IRVINE — On the eve of the London Olympics, former world No. 1 tennis player Andre Agassi discussed Monday what it meant for him to win gold in 1996 in Atlanta.
Agassi, who played against the Breakers in 2009, has always been a big supporter of World Team Tennis. He wasn't playing Monday night, but he made a special appearance at UC Irvine's Bren Events Center for the Orange County Breakers' 24-17 home victory over the Springfield Lasers.
"Being a part of the greater athletic world, seeing all these athletes giving their whole life to this one moment, you felt like you were a part of something much larger," Agassi said of his Atlanta experience in a pre-match press conference. "During the experience, I started to actually believe that this is something I want for reasons that surpass tennis accomplishments.
"The Grand Slams are obviously the pillars of our sport. But to have a gold medal, I would put up a [heck] of an argument as to why that's the one you should pick [if you were to pick a most significant tournament win]. To win a gold medal at Wimbledon, which is what's going to happen this year, to me that only adds to the importance of it."
Agassi said he is headed to Milwaukee on Tuesday morning to open up a school for Lighthouse, which is one of the top charter school operators in the country. One place he said he doesn't plan to go is back to the Olympics this year. He talked about holding down the home front with his family, former women's tennis superstar Steffi Graf and their son, Jaden, and daughter, Jaz.
"I figure wherever millions of people congregate, I want to avoid," Agassi said.
The crowd cheered Agassi as he put on a serving exhibition before Monday's match, even after his first couple of serves went into the net. The crowd could cheer for the Breakers too, after they pulled out the important victory.
Orange County (4-6) moved into lone possession of second place in the Western Conference, ahead of Springfield and Kansas City (both 3-7). The top two teams in each conference advance to the playoffs.
The Breakers opened Monday's match with a 5-4 tiebreaker victory by J.P. Smith in men's singles, over Amir Weintraub. Jana Juricova then beat Springfield's Maria Sanchez, 5-3, in women's singles.
Juricova, the 2011 NCAA singles champion while at Cal, is playing at home for the Breakers this week. Anna-Lena Groenefeld will miss the rest of the season for Orange County because she is competing for Germany in the Olympic Games.
After Juricova's victory was halftime. A Wimbledon andU.S. Openpackage featuring Billie Jean King's personal seats was auctioned off for $19,000. King was on-court to help with the proceedings.
The Breakers' marquee player, Lindsay Davenport, and Travis Parrott fell to Sanchez and Devin Britton in a tiebreaker in mixed doubles after the break. But Davenport and Juricova came back for a 5-1 women's doubles victory over Sanchez and Liga Dekmeijere, giving Orange County a 19-13 advantage.
Smith and Parrott finished off the match with a 5-4 tiebreaker men's doubles win over Britton and Weintraub. Weintraub double-faulted at 4-4 in the tiebreaker to end the match.
The Breakers are at Sacramento on Tuesday and return home to play the Capitals on Wednesday, which is Billie Jean King Night. Sacramento leads the Western Conference with a 5-5 record.
"Now it's just about getting ready for Sacramento," Breakers Coach Trevor Kronemann said. "I think we're going to have to win one of those matches with Sacramento, at least, to make a push for the playoffs. If we can beat Sacramento up there, it would be nice, but it's a tall order … I still don't think we've had a night yet where we've played great though all five sets, so maybe that's going to happen [Tuesday] in Sacramento."
Sacramento has Newport Beach resident Coco Vandeweghe on its roster.