Open: An Autobiography
A guest on my B-Time Podcast (Naveen Kathuria Episode 52) recommended the book Open, An Autobiography by Andre Agassi as a book that inspired him. While I enjoy watching tennis on occasion, I recalled that Agassi was known to be a rebel of sorts in his day so the book piqued my interest. The book takes us from Agassi’s childhood through his last year of play in detail.
Agassi was pushed into tennis along with his older brother and sister. Andre tells of his father’s obsession with tennis. He built a serving machine that Andre referred to as “The Dragon” and forced Andre to hit 2500 balls a day saying that the repetition would pay off and it surely did.
In his teens, Agassi was shipped to a tennis academy in Florida for a three month stay to improve his game. Upon seeing how good Agassi was, the academy owner waived the tuition fee. Agassi was now in the position of playing with much better talent than could be found on the Nevada circuit but he felt betrayed by his father and began acting out in the way only a teenager can. His long hair, pierced ear and often colorful choices in tennis apparel were considered rebellious in the day.
The book describes in detail Andre’s thoughts including that he hated – really hated tennis. He played first because his father forced him and then continued to play because as a 9th grade school drop-out, what else could he do? Agassi recounted how many times he couldn’t get the job done in a match and usually not because of his physical game. His head game was the primary obstacle. It wasn’t until Agassi found his purpose – to take care of others, that he began a comeback after falling to the lowest depths.
There were times when reading the book that I felt terribly sorry for Andre and other times when I just wanted to yell and tell him to suck it up and get the job done. But what I realized is that through most of his career, he was a child. A child that was forced into the sport by an intimidating and unempathetic father. A child who struggled in school and therefore did not get the benefit of an education past the ninth grade. A child who often had to figure out on his own how to get the right type of help to improve his game and guide him on major decisions.
While on the surface it seemed that Agassi had it all, his story reinforces that you can’t judge a book by its cover. You can only judge Agassi after hearing his side of the story.
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