Those who were fans of Andre Agassi in his early days will remember what a furor he caused on the tennis court. Tennis has always been the game of the genteel British upper class, and Agassi, who was from Las Vegas, didn't exactly fit in. From his long, shaggy hair and bandanna to his Lycra bicycle shorts worn under denim cutoffs, he was the picture of a rebel. He added to his appearance with his uncouth behavior, spitting on the court and calling the umpire names. And yet, there was something about him that made fans go crazy—a certain fury in his playing. Agassi hit the ball as though he hated it and wanted to punish it in some way. In Open: An Autobiography, we realize that he did.
Agassi really opens up in this autobiography, talking about his childhood and his earlier years in the game. He was the son of a retired Olympian boxer who was determined to produce a prodigy. Agassi's three older siblings failed the test; they just didn't have what it took to train in the grueling way their father demanded. However, Andre was naturally talented and able to withstand the numerous hours of training. As a result, he was trained at home first and later sent to the Florida tennis academy where he endured more of the same. The academy was a competitive environment where everyone was trying to make it as a professional tennis player. This was where Agassi's rebellion began, with the long hair and a two-inch-long pinky nail, and it continued even as he became a professional tennis player who was eventually ranked number one, although for a short time.
Agassi also tells us the story of his first marriage to Brooke Shields which he describes as a farce. Besides the fact that the two were groomed for success from an early age, they didn't have much in common, with Shields being a more intellectual kind of person who disliked tennis and Agassi being jealous and feeling a little left behind even though he was doing better in his career. Eventually, Agassi started dating Steffi Graf, who was the number one tennis player of her time, replacing Martina Navratilova with her fierce forehand. Graf and Agassi are now married and spend their time doing charity work for "at risk" children in Las Vegas.
For anyone who followed any part of Agassi's tempestuous career, this is a great book that really takes you into the mind of the tennis player who managed to win so many hearts despite the rage he displayed on the court. You get a look behind the scenes, and you come to know Agassi as a person. What you see is a kind and generous man who eventually came to terms with a career he didn't choose.
Andre Agassi is the son of Emmanuel "Mike" Agassi, an Olympian boxer and Elizabeth "Betty" Agassi; he is the youngest of four children. He attended Nick Bollettieri's tennis academy in Florida for free because Bollettieri claimed that Agassi had more natural talent than anyone else he'd known. He dropped out at 16 and started playing professionally. He is an eight-time Grand Slam champion and an Olympic gold medalist.
"A child prodigy, suffering his first loss, Andre realises "I've internalised my father - his impatience, his perfectionism, his rage...I no longer need my father to torture me...I can do it all by myself." He's troubled by contradictions - always the contradictions - "please let this be over; I'm not ready for it to be over". He hated tennis, but couldn't stop. He was desperate to escape the control of home, but got homesick when sent to the academy. As his mind and spirits darken, he discovers others are quick to judge who he is when he can't figure it out himself. He learns tennis is the loneliest sport in the world and that playing for a team is far more rewarding and motivating, not just the Davis Cup team, but his own team of trainer, coach, friends, family and later, his school. Still, the high after a win dissipates much faster than the low after a loss. His 'team' teach him to "control what you can control" and that he is the "Captain of his fate" (possibly another contradiction?) This is also a rags to riches story and to his credit, Andre gives plenty back to society. Despite his negativity, his achievements were huge, and for a high school drop out, he's a damned fine writer. I always wondered what was going on below the surface with this guy - now I know - plenty."
Felicity (5 out of 5 stars)