Agassi’s memoir, Open, was released November 2009. At first, I resisted it. I’m a tennis player, you see, and I’ve always been a fan of Agassi from the very beginning of his career. I always preferred Agassi’s outgoing personality, to Sampras’s stoic, albeit brilliant technique. I felt certain Agassi would break through and become the grand slam winner he was meant to be. I was right, of course. He did. When I watched him play his last US Open, I can remember hearing about the cortizone shots he needed in order to play and I thought, “Sheesh, this Guy really does not want to disappoint his fans for him to endure all that pain to play for us one last time. He’s a true fan of the game.”
When I started to hear the reviews for his new book, “Open“, however, I got a bit nervous. “Agassi disses tennis,” the reviewers said, “how dare he say he “hates” a sport that has given him so much?” I have to admit, the news accounts turned me off the book. I didn’t want my idol ruined. I wanted to keep the “Agassi” I knew tucked neatly in my pocket and forget about it.
A few days ago, my friend, also a tennis player, told me she had just finished the book and that I simply had to read it. Since I take this friend’s book suggestions VERY seriously, I decided to dive in. Open is quite simply – riveting! I don’t even know the guy (obviously) but I’m so proud of him. Agassi has created a masterpiece that is well-written and exudes heart, humor, poignancy, and most of all hope. I simply could not put the thing down.
Yes, Agassi grew up in my generation. Yes, he refers to common things from my generation. Yes I’m a tennis player. But I have to tell you, even if I were none of these things, I would still love this book because Agassi’s message is universal. Agassi shares his crazy, tennis pro life and how he managed to reach out to forces and people in his life who help him develop into a whole person – a person who knows himself, what he wants, how to love, and how to find happiness. For Agassi, happiness is giving back – to his family, his friends, and his organizations. For gosh-darn sake, aren’t we all looking for personal happiness and struggle to pinpoint it?
What is more, the book is super interesting and, I suspect (because really, how would we ever really know?), honest. The background stories are all there, too – Streisand, Brooke Shields, Sampras, Conners, McEnroe, Steffi Graff – but here’s the amazing thing, other than a few juicy tidbits, Agassi is the consummate gentleman – there is no kiss and tell. There are clearly things about some of the folks he mentions that the reader can construe and I’d be happy to get in an email conversation about anyone who would care to discuss them, but I dare not mention them here as the Agassi book deserves to be read cover to cover. One question for Agassi – Sir, you did not mention Perry in your acknowledgments, was it an oversight? (I think I may have found the reason for Agassi’s omission here – too bad)
In the end, Agassi explains, through his tome, the truth behind his “hate tennis” comments. Does he really hate tennis? Maybe. Has he come to terms what tennis has done for his life mission, I think so. And what the heck is wrong with that? Nothing, if you ask me. All of all lives are filled with the good and bad things that happen to us. To mention an old cliche, each one of us is the sum of our experiences. Why would a tennis player be any different? For Agassi, though, he overcomes and he reaches his potential. Tennis champion may be the least of his potential as a man.