Sunday, January 3, 2010

"Open", Andre Agassi

I really can't explain why I'm such a fan of tennis. I've never played a complete match, just a few games with a childhood friend. I've never owned a racquet - I've had to borrow one from others when I played. I can't remember the last time I was actually on a tennis court, other than to watch someone else play. I remember well that last match I attended. My wife and I obtained tickets for a night at the RCA Tournament in Indianapolis in 2003, to see Andy Roddick in his quest for that title. He won it, of course, and two months later he went on to win the U.S. Open.

But Andy wasn't my favorite player. Andre Agassi was. He had such style and flair, and an incredibly formidable return of serve. Pete Sampras may have been the better player, but he was boring compared to Agassi. I watched his career - and his personal life - go up and down. His joy at finally winning at Roland Garros. His marriage - and subsequent divorce - to the actress Brooke Shields. His relationship to one of tennis' brightest stars, Steffi Graf.

And now, he has written his life story for all to read. Open is truly one of the best autobiographies I've ever read. Agassi writes extremely well, and with refreshing candor. It seems that in many memoirs, people wish to gloss over or diminish the uglier parts of their personal history. Agassi refused to do that. He writes about his frustrating relationship with his father, who pushed him into the sport at a very young age. About his dalliance with crystal meth, and how it almost cost him his career. His doomed relationship with Shields. His hair loss. His disappointing losses. The fleeting and surreal characteristics of fame. Everything stays in the line, nothing is out of bounds.

Agassi states numerous times throughout the book that he hates tennis. He tells this to other people in conversation, but none of them really believe him. Not even fellow tennis player Brad Gilbert, who coached him for several years. "You don't really hate it, do you?" is the reply he often gets when he's willing to admit the truth to them. Only his wife Steffi understands this.

Open is an compelling look inside the world of one of sports' most beloved and charismatic figures.

1 comment:

  1. I had a major crush on him, which is probably no surprise. I had this amazing Nike poster with him on my wall for years!