I was reading this article in The Age a few days ago, which discusses the pros and cons of Victoria Azarenka’s controversial time outs in the Australia Open. It quoted Andre Agassi in it, and his words and approach have been resonating with me since.
With regards to the discussion about the time out, he has this to say:
”You’re asking me if the crowd should believe her or not. We’ve all seen our share of disappointments from people we believe or [don't] believe. I can’t judge somebody I don’t know,” he said.
”We’d only be speculating, and everyone has that right to speculate, but I can’t speak for sure. Take it for face value is how I would do it.”
I thought that was a fantastic comment. We all get so absorbed by the emotion of the event sometimes that we forget to step back and realise that we’re most often not in a position to really comment, or judge, the people involved. I thought it was an inspiring piece of ego-less commentary.
Then, Agassi followed on by sharing a story of how important it was that the timeout remain in the game of tennis, by retelling a time when his opponent could have died.
”I was playing David Prinosil here one time [in 2001] and he took a medical timeout on one of the hottest days that I’d played here at 7-6 after the first set,” he said. ”They [trainers] walked out on the court when it was 3-0 and they checked his heart rate and it was 180 beats a minute and he wasn’t even breathing that hard.
They took him into the locker room and stuck him on bags of ice and got an IV in him and quite possibly saved his life. I’m on the other side of the court, I wasn’t trying to kill him, but I’m thankful that somebody else was monitoring it. So medical timeouts are important.”
In about four paragraphs, and probably nothing more than five minutes worth of interview time, Agassi ceased the witch hunt against Azarenka and then followed up by providing guidance as to why the rule allowing time outs should remain, with a very visual and engaging story.
I thought this was a fantastic demonstration of leadership, without the bias of ego.