, probably the greatest junior to ever play in the United States came to college there. My second year there, they told us I could give scholarships, but any match we played would have to be forfeited. It was not just tennis, it was any sport. I at the time was still playing.
A lawyer friend of mine, one night we were having beers. I said, If I ever had any money, I would sue. He took the case up, and the following Valentine's Day won. That's the thing I'm most proud of in my life because to me it was so unfair and so wrong for women.

Q. (No microphone.)
ANDRE AGASSI: No, I really don't. I can only say that everyone I've spoken to has always been surprised by the level of emotion they feel, even those that tried to resist. I can't imagine. Those rare times in my life where I'm just going to allow it to be what it is. I've spent so much time trying to anticipate or have an expectation for it.

Q. (No microphone.)
PEACHY KELLMEYER: Well, I feel pretty good about that. I go back to Charleston once a year and I always ride by the tennis club, make sure they haven't taken my name down (laughter).
I don't have many things named after me.

Q. (No microphone.)
PEACHY KELLMEYER: The WTA board of directors and Stacey, I've been able to start alumni reunions all around the world. That's what Chris was referring to down in Melbourne, Australia. We've had them in New York, in Paris, in London, in Indian Wells. Next year we plan two more of them.
So to me that's what the Hall of Fame is all about: history is our future, and the Hall of Fame is the guardian in my mind of the sport's history. They're there really to protect it for future generations.
So I cannot begin to tell you the camaraderie we see when our players come back to together. You got to remember that in women's tennis we started out very small and we were a family. We honestly felt that we built the sport.
They continually remind Stacey that women's tennis has to stay as the No. 1 professional sport for women in the world. We get that message all the time. So that's something that I want to do, hopefully continue to do, the next couple years.
I very much still enjoy working with Stacey and with my colleagues in the St. Petersburg office. I'm very lucky I'm a consultant now. I don't have to go 9 to 5. I like that. But I just like to be involved so very much because it's my passion.

Q. (No microphone.)
ANDRE AGASSI: I'd probably have to put that on five and name the first time she got over the finish lines on the slams. Certainly the one that was most memorable and powerful in my life was winning in Paris in '99 after falling to the rock bottom, coming back on a surface that was the hardest surface for me at a time in my life when I was emotionally not at the strongest. I was about 40 days removed off the (indiscernible). I should have probably lost two or three times in that tournament, down two sets to love in the finals, the last of the Grand Slams for me to win, the fact that I was favored in those finals 10 years earlier.
It was a fairytale to sort of come back and win there. The reason why it hits me the most is because at that moment I figured that I would never have a regret, a true regret, on choices I made along the way.
As an athlete, you play these tournaments. As Peachy says, you win or you lose. You can't get over the line if you feel that void. I always felt it in Paris. To kind of secure that last one for myself is probably my strongest tennis accomplishment, separate from the journey back. That's one of the greatest memories.
As we said, there's nothing louder than 23,000 violent New Yorkers. I can honestly say that what's louder than that is 23,000 cheering, clapping, pleasantly clapping New Yorkers for seven minutes. It was emotional. The connection I had with so many over the years manifested itself in that one moment. So that's a moment I'll never forget.
CHRISTOPHER CLOUSER: I'd like to point out that we are here in Newport, Rhode Island. For the past 30 years, there's been a wonderful person covering sports here, about to retire, sports editor of the Newport Daily News, Rick McGowan. I'd like to thank you for all the support.
Last night we opened a wonderful exhibit, a tribute to Arthur Ashe. 20 years ago he was inducted with the highest honor in the game of tennis, induction into the Tennis Hall of Fame. I urge you to see that exhibit. It's a wonderful thing.
Finally, this afternoon, also in the ceremony, four-time Grammy award winner Keb' Mo' will be singing America the Beautiful, an honor to Andre and Peachy. Throughout the past year, Peachy and Andre have made it special not only for them but for all the people that will be there today. It's a huge organizational thing. We've asked them to do all sort of things, including interviewers with you all.
We have time for one or two more questions and they need to go get inducted.

Q. (No microphone.)
PEACHY KELLMEYER: Are you talking to me or Andre (laughter)?
ANDRE AGASSI: We have seen it before. If I'm not mistaken, Billie Jean helped Tim Mayotte towards the end of his career. It has happened.
I think probably the biggest difference in that would be when I watch the game now, they play with so much spin, so much physicality, that they actually physically change the dimensions of the sport. They play it differently. I don't know the game like I used to know the game, against the people I used to play against.
So much of the coaching has to do with the experience of knowing that relationship on the court with that player, with that level of game, whether it's the speed of the ball or whether it's the spin of a ball.
So the sport is different in that respect, understanding something you haven't experienced. Not until recently, it keeps getting better and better, we start seeing these kick serves come into the women's game, which is a beauty to watch. It's starting to elevate itself in athleticism. You just sit back and marvel at it. I do.
But I think understanding each one is important. I'd be hard-pressed to see why a man would coach a woman as well. There's lives to live out there and relationships. But it has been done and can be. Just slightly more challenging on both sides.
CHRISTOPHER CLOUSER: I want to thank you all for being here today. I want to thank Peachy and Andre. See you at the induction.

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