Watching the Australian Open this week makes me miss Andre Agassi. Not that there hasn’t been some great tennis – Roger Federer as elegant as ever, Andy Murray on a tear – but Agassi was always so fun to watch. Sure, there was the personal flamboyance, but also such skill, especially those amazing returns against 130 mph serves. His comeback to world No. 1 at age 33 was indeed a sight to behold. It’s even more spectacular if you read his take on it in Open: An Autobiography.
Before I picked up the book, I already had heard about the crystal meth, the mullet mane covering the premature baldness, the tidbits about Babs and Brooke – all the headline-making dishy bits. Figured I could wait and borrow it from my brother; my Mom was giving him a copy for Christmas. I knew because I ordered it for her. Then I opened Open before she wrapped it and started reading about Agassi hating tennis and why, and I just kept on turning pages all afternoon.
“Open’’ is the perfect title as Agassi lays it all out, good and bad, with remarkable candor and immediacy. The play-by-plays may appeal mostly to us diehard fans that remember those matches – the first thrilling win at Wimbledon, the back-and-forths with Sampras, eight Grand Slams in all. But his lost childhood as he was trained as a toddler by his driven father, the relationships with his brother, trainer, coach and other insiders, his persistent wooing of now-wife Steffi Graf – all this and more is served with insight and style. Agassi acknowledges his debt to his ghostwriter, who declined to be named, but it’s Agassi’s voice, matter-of-fact to occasionally eloquent, that propels the narrative.
This book has game. It also has heart.
(Open Book: I “borrowed” Open: An Autobiography (Knopf) from my brother.)