The Secret Trick Of Andre Agassi – How He Outsmarted His Biggest Rival

Andre Agassi is one of the greatest tennis legends of all time. The seven times grand slam winner who won Wimbledon 25 years ago became one of the most dominant players in the 1990s and early 2000s. Considered one the probably biggest worldwide star in this sport’s history at the time of his retirement, Andre Agassi originally had a losing streak against another tennis heavyweight Boris Becker and lost his first three matches against the German. Through persistence and determination watching Boris Becker play, in 1990 Agassi finally triumphed over Becker for the first time, going on to win 9 of their next 11 matches. In a recent interview, Agassi revealed how he finally broke Becker’s winning streak, and the story of how he did it provides some inspirational insight that all of us can use in the pursuit of our own personal goals, in life and business alike.


In Agassi’s view, the key to his success was the ability and empathy to perceive all that was around him in order to solve the problem he was facing: “The more you understand what the problem is through other people’s lens the more you can solve for people, in life and in business.” When it comes to dealing with obstacles in your working life, try looking at the problem from different angles, see it from others’ perspectives, be creative. If you can, get different views from fresh eyes; the solution maybe something you haven’t seen because you yourself are too far into the problem.

Andre Agassi himself applied this mantra to beating Boris Becker. Before playing Becker, Agassi watched tape after tape of Becker playing until he started to realise Becker had a particular tick with his tongue. “Just as he was about to toss the ball he would stick his tongue out and it would either be right in the middle of his lip or it would be to the left corner. So if […] he put the tongue in the middle of his lip, he was either serving up the middle or to the body. But if he put it to the side, he was going to serve out wide.”

Determination and persistence pays off

Agassi’s inspirational story shows that with determination and persistence tackling a problem with an entirely new approach can pay off. When you are facing a seemingly insurmountable obstacles, keep working away at a problem, at some point you will eventually make a breakthrough. With the knowledge of Becker’s tell, Agassi could read his serve in any tennis match the two played, and so know the way Becker’s serve was going even before he served.

Using new information to your best advantage

Sometimes it isn’t just enough to know how to solve a problem, it is using that information in the right moment to your advantage. “The hardest part wasn’t returning his serve, the hardest part was not letting him know that I knew this [Becker’s tell].” says Agassi. “[I had to] choose the moment when I was going to use that information on a given point to execute a shot that would that would allow me to break the match open.”

Not all of us have to play tactics in a professional tennis match, but many of us find ourselves in positions when we have to make strategic use of a specific piece of knowledge in one instance as opposed to another. For instance, if you are competing for a job, a project or contract, not revealing your understanding and accomplishments to the competition will make sure you stay ahead and only you can use your knowledge advantageously. Rather than just concealing information from time to time, knowing when to use your understanding to your strategical advantage is about carefully assessing the moment you want to use it to shine.

So, if you want to be just as successful as tennis giant Andre Agassi in whatever goals you have, remember to problem-solve by looking at the issue from different and innovative perspectives, be persistent and determined and use the information you are given to the best of your advantage. Andre Agassi, by the way only told Becker about his discovery long after both players had retired.

Want to learn more from tennis stars? Click here to learn from Tim Henman about the importance of perception and here to learn from John McEnroe about motivation.



Photo courtesy of Chris Eason
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