ALL PHOTOS BY FRANK SUN.
Perhaps one of the first flash mobs ever recorded was in 1995 when two of the greatest tennis players, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, jumped out of a yellow cab into the middle of a busy Manhattan intersection. A small crew showed up, and almost immediately an impromptu tennis court appeared for what soon became a pop-up, yet heated match. Agassi and Sampras played against each other, disrupting traffic and drawing quite the crowd, until a bus tore right through the net. The event was planned and filmed for what became nothing short of a viral Nike commercial.
This past Monday, Nike aimed to re-stage the iconic event 20 years later, bringing Agassi and Sampras back together for another pop-up court, this time in Manhattan’s Meatpacking district. In addition to the court, a street tennis exhibition drew participation from Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, John McEnroe, and Rafael (“Rafa”) Nadal, among many other up-and-comers.
Before the matches began, we sat down with Agassi, who is now 45 and has since retired, to talk about the reunion.
FRANK SUN: Are you excited about this reunion with Nike?
ANDRE AGASSI: There are so many things we’re getting today, obviously the celebration of 20 years of the street tennis commercial I did with Pete—we certainly had a lot of memories together on the court as well as off the court—combined with being here on behalf of Nike and with the generations that are going to be out here. Nadal, Sharapova, Serena, Dimitrov, and being back in New York in August brings back a lot of great memories.
SUN: What demographic do you think will come out to support?
AGASSI: I expect to see New Yorkers and anyone who [wants] to see what’s going on. It’s always been eclectic; you never know what you’re going to get.
SUN: Are you and Pete still competitive?
AGASSI: I think the edge has come off considerably over the years. When you deal with somebody in the heat of battle, you see the best or the worst of them. So when you get through all that there is a great deal of respect. That’s saying a lot for us to even have that respect now, as many times as we’ve tried to take each other’s livelihood away. It’s a statement of who we are individually and how we see each other.
SUN: Who do you think is going to win today?
AGASSI: [laughs] The best predictor of future events is probably past events. So I’m going to say being in New York and the fact that I’ve never beaten Pete in New York, I would put the money on him.
SUN: You have your family and your foundation. Do you get to participate in tennis much anymore?
AGASSI: Every now and then I will play; I try to focus on charitable work. I might do it because it’s an offer I can’t refuse, so I rally and try to stay in shape and keep myself active. I try to help younger players come through—I get a lot of phone calls from up and comers. The truth is, I’m always up for talking about the game and helping the next generation. I’m still very available.
SUN: How well are you connected with the younger generation?
AGASSI: People who are interested with me have for sure gotten older over the years, for example, grandparents are coming up to me telling me they grew up watching me. I’ve been surprised sometimes too. With the releases of my shoes, I get the young ones coming up to me telling me how much they love my shoes. Certainly standing the test of time.
SUN: Do you have a favorite tennis movie?
AGASSI: I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a tennis movie…
SUN: There is Wimbledon… Match Point, sort of…
AGASSI: That would just be torture. It probably would be like a champion boxer watching a boxing movie. Tennis would be tougher to recreate a realistic film, it would take me out of the moment, watching someone pretend to play.
CLICK THROUGH THE SLIDESHOW ABOVE TO SEE IMAGES FROM THE EVENT.