Holly Morrow's Reviews > Open

Open by Andre Agassi
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's review
Jun 17, 2012

Agassi's memoir is I-want-to-call-in-sick-to-work-and-spend-the-whole-day-reading-this good, and I don’t even follow tennis. First things first: Agassi clearly has some sort of personality disorder. He’s self-loathing, rageful, insecure, narcissistic, and monomaniacal. And as he repeats over and over, he hates tennis. If you read the book from about Chapter 5 onwards, you’d just think hes a jerk. The key is the first couple chapters – and more specifically, his father, an unrelenting tyrant and taskmaster who forced Agassi to drill for hours and hours every day when was a child (hence the skill at, and hate for, tennis). As an example of the kind of man Agassi’s dad was – when Aggasi finally wins Wimbledon in 1992, in five sets, his first slam victory, he calls his dad, whose response is: “You should have won that fourth set.” I’m starting to think, on the basis of the memoirs that I’ve read, that the way to create high-achieving children is to deprive them of love and encouragement, so that they grow up needing to perform in order to win praise and validation. Is there a parenting book out there somewhere called “How to Raise Emotionally Dysfunctional Champions”? Agassi is so angry, and hurt, and confused, and so good at tennis, and lives such a bizarre life as a superstar professional athlete, you get the sense he simply doesn’t know how to behave, how to be at peace, how to do things normally.

I cringed a little at Agassi’s unflattering portrayals of other people (first wife Brooke Shields, and some of his fellow players) but hes no less cruel to himself, and its of a piece with the remarkable candor of the whole book. His toupees, the lifts in his shoes at his wedding, his meth use, his petty grudges and bailing from tournaments and all-around atrocious behavior – he goes into it all, and its not a pretty picture. Until Steffi Graf comes on the scene, that is. Boy does he looove him some Steffi Graf. Their story is very touching actually and a real testament to the redemptive and healing powers of love. But mostly this book is just crazy riveting.
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