Andre Agassi was one of the most popular and successful tennis players of recent times. He won 8 grand slam titles becoming one of a select few players to win at least one of each.
He was an interesting figure on and off the court and his autobiography is a reflection of this.
Open is a riveting read, which takes us from Agassi’s childhood and through the ups and downs of his career in professional tennis.
I like to read autobiographies of people I admire from time-to-time as you can learn just as much as you can from reading self-development books.
You get to see how these figures became successful, what drove them and what caused them hardship.
The best part is that by reading their autobiographies, the person becomes a lot more relatable and you get a better sense of the struggles and challenges they had to endure.
Agassi had an interesting life, to say the least. As great a tennis player as he was, he was not without his demons and he does not shy away from this in his autobiography.
It’s a riveting read and one you should check out even if you’re not a tennis fan!
Open Andre Agassi summary
Takeaway 1 – Agassi hated tennis
This may sound ridiculous considering that Agassi was a professional tennis player and one of the greatest of all time to boot, but he hated tennis.
When he was young his father forced him to play the game. When he was a baby he was holding a racket while he was in the crib.
It was not unusual for Agassi to hit hundreds of balls a day after primary school. The drills were enforced by his father, who was a violent man.
The irony is despite Agassi’s dislike of tennis, he still drove himself to be the best that he could be. In some ways, Agassi had more of a love-hate relationship with tennis.
On the one hand, he despised the drills, the constant pressure he was put under. Yet, he still pushed himself onwards and competed as hard as he could. It could be said that Agassi enjoyed the competition, but hated tennis itself.
If Agassi hated something that provided with success and riches, then we should consider our working lives too.
A lot of us hate jobs. I hated my previous job working in an office. I found it soul-destroying and mundane. However, I would never imagine a sportsperson would feel this way.
I would give my left arm to be a football player, play tennis or drive Formula 1 cars for a living. However, this is only looking at the good parts.
The life of a professional sports star is arduous and full of pressure, as Agassi alludes. You have the pressure you put on yourself and the pressure of expectation from others.
What Agassi’s revelations show is that we should be careful what we wish for and consider all aspects of something instead of just the parts that we like. Every job has its downsides, even playing tennis!
Takeaway 2 – The life of a sportsperson is tough
It’s often though that the life of a sportsperson is idyllic. Tennis players travel around the world almost constantly, playing tournaments in various pockets of the globe.
On the face of it, this seems like a fantastic existence. Not only do you get to see the world, but you’re getting paid good money to do so.
Of course, as with everything, things are not as clear as they seem.
While this is one of the perks of the job, it’s also one of the downsides. It’s a tough existence. You’re constantly on the move, you don’t spend too long in one place.
You have to play matches and train that wears you down physically and mentally. Then you have to do press conferences, interact with the public and if you’re a major star, perform in adverts and appear on TV.
It’s a life that is a lot tougher than we might think. A quick read of What Sport Tells Us About Life will confirm this!
Plus, it’s easier for someone at the top such as Agassi, but if you’re scraping away at the lower end of the scale, it’s all the more difficult.
Agassi mentions how his body deteriorates over time and he wants to pack everything in, yet he still wants to continue and compete.
This is the contradiction at the heart of the book. Agassi is tired of playing tennis, his body is screaming at him to stop, yet he cannot. The desire to compete and play is still there, despite all that has gone before.
We may deride sports stars for the money they earn and the lives they lead, but they are under pressure we cannot imagine.
They may be privileged and lucky to partake in their sports for a living, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It may look it from the outside, but it’s not the case.
Takeaway 3 – One moment nearly ended his career
Agassi was a larger than life figure when he was playing. He had a rebellious side to him, which made him all the more enjoyable to watch and added to his mystique.
However, this rebellious side almost cost him his career.
In the book, Agassi admits that he used Methamphetamine, also known as Crystal Meth, in 1997.
While this is a startling revelation for a professional athlete to make, what is even more startling is that Agassi failed a drugs test because of this.
The revelations do not end there. When Agassi explained the incident to the ATP, the governing body of Men’s tennis, he said that the drug had found its way into his system via the spiked drink of his assistant, Slim.
The ATP accepted this and did not act further on the positive test. Agassi admits in the book that the story he presented to the ATP was fabricated and that he had willingly taken the drug.
It should be noted that he was at a low ebb in his life and he took the drug almost in despair.
Regardless of whether think Agassi was right or wrong to take the drug, you have to matter his forthrightness regarding the matter and his honesty.
Yes, he lied to the governing body, but he didn’t need to come clean in his autobiography. He could have kept it under wraps, but he didn’t.
He admitted to the world that he had demons, that despite the success and the riches, he was still a fallible human like the rest of us.
This section is indicative of the autobiography as a whole and why it’s a riveting read. Agassi was so close to throwing away his career and in a way the drug may have steered back on the right path, as he realised what he stood to lose after taking it.
This summary of Andre Agassi’s autobiography has taken a look at the life of one of the greatest tennis players ever. It’s an interesting read and one that is more illuminating than many autobiographies.
One thing I was struck by was the hints of depression and discontent with his life that reflected what I read in A Life Too Short.
Thankfully, Agassi’s life didn’t turn out the same way that Robert Enke’s did, but it’s evident from his writing that he experienced some lows as well as extraordinary highs.
I think there is a tendency to place sportspeople on a pedestal by fans and the media alike when the reality is they are very similar to you and me.
They experience an exaggerated version of life. Their heart and soul goes into a career with a defined timeframe and if they don’t live up to their own expectations, they have no second chance to put it right.
What strikes in reading Open is how much Agassi disliked tennis but was still determined to be successful. This is a conflict you don’t often hear from sports stars. It was refreshing to hear Agassi mention it.
What I learned the most from this book is that the life you want and idolise for yourself may not be as enticing as it appears.
Agassi was in bits in between matches and for all the allure and stardom that comes with being a sports megastar, it’s a huge grind mentally and physically.
Be careful what you wish for comes to mind. The life of a top-level sports professional os not for everyone. Reading Andre Agassi’s autobiography will hammer that home.
Who should read Open?
Anyone who has a smidgin of interest in sport will enjoy this book. It’s a different kind of autobiography. One that is more open (no pun intended) than others I have read.
If you’re curious about the life of a tennis player, this is a good insight into what it takes to make it to the top and the trappings of life at the top.