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“It’s no accident, I think, that tennis uses the language of life. Advantage, service, fault, break, love, the basic elements of tennis are those of everyday existence, because every match is a life in miniature.”
The first thing that strikes you about this book is the cover. It’s a plain and simple cover: just a close-up of Andre’s face. But the vulnerable and open (pun intended) expression on his face gets to you. It’s like he’s saying, come closer and I’ll tell you all my secrets. And that’s exactly what you find in ‘Open‘. This sports autobiography, full of metaphors and introspection, is way beyond just the superficial sports pop phenomenon named Andre Agassi.
The book starts on the premise that Andre hates Tennis. Sure, you think rolling your eyes. One of the greatest Tennis players of all times hates Tennis. What a joke. But in the course of the book, starting from his childhood coaching, where he was the only Agassi child who showed an aptitude to Tennis, to his final match, he gives us reasons why he hates the game.
And that just makes you love the game more.
“Big dreams, are so damn tiring.”
Andre begins his story at the start. He talks about how his father, Mike Agassi bullies him and prevents Andre from ever loving the sport. His favorite technique for that was the dragon, which forced Andre to hit a few 100 balls every day. Incidentally, it was this dragon that made Andre the best returner in his time. Then he slowly goes on to describe all the pains it takes to become a professional athlete: dropping out of school, leaving his best friend, not having a normal life.
He then goes on to talk about how he finds his family, his strength, his base. How he tries various combinations and finally succeeds in finding his support group. The hero of this group is definitely Gil, Agassi’s strength teacher. Gil acts as a proxy father to Andre while being his best friend. His relationships with various women are well-documented. One of the most striking parts of the book is Andre’s experimentation with his personality. He attempts to find himself, but the media calls it rebellion. But in their defense, ‘Hot Lava’ pants and a mullet on the Tennis court are much akin to rebellion.
The moments of clarity, the most enthralling moments of the book are the ones when Andre is describing a match. You see then, the precision and lucidity required to win. How a single moment, a single thought can make or break you. To gauge the opponent is one thing, but to be in a certain frame of mind is the most important. Andre never lingers or loiters and he keeps tinkering his winning formula. At these points, you feel as though you are a part of Andre’s thoughts.
“A win doesn’t feel as good as a loss feels bad, and the good feeling doesn’t last long as the bad. Not even close.”
From this, the much spoken about rivalry of Pete-Andre is most definitely touched upon. He talks about how losing to Pete is harder than losing to anyone else. Unlike Agassi, Sampras is content to be magnificent at tennis and totally uninterested in everything else. The perpetually tormented Agassi envies him his ‘dullness‘ and ‘spectacular lack of inspiration’.
And then here is Becker-Agassi rivalry, which is of a different level altogether. If Pete-Agassi can be called India-China, Becker-Agassi are USA-Muslim. At one point, Andre and Brad plot revenge on a ‘motherfucker’ who, in Gilbert’s view, ‘tries to come off as an intellectual, when he’s just an overgrown farmboy’. On a positive note, Andre manages to predict Federer and Nadal’s oncoming reign on the courts.
‘Open‘ isn’t just an autobiography – its Andre finding himself through the dark with tennis as his only light (though he may never admit it). In ‘ Open‘, Andre is unloading his consciousness and freeing his guilt by telling us, yes he did do Crystal Meth, yes, he did break down multiple, multiple times and yes, the game got to him. ‘Open‘ is not about a perfect or impeccable man, it is about a man who fails many times and yet stands back up. It’s a diary of his love-hate relationship with tennis, where he hates every minute of it but yet, can’t live with all his defeats. Ultimately, Andre does in this book what he does in life. Shocks every one. Of course, you have to accept that it is not actually written by Andre Agassi, but J. R Moehringer who converts their tapes into this book.
After reading this book, all you feel like saying is: ‘Game. Set. Match. Andre. Applause, please.‘
“Hate brings me to my knees, love brings me to my feet.”
Overall Rating: 9/10
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