112 of 117 people found the following review helpful
on 11 November 2009
We have all read the press and watched the news; the drug allegations, the "I hate tennis". Tennis fans aren't quite sure whether they should feel cheated for all the love and support they have given Andre, to me the book set things straight.
Most of us look back at chapters of our lives and can identify with particularly unhappy periods. Andre kicks off the book with what was going through his head with the match against Baghdatis in the 2006 US Open. It is a blow by blow account of key parts of the match and a thought provoking glimpse into the mind and heart of a tennis player. He then goes straight into his childhood, the discomfort and unhappiness of being the child prodigy son of an obsessive father. There are weirdly honest stories - his grandmother tried to breastfeed him, very disturbing but a revelation of a dysfunctional upbringing. What seems to carry Andre through his childhood are friendships with his brother Phil and Perry who later becomes his manager. The importance of the childhood friendships are critical and from the way they are explained it is easy to understand why these friends are crucial figures for Andre.
The critical friendship is that of his mentor/guide/life coach/surrogate father Gill Reyes. Andre is taken under his wing and treated with the love and respect a father should treat his son, you sense through the stories in the book that now they have met each other neither could really exist happily without the other. His marriage with Brooke Shields is dealt with candidly, many will buy this book to find out what celebrities do behind closed doors. Whereas I did think Brooke appeared superficial from some of the things mentioned here, I think it merely shows how fame affects people differently. It appears that fame as a child makes people so perception orientated that perceptions are more important than anything else - who can judge the pressures these guys live through? Perfectly understandable in my opinion.
The drugs issue is dealt with here but only for a few pages in the book. The very weird thing is it doesn't seem like a big deal to me. Like most fans I was shocked and somewhat critical of the damage to his sport. But, I could understand after reading the book how stupid mistakes can be made. Off the book for a second truth is he wouldn't have got the endorsements for 10's of millions had he been suspended, or there would have been a clause in his existing deals that he would have broken had the allegations come out. However, reading the book and seeing what has been done with the money I can't help but feel it was better for everyone that nothing came out at the time.
Andre talks about his attraction to Stefanie from many years back, the courting process is just the same as you or I. We all have been through that 'has the phone just rung?' depression when expecting a call from someone we are interested in. It does feel almost story like the way they end up together, but we all have a story like this just not in the press.
Players are mentioned here all the time, the interesting one for me was Becker 'B.B. Socrates' they call him because he 'tries to appear intellectual but is just an overgrown farmboy', this is going to do nothing for Becker's ego. The rivalry with Becker seems more important than that with Sampras - who would have thought?
Another of those important times for Andre was a meeting with Mandela, a truly humbling experience for anyone. This times perfectly with the starting of his Charter school and I presume was a defining moment for him.
Overall, hey I got the book yesterday and I read 325 pages the first day this should tell you all you need to know. I felt sorry for Andre with his childhood but towards the end I understood how his father really wanted the best for everyone. Andre is surprisingly influenced by anyone he trusts - guided more by his heart than his head, he appears to live life to please for much of the book which is pretty much the way a child acts. His first marriage is what everyone else wants to see but he is developing on another level through his interactions with his trainer Gil, the goalposts are always changing as he tries understands what he wants from life. His 'hate' of tennis develops into an appreciation and respect. Throughout the book he seems to treat tennis as work, the only thing he is qualified to do. When judging his 'I hate tennis' just bear in the halo of your mind how many of us get up in the morning burning and bustling to go to our jobs - these guys are human too.
When you read this book you will see parallels between what you go through in life with what a celebrity goes through but you go through it perhaps without the press. It is incredibly well written, so well written in fact that most will not credit Andre for the writing. This is what it says it is, an autobiography not just a tennis manual. This was totally not what I was expecting, a literary masterpiece from a tennis player? A must buy for any tennis fan and a perfect Christmas present. Enjoy!
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Andre Agassi has written a 'tell-all' book about his life in tennis. And, it turns out, he hated tennis. That was a bigger shocker to me than the salacious fact that he was on 'crystal meth' for a year or so. J.R. Moehringer, the author of 'A Tender Bar' and a Pulitzer Prize winner for his writing was a co-author of this autobiography. Andre loved Moehringer's writing in 'The Tender Bar', and he is correct, the man's writing and the book are excellent. This book, too, is very well written and is an exceptional read.
Andre tells us that he started playing tennis at the age of 3 and by the age of 5 he was showing an aptitude for the game. He was pushed by his father-an obsessive man who pushed his son too far and too much. In fact his father felt that education was not necessary and a hindrance to his tennis practice. Andre could never tell his father how much he hated the game because it was Andre's responsibility to help his family, and that is what he did. He left school in the ninth grade, something that has bothered him his entire career. His goal was to achieve in tennis. He was enrolled in the Bollettien tennis camp, but it felt more like a prison than a camp. The academy, in Agassi's words, was "Lord of the Flies with forehands." In retaliation Andre started wearing earrings, grew his hair long and wore loud clothes. Thus his reputation was born. As his career started to flourish, Andre ,tried to keep it all together. He was known as the flamboyant player, the real player. He played the best tennis players in the world, and he was the best. He had an eye for the ball, and the 'tell' of players when they were about to hit the big one.
Andre Agassi talks about his rivals, the ones who were boring, the ones who kept it all together and the the real players; Pete Sampras, Boris Becker and Jimmy Connors The book is at its best when the game of tennis is being discussed. Each play during the tournaments and how he figured out how to win. He talks of his marriage to Brooke Shields, he never really wanted to be married, just like he never really liked to play tennis. His crystal meth years, the spiel he gave the Tennis Association when he tested positive for drugs. He finally met and married Steffi Graf and found the happiness that had so long eluded him.
He has built a life and a foundation that sponsors a charter school. He gave the first graduation speech and wowed the crowd. A ninth grade drop-out he has achieved success and fame. He has found his life and he has become Open. For anyone who loves tennis, this is a book that will be a fascinating look at the life of a giant in the tennis world and told in words that best describes him. He finally lives down his famous words 'Image Is Everything'.
Highly Recommended. prisrob 11-09-09
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I read a lot of sports biogs and this one stands right up there with the best ever - Lance Armstrong's "It's Not About The Bike" - in my opinion. The book got a lot of publicity on the back of Agassi's confessions of drug taking but it really is so much more than that. It is a story of a boy forced to live the ambitions of his father, a childhood dominated by tennis, Agassi's attempts at rebellion, his emergence as a world class tennis player and then subsequent injuries, falls and comebacks. Amid all of this there is huge honesty about friends, family, relationships and himself as a man with frequent twists and turns along the way. I've always likes Andre Agassi but this book shows what a great, generous, fighter he is, with a huge personality in a sport so starved of real characters. I didn't want the book to end but as I put it down, it was fantastic to reflect that by the end of his career, he had finally learnt to love the game he had spent so long hating plus had met his soul mate, Steffi Graf, with whom he genuinely seems so happy and so content. This book comes highly recommended, even if you don't have much of an interest in tennis. Enjoy!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 12 January 2010
I was blown away by how much I enjoyed this book! I read the newspaper serialisations and thought it was awful!!!! it seemed so simplistic and almost childlike - then I read the book itself - it's brilliant. totally gripped me from the start - the fact that this little child hated tennis and was basically forced to play on and on. I've never understood the agassi myth - barbara streisand at wimbledon always seemed so bizare - but this finally makes it make sense. what a roller coaster of a life. what a price sport can take from you. great read.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 5 November 2011
Tennis fans generally and Agassi fans in particular will not be disappointed by this book.
But anyone interested in professional sport at all - in particular, what it takes to be the best - should read this book. It's the most incredible piece of writing. From the first sentence, you are inside Agassi's head; feeling the torture and the pain of what it physically and mentally takes to be at the top. He strips away the pomposity of tennis and shows these players are almost gladiators who rip and tear at themselves to destruction, both physically and mentally pouring everything into a moment of winning. Yet as soon as that moment is achieved it's gone and you move on to doing it all over again.
From a personal level, I've always had a fascination with why us Brits 'fold' under pressure; why we never quite make it, why we're never quite good enough across many sports. The answers for what's required to be one of the best are here and - incredibly for a 'celebrity book' - you can feel the energy on every page and right from page 1; it's exhausting even to read. It's not a fluffy celebrity life-story. This is why people across all sports who want to be the best should read this book.
I'm not a huge fan of tennis but it's a sport with similar mental/physical requirements as a sport I play so the psychology-of-champions interests me. I once saw Agassi play Tim Henman at Wimbledon and Agassi fascinated me; although normally in love with Agassi the crowd were all over the 'home boy' even dropping into showing some 'uncontrolled enthusiasm' at Agassi unforced errors just in desperation of wanting Henman to 'do it'. As Henman did what all us-Brits seem to do - expand mentally outwards linking with the crowd and trying to run on their energy - Agassi went inwards; his eyes fascinated me. They never left Henman and his focus was unbelievable to levels you could physically feel the power of it - he didn't need anything from the crowd, he was a lone man against the world and was very comfortable there. The more the crowd bayed for Henman and the more he punched the air, the stronger and calmer Agassi became. You could see in his eyes there was no-one in the place except Henman, and he was going to take him down. I knew from looking at him Henman would never win - mentally they were worlds apart. Henman's energy was channelled wide into the crowd and he needed their energy to keep going; it's power was diluted. Agassi's energy was channelled inwards to a single point until it became laser-like and could cut through anything - and it's target was Henman. After Agassi won, he later described exactly what I'd seen when asked how he'd managed to overcome Henman's determination and the overwhelming energy of the crowd - he focussed his energy until there was no-one else there except Henman. I couldn't even tell you the score of the match but Agassi's focus and energy have stayed with me as a 'moment in time' memory ever since. The book opens up and explains what I saw - what was actually mentally and physically behind that moment; it explains it's that mental place champions are constantly chasing, trying to find, then trying to sustain and the physical effort required to fuel this mental state.
Agassi conveys onto paper the mental torture, demons and physical strength required to do this. He shows it's not something top players 'have', it's something they find then lose, find again and constantly struggle to hold on to. Probably far better than any other book his descriptions of the torment and pressures indirectly gave me food for thought as to mysteries which shroud other players - for example Borg's sudden retirement.
After reading this, I'll never look at two players calmly and politely leaving court after a match the same way again - I'll be wondering if as soon as they are out of the public gaze are they surrounded by teams of people physically and mentally rushing to put them back together. To me, this book has the keys to why us Brits are never quite good enough. An amazing piece of writing, Mr Agassi :o
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 20 January 2010
With some trepidation I ordered Andre Agassi's book because I am always dubious about sports' biographies. They can be very boring and not too interesting to people not interested in tennis, ie Andy Murray's biography before he'd even hit 21, I think - quite ridiculous. McEnroe's bio wasn't too boring; neither was Nastase's. However, they could hardly be called page turners. Perhaps Marat Safin's might be more interesting.
AA's book is a page turner and all based on the premise that he hated tennis. I like the warts and all approach although I think some of the romantic bits about Steffi Graf were doctored with hindsight. I am sure that even non-tennis fans would like this book as it concentrates on human relationships, with family and friends. His father does not come over as a sympathetic character but one wonders now whether Andre is grateful for his obsessive approach to his son's success.
It is very well written, with a lot of professional help I'm sure, and I admire the fact that the Agassis are giving so much back to their community. Andre came to realise how important education is. As a tennis player and fan, I appreciated some of the match descriptions - dealing with the psychology of the moment. Both Andre and Stefanie purport to have hated tennis?!? Did they really? Nah!!!0
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 25 February 2010
As a tennis fan I eagerly awaited the publication of this book,especially after hearing all the hype about his shocking frankness and the fact he 'hated tennis'. This was unbelievable to me - how could someone who had spent his life perfecting his craft, a role-model for a generation of players, an icon of the sport, say such a thing ?? It must surely be a ploy to shift his book off the shelves !? So I thought......
The style of writing is incredible, it paints a very clear picture of Andre as a boy, trapped by the heated relationship with his father and his obsession to create a tennis genius - that completely shaped his whole future existence. At times I looked at the cover - and the photo of Andre with his sad puppy dog eyes - and wondered if he could have truly written this alone - it was fabulous, involving, page-turning, addictive reading. Maybe he should have been a writer (not a tennis player)?
The pace of the book is gripping. Yet the tone remains the same throughout. The deep subliminal message, set right from the first page, that at first had you routing for him to succeed against the 'odds', that emotional clawing at the heart strings, that unabashed martyrdom, pretty quickly becomes quite irksome to the soul. This man could not stand up for himself. He could not get his act together. He comes across as a whinging self-absorbed mood-hoover. He lacks the courage of his convictions most of the way through his life's journey in this book - and rightfully expects everyone to 'feel sorry' for him along the way !? That is the true revelation of this book. Not the fact that he hated tennis, took drugs, dated celebrities or even wore a wig. He is not the person we all thought he was. He is not a rebel, an icon, a legend. He is human.
The negative cloud that encompasses him (and you the reader), in the first three quarters of his book, dispels when he comes to talking about the love of his life and bearer of his children Steffi Graf. It was an absolute joy to see the difference love has made to his demeanour. It was fascinating to hear about how they met and his infatuation with her all along - even having a picture of her on his fridge in the early days (surely this is an amazing example of Cosmic Ordering !!). She sounds like a magnificent, inspiring, confident, wise human being of mythic proportions. The way she is depicted in such a god-like fashion almost makes one feel she is too good for our poor little hard-done-by Andre Agassi.
Yes, I have griped about his emotional hijacking of one's pity, but it's HIS book so I guess he is entitled to be OPEN in the only way he knows how. The story WAS enjoyable, however. The insight into locker room tennis, his rivalry with Boris Becker, Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras and his open vulnerability in all his relationships are immensely eye-opening. His journey to the top of mens tennis was incredible. And this book is actually a great read. All credit and due respect to him.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 16 April 2010
I don't read many books, but I do like autobiographies and this one is by far the best I've read! I'm not a huge tennis fan but that honestly doesn't matter as this is much more than a story about a Tennis Player. I could relate to it on so many levels which you don't expect to do when reading about someone who you could say is an A list celebrity as well as a fantastic tennis player. The underlying struggle of finding a place in life, a 'north star' is superbly described in each gripping chapter. Even though I knew a bit about Agassi's life (or thought I did), I was compelled to read on and on a see his life unfold through Andre's eyes. As Andre finds peace and stability through his relationship with Stefanie Graf at the end, I also felt a warmth and affinity with Agassi as I knew he was finally beginning to get where he wanted to be. This feeling only came about as his telling of his life so far was so honest, engaging, interesting & enjoyable. I could go on but want you to enjoy the book for yourself so whether your a tennis fan or not I would recommend this book to anyone - it gives you a great perspective on life!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is a wonderful read. Mr Agassi details his amazing career in tennis, starting out with his boyhood days, when his father built a tennis court for him in the Las Vegas desert. It goes into great detail about his early years in the sport, and how hard his father pushed him to make it as a pro, with an extreme training regime. He explains his, apparently, life-long dislike of the game, which it seems can be attributed back to the days when his dad had him out in the blazing desert sun all day long, hitting a tennis ball back and forth. Mr Agassi gives a searing account of his clashes with his major rivals, including Boris Becker and Jimmy Connors (both of whom he really didn't like), and Pete Sampras (who he did like). He also gives a revealing and poignant account of his pursuit of Steffi Graff into a romance, and their subsequent lives together. When you think of the amazing lifestyle he must have, with all the wealth and fame anybody could possibly desire, it seems somewhat incongruous that he has so much loathing for the very sport which put him where he is today. That said, I found this book utterly absorbing from start to finish, largely because it is so candid. His description of his very final pro tennis match, and the emotions he felt, is particularly good. Highly recommended. If you like sports autobiographies, you might also be interested in the books by Boris Becker and Dennis Bergkamp, both of which are excellent reads (Boris even deals with the Nobu incident).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Sports autobiographies tend to follow a set pattern. The author rehashes the highlights of their career, maybe talks briefly about a crisis of confidence or a clash with the coach, gets a few teammates to chip in and reassure us that the writer was a terrific person. Open is completely different. It's a superb autobiography in its own right, let alone within the sports genre. Agassi exposes himself with raw candour and doesn't always come across well. He is frank about his flaws, his tantrums and his inner demons. However he is also immensely loyal to his friends and inspires tremendous loyalty in return. He is courageous, generous, honest and a hopeless romantic. I relished every page of this book.
Agassi's father was a tyrant who was determined from the day that Agassi was born that he would end up as the world's number one tennis player. Agassi was given no choice in the matter. His life was not his own to make decisions about. When he did get to the age when he could conceivably have walked away from tennis, he was in a position where it was the only thing that he was even remotely qualified for. At times reading this I was reminded of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and the way that parents can impose their values and plans onto their children. Agassi hated tennis for almost all of the time that he was playing it. Moreover, he never really learned to function as an adult - needing several people in his life to direct him and support him at all times.
His life is a fascinating mix of good decisions and bad decisions. Finding the right people to steer him in the right direction. Almost undoing it all by adopting an unprofessional attitude. Getting married despite serious misgivings. Later finding someone who genuinely seems to "complete" him. At times his propensity for self-sabotage seems overwhelming. But thankfully, it's a happy ending.
A fascinating, thought provoking, absorbing book. Tennis fan or not, you should read it.