I don’t usually read books about famous sporting heroes but when Mr Meade passed on Andre Agassi’s autobiography Open I thought I would give it a go. I am pleased I did.
I knew a little about his life but I had no idea just how tough his early years were. Andre was born in Las Vegas to a single-minded and quite frankly cruel Iranian father who forced his four children to play tennis. Andre was made to hit balls on their backyard court for hours every day. His father dreamed of sporting glory and focussed his attention on Andre because he had the talent and instinct to get to the top.
As a young teen Andre was sent to Bollettieri Academy in Florida, where he faced constant drills and lectures. He describes it as a “glorified prison camp,” and believes that “the constant pressure, the cutthroat competition, the total lack of adult supervision — it slowly turns us into animals.” Andre rebelled in any way that he could – drinking, smoking marijuana, getting earrings and a mohawk but nothing was enough to get him out – he was too good at tennis. Andre describes the academy as “Lord of the Flies with forehands.”
This very candid memoir follows Andre throughout his professional career and all his ups and downs. He also tells us about his personal life and his marriages to actress Brooke Shields and Stefanie Graf. Essentially it has something for everyone. As a non-tennis fan I was fascinated to learn of the game’s unpleasant and at times sordid realities. It is not the game I thought it was! Tennis fans will love it for Andre’s recall of famous matches and his views on the superstars of the game.
It is a great holiday read.