November 22, 2012 by Ashwin
The first Tennis match I ever saw was Andre Agassi vs Pete Sampras in 1999. It was the Wimbledon final and Agassi lost it in grueling five setter. That day, I hated Sampras for an unknown reason probably the way he looked(looks of a mad man) but I felt for Agassi. The guy seemed very humble. Since that day I regularly started watching Agassi’s matches with my Dad who was a Agassi fan. For me Agassi has been my all time favorite.
Few days back I saw my brother reading Agassi’s autobiography, OPEN and I just snatched it out of his hands. I finally had my favourite Tennis payers autobiography in my hands and no more time was wasted.
The book starts with Agassi reeling in terrible pain and getting ready for his last tournament. It’s 2006 US Open, Agassi playing Marcos Baghdatis for a place in the third round and Agassi wins in a dramatic five setter but after the match both can barely stand.
“I play tennis for a living even though I hate tennis, hate it with a dark and secret passion and always have”
On the very first page of his book, he says he has always hated tennis, a shocking fact. He is playing the tournament(his last) despite all the physical agony with the cortisone injections. He leaves the hotel for the arena in pain and numerous thoughts in his mind and wishing it gets over soon.
Agassi then moves on to describe his father or rather a dictator, Emmanuel “Mike” Agassi, former Olympic level Iranian Boxer. He forces all his children to play Tennis. He builds a monster ball machine shooting balls at 110 MPH which is probably the reason for Agassi being the best service returner in the history of tennis, to the passage where he forces 9 year old Agassi to play a match for money with football legend Jim Brown betting 10 Grand. Though in the initial part he has been portrait as the villain but Agassi admits all the adulation he received was because of his father.
Agassi makes some brutal confessions about hating his father for making him to play Tennis. Agassi also goes into details about his affairs, his wife Stefi Graff and his relation with Hollywood actress Brooke Shields. But what Tennis lovers will like the most is his estranged relationship and rivalry with Pete Sampras and lovers he goes into detail about his encounters with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Pat Rafter, Goran Ivanesevic, Bjorg, Becker and McEnroe.
The best part of the book is Agassi/Steffi ‘s (or I should say Stefanie) love story urging you to turn pages as quick as possible. At one point of time , I got so engrossed in their story that I wished I was Vicki (a Robot) from Small Wonder who could read a whole book within few seconds, to get this over with.
For me the best part of book is the one, where Agassi and Steffi plays each other in a Vegas court, practicing for a charity match long after they retired. The way crowd built up to see them playing each other while it was raining, the kind of chemistry that author has built up in that scene is surreal.
It does get a bit repetitive at times with author describing experiences from all the important matches , which in Agassi case was too many considering 3 decade of illustrious career. Still its such an engaging story that I have literally carried this book to office till I finished it.
Even those not convinced that Andre Agassi was the best tennis player of his time will readily admit he outdid all others in attracting attention with his ways and fashion statements.
Most of us think that the life of a successful sport person is no less than a fairy tale. But OPEN shows that they do face brutal ups and downs like other people but I could never imagine the kind of physical pain,dedication, sacrifice, hard work and misery that they have to go through to be at that coveted place. It makes you believe that they are not so special just normal another human being who just worked very hard.
OPEN is must read autobiography not only for those who love Tennis but in general, it teaches you a lot and makes you introspect. The book will not disappoint you.