King talked Agassi back onto court

Posted: June 26, 2009

Billie Jean King's persuasive ways paid off during a trip earlier this year to Las Vegas. There, the longtime tennis promoter talked Andre Agassi into returning to the World Team Tennis ranks and join her Philadelphia Freedoms.

Agassi, who retired after the 2006 U.S. Open, agreed to play two matches this season for the Freedoms.

"I mean, how do you say no to Billie Jean?" Agassi said yesterday. "I mean, it's almost impossible. She's changed the face of sports. She's given anybody that has a daughter a chance at a life in sports."

The 39-year-old Agassi played in the WTT, for the Sacramento Capitals, from 2002 to 2004. For the Freedoms, he will headline a roster that includes two-time defending Wimbledon titlist Venus Williams and Wayne's Lisa Raymond.

The Freedoms will open their schedule Thursday at the Springfield Lasers. Their first home match is July 6 against Anna Kournikova and the St. Louis Aces. Tickets are $35 for adults, $15 for children. To order, go to www.comcasttix.com or call 1-800-298-4200.

"It's been a few years since I've been connected with the game in any direct kind of way, and that's been a little unsettling for me," Agassi, an eight-time Grand Slam singles champion, said. "So before I got too far away, I sort of wanted to re-engage in certain respects and show an appreciation for the life and the platform that tennis has given me.

"I love what Billie Jean and Ilana [Kloss, WTT CEO/commissioner] have built. Taking this sport to the people is a great feeling. The environment is unlike any other, and it's just a lot of fun."

Agassi is scheduled to make his lone home appearance, at the temporary stadium at the King of Prussia Mall parking lot, on July 10 against the Boston Lobsters. He will also play July 17 at the Newport Beach (Calif.) Breakers.

"I've been working out quite a bit, keeping myself together and active," he said. "Hitting the ball was always relatively comfortable for me, so I won't have a problem with my ball-striking. But I might have a problem getting to the ball in order to hit it. With that, we'll have to wait and see."

Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019

or robrien@phillynews.com.

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