Open

So, okay. I have a lot of things to say about Andre Agassi’s memoir. It’s hard to even know where to begin with this thing.

Agassi is not a writer, nor did I expect him to be. His sentences were declarative, his descriptions were only occasionally funny or metaphorical, and his thoughts were sometimes vague and incomplete. He did, however, managed to convey several very complex emotions and thought processes, which I’d imagine would be difficult for an athlete to convey on paper. I don’t mean that in a condescending way; I’m just saying that not everyone’s meant to have a way with words, and that’s okay.

But it’s unfortunate that Agassi’s writing was so simple, because there was a lot going on in that man’s head throughout his tumultuous tennis career. He went through the whole 20 years hating the sport with a vengeance, hating his father, hating little things about his opponents, and hating the world for misinterpreting him as a person. That’s an awful burden to carry with you. At the start of the book, you feel sorry for him. You wish his father weren’t so overbearing, you wish little Andre had more confidence to stand up to this imposing figure, and you wish his mother weren’t a pushover. You root for him at Nick Bollitieri’s Tennis Academy in Florida, where he excels and rebels at the same time, you want him to feel comfortable where he is, and you want him to be happy.

But then, somewhere soon after the part where explains turning pro and creating that mullet image thing and dating Brooke Shields, you stop feeling sorry for him. That’s what happened to me, anyway. I kept reading these pages about maintaining such a staunch hatred for tennis and a bitter resentment of his father, and you see him transform from a meek, quiet kid into an arrogant, self-possessed Elite Athlete. Maybe his father had something to do with it, to be sure, but once a person turns into an adult, they can make their own choices. They can choose their career path and their education path and their everything path, yet Andre Agassi forced himself into years of torture for no real reason. It’s hard to sympathize with a guy who has free will and continues to choose the path that makes him unhappy.

Moreover, as many times as he mentioned that he hated tennis, he certainly loved rambling on about individual points and sets and training sessions. You can’t hate something that you enjoy talking about that much. Plus, his recounts of matches were exciting! Thrilling! Suspenseful! It was fun to read about the ups and downs of his mental game. You could almost picture yourself in the stadium, watching him and Sampras/Rafter/Becker/whoever hack it out.

I’ve always been a Sampras girl, myself, but I never hated Agassi. In fact, watching the two of them play is one of my generation’s greatest sports treasures, I think. I read this book open, that is, with an open mind. It was fun to hear about his romances with Brooke and Steffi Graf (who would prefer Stefanie, by the way, HELL YEAH) and his wonderful friends and trainers, like Gil and Philly and Brad. But I can’t shake the feeling that Agassi can’t ever shake the chip on his shoulder, that at the end of the day, he just feels sorry for himself. Even with such a fantastic life, I feel sorry for him, too.

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