Review

Open: An Autobiography

by Andre Agassi

I recently attended an event at which an author spoke about his
latest project, a biography of an athlete who died in a tragic
accident. Following his remarks, one member of the audience
muttered to his friend, “What’s the point of buying the
book now? He pretty much told us the whole story.” That
sentiment would initially seem to apply to Andre Agassi’s
autobiography, OPEN. The book has received so much attention, and
Agassi has made so many appearances, that one feels there’s
nothing left to learn.

Of course, that’s not true. One has only heard the most
salacious points: that the former #1 ranked player hated tennis
from the very beginning; that he wasn’t too fond of his first
wife, Brooke Shields; that he was losing his hair, which became an
issue during some of his matches; and that he used crystal meth.
But there’s a lot more to Agassi’s progress from
prodigy to being a pro’s pro. He achingly describes his
childhood under the thumb of a dictatorial father for whom tennis
was the be-all, end-all of their existence --- even at the expense
of education.

Agassi’s eventual climb to the highest level of his sport
is similarly rendered in fine detail, although perhaps too much so
for the casual fan. He seems to spend more time discussing his
failures than his victories both on and off the court. His
courtship and marriage to Shields is rather depressing, and
it’s as if he was drawn into the situation with no mind of
his own. They were close together in proximity, but miles apart
emotionally. On the other hand, the accounts of his wooing
long-time dream girl and fellow tennis star Steffi Graf go to the
other end of the spectrum. Good for him (Andre, happy at last). And
good for him that he was able to surround himself with a cadre of
loyal friends and support staff; in fact, those relationships seem
almost too good to be true.

Despite having all this going for him, OPEN comes across from
time to time as a bit of a “whine-fest.” Agassi
educates his readers on just how physically demanding tennis can
be, as well as how lonely: boxing without the gloves is one
description he offers. Not to mention the numerous occasions when
he points out how often he thought about just walking away from a
career that brought him fame and fortune: “I want [tennis] to
end. I don’t want it to end” and similar phrases are
repeated throughout the book. On the one hand, you might wonder how
anyone with such a glamorous lifestyle could complain, but on the
other, it’s just that type of honesty --- as well as the
manner in which it is presented --- that makes it difficult to
close OPEN.

While his name does not appear on the cover, J.R. Moehringer,
author of THE TENDER BAR, is the real storyteller here, turning
Agassi’s memories into compelling prose. Much has been said
about the style --- present tense, intimate detail (although not
the kind some readers might prefer) --- but it bears repeating. And
Agassi, to his credit, has lauded Moehringer’s work during
his many interviews.

Despite the occasional eye-rolling copy, it’s easy to see
why OPEN has been hailed as one of the best sports
memoirs/autobiographies ever written.

Reviewed by Ron Kaplan on January 13, 2011

Open: An Autobiography
by Andre Agassi

  • Publication Date: August 10, 2010
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0307388409
  • ISBN-13: 9780307388407