It doesn't bother Steffi Graf that she is the most overqualified fan in professional tennis or that after winning 22 Grand Slam titles she now sits in the stands. It doesn't bother her to spend so many hours following boyfriend Andre Agassi from tournament to tournament, even though when she suddenly retired midway through last year, she said she was sick of airplanes.
Despite the apparent contradictions in her life, Steffi Graf is happy. And after 17 years of stress, pressure and playing an ultracompetitive sport, that is enough.
"She's enjoying herself right now, living multiple lives," said Octagon's Phil de Picciotto, Graf's longtime agent.
"She's continuing to play tennis on her [exhibition] tour and then also accompanying Andre to his tournaments.
"She's been on more airplanes than she ever was when she was playing tennis, but I don't know, she doesn't seem to mind.
"I think in one way, Steffi has always enjoyed the life of the tennis circuit, and it's where she has spent most of her life.
"Most athletes find it very hard to walk away completely from that kind of lifestyle, and in a way, this is allowing Steffi to continue doing some of the things she is used to doing."
Graf has declined interview requests at the Australian Open, preferring to let Agassi be the public voice of a relationship that is still in its early stages.
She and Agassi began dating about four or five months ago, after his divorce from actress Brooke Shields and after she ended her seven-year relationship with German race car driver Michael Bartels. They have been nearly inseparable ever since.
Several players still on tour have been surprised to see Graf traveling so extensively with Agassi--"she would be the one who I would have thought would never have come back to a tournament," Lindsay Davenport said--but Graf has been in the stands for every match Agassi has played here, with security guards monitoring her every move and shooing away autograph seekers.
Still extremely fit at 30 years old, she spends part of each day practicing and exercising, trying to keep sharp for the exhibition tour that will take her to New Zealand after this tournament is over.
She also hits with Agassi from time to time, offering advice when asked. So far, Agassi hasn't used the trademark Graf backhand slice in his matches, although he said he has picked up a thing or two, especially from the way Graf has handled her sudden retirement.
"There's a lot you can learn from a champion, and she's a champion and I definitely do my best to learn from her," Agassi, 29, said. "She went through many intense situations through her career and she shined through them all, and now she's taken that step into the retirement abyss that tends to scare most athletes.
"Seeing her go through it is certainly something I can learn--it's not quite as scary when you see it firsthand."
Agassi's coach, Brad Gilbert, said that Graf has had an extremely positive impact on Agassi's tennis, which was lackluster during much of his marriage to Shields.
Gilbert said he is "not the kind of coach who says, 'This girl isn't good for you, this one is good for you,' " but that "everybody battles in life, and obviously he's a happier person now."
"Steffi's been great for him," Gilbert said. "I think she's the finest woman athlete of the 20th century.
"She has 22 Grand Slams by her name, so she knows what is going on."
Agassi has also been great for Graf, according to comments Graf made in a German newspaper this month. She told the Hamburg-based Welt am Sonntag that "practice with my boyfriend gives me a lot of fun. I don't have to compete against the top players anymore, and all the tension I had over the years is gone."
She also said that "I like to watch Andre, I like to support him and it's a way I keep in contact with all the tennis people. . . . We understand each other very well, not only because we are good tennis players.
"We have a special relationship."
One thing Graf doesn't like, though, is some of the tabloid-type attention her relationship with Agassi has garnered.
Graf told Welt am Sonntag that she doesn't mind being photographed in restaurants or on the streets of cities where Agassi is playing tournaments, but she was angry about a recent spate of photographs that captured the couple frolicking on a private beach.
Agassi was also livid about reports that he and Graf had gotten married, and while he has answered some questions here about Graf cheerfully, he has greeted others with a mixture of sharp retorts and stony silence.
Still, both feel that any outside prying is a cost worth bearing to be together, and Graf seems happier with her new life than most of those around her expected.
"When Steffi stopped playing tennis, she didn't have a plan--she just wanted to see where life led," de Picciotto said.
"I don't think she could have ever predicted that life would have led to this, but she is enjoying it, and she will keep following whatever comes up as she goes along."