Open by Andre Agassi

open

I have had Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi recommended several times by people I respect. I am not a fan of tennis but I decided to give this book a try. Well, the book did not disappoint.

Agassi seemed very genuine in telling his stories. He was not afraid to praise and criticize people in his life. Reading the book felt very raw. It also touched on so many life lessons from the struggles of growing up with a strict father to the struggles of self-exploration. Agassi’s poetic writing style also made this book a masterpiece. I highly recommend it.

Notes:

Early in the book, Agassi was not coy in stating that he hates tennis. He described his father as a dictator who pushed tennis unto him and his siblings. Andre Agassi has three other siblings, but it was only him who became successful in tennis. Agassi drank, ate, and slept tennis throughout his childhood. He mentions The Dragon as one of his childhood nightmares. The Dragon, a machine made by Agassi’s father, continually whips out tennis balls at very high speeds. Agassi had to return these fireballs by The Dragon (perhaps a reason why Agassi is arguably considered the greatest returner of all-time). His childhood was basically a tennis prison with his father as the jail warden. He became a tennis wonder kid even though he repeatedly says he hates the game. Agassi later explains that although he hates tennis, he has no choice but to continue the game because of his limited career options. Agassi dropped out of school at age 14 with only a ninth grade education. Agassi also revealed that he hated school, except writing. This is ironic because Agassi has built the Andre Agassi Preparatory Academy, which aims to educate less privileged children.

Agassi became a tennis wonder kid even though he repeatedly says he hates the game. Agassi later explains that although he hates tennis, he has no choice but to continue the game because of his limited career options. Agassi dropped out of school at age 14 with only a ninth grade education. Agassi also revealed that he hated school, except writing. This is ironic because Agassi has built the Andre Agassi Preparatory Academy, which aims to educate less privileged children.

Agassi also mentions his struggles with his psyche. He does not deal with losses very well and somehow was weak in dealing with his emotions. His weak sense of self and his desire for perfection in the tennis court has led to his up-and-down journey in tennis. Agassi is considered to be the guy who made tennis famous. Perhaps it is his vulnerability as a person made him famous. People could relate to his struggles. One of Agassi’s greatest struggle is losing to Pete Sampras. Sampras and Agassi were the top two players of their generation, and Agassi did not like the fact that he was number 2. Another struggle of Agassi is concentration. Whenever he has personal problems or troubles with his family and close friends, Agassi seem to carry these problems to the tennis court. The distractions and loss of concentration are his Achilles Heel in the court.

When Agassi hit rock-bottom in his career, which included the use of crystal meth, eventually discovered by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), he decided to start over. He started from ground zero and worked his way up. This meant that he had to play for small-time tennis leagues with way less money and spectators. It was obviously a difficult adjustment for Agassi who was at the pinnacle of tennis royalty. He described how he played in a match in a public park where there were multiple tennis games going on at the same time. Tennis balls would roll over to his side of the court, which meant that he had to pick it up and throw it back. Agassi described it as a humbling experience but one that is necessary in order to grow as a person. This total reset worked as he was on his way to playing high-level tennis again. He won more slams after the do-over.

MY TAKEAWAY

  • Agassi spent his whole life playing tennis and it made him very successful. Yes, he hates tennis but it just goes to show that if you put in the hours in something, you will become good at it.

If I’ve learned nothing else, it’s that time and practice equal achievement. – Andre Agassi

  • Success is a dog fight. Failure will happen and one needs to embrace failure. When Agassi hit rock bottom, he had to play in small-time leagues, which propelled him to even greater success.
  • Finding ourselves takes time. The book shows how Agassi turned from a confused child to a grown man.
  • We need the right people to help us succeed. Agassi had a core group of people who were with him through thick and thin. Gil, for instance, is Agassi’s personal trainer and second father. Gil not only helped Agassi get in shape but he also provided guidance throughout Agassi’s career.
  • Two books that helped Agassi in his life: