He has been retired for about six years, but Andre Agassi still has a competitive itch that sometimes needs scratching.
To that end, the 42-year-old Las Vegas tennis legend and Hall of Famer finds ways to remain involved in the sport through charity events and by participating in the 30-and-over PowerShares Series, which stops at Mandalay Bay tonight with the Cancer Treatment Centers of America Championships. Agassi, Michael Chang, John McEnroe and Jim Courier will meet at 7:30 p.m., and Agassi is looking forward to entertaining the local tennis community.
"This year feels better than last year," Agassi said. "Last year, it led to my (right) hip surgery, and now I'm pain free. I feel great. I'm bending down on every shot."
Last year at the Thomas & Mack Center, Agassi beat Courier and Pete Sampras to win what then was called the Champions Series. Tonight, he'll meet the 53-year-old McEnroe, who has made the final in seven of the first eight matches on the 12-stop tour, winning in Chicago last month.
If Agassi wins the one-set match, he'll face the Chang-Courier winner in a one-set match.
Points are awarded for performance, and the player who accumulates the most points at the end of the tour wins $500,000. Second place is worth $350,000 and third $150,000. Courier is the points leader with 1,400, followed by McEnroe with 1,200. Agassi, who played Friday in San Jose, Calif., will be playing in his third event tonight. He is last with 100 points.
"I've got some catching up to do," said Agassi, who finished third last year behind Sampras and Courier. "Obviously, I want to play well in my hometown. I've been working out and getting ready. I've put on some strength, and the hip feels great. It's all coming together."
The Association of Tennis Professionals no longer stops in Las Vegas, so the PowerShares Series is the only chance to catch competitive tennis. Agassi said he thought the Tennis Channel Open, played at Darling Tennis Center from 2006 to 2008, might have had a better chance of succeeding had the dates been better than late February and early March, when the wind was whipping and the temperatures at night were in the upper 30s.
"It would be wonderful if we can grow the game in Las Vegas," he said. "But there are some factors, mainly the calendar, which work against us. There's only a few windows to be able to play outdoors."
Agassi said tennis has a better chance of drawing crowds to Las Vegas if it focuses on major events such as the Davis Cup. The 1995 Davis Cup was played at Caesars Palace and well received. Agassi and Sampras were on the team that defeated Sweden.
"You need to get the right matchup," said Agassi, hinting that a U.S.-Spain or a U.S.-Switzerland Davis Cup round would draw from the star power provided by Spain's Rafael Nadal and Switzerland's Roger Federer. "But getting the big event is the right idea."
In September, the United States Tennis Association honored Agassi with induction into its Court of Champions at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. Steffi Graf, his wife and fellow tennis Hall of Famer, was inducted into the Court of Champions in 2004.
"New York was a place where I grew as a tennis player and a person, and my relationship with the New York fans was so special," Agassi said. "Being able to say goodbye (in 2006) and then to come back and watch it come full circle, it was a magical moment."
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.