I have read memorable memoirs in the past. There was J.R. Moehringer’s The Tender Bar, Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Joan Didion’s A Year of Magical Thinking.
Then came Andre Agassi’s Open. I was never a fan of the guy. When he released his memoirs a year ago, I didn’t pay much attention to it. Except that it was written partly by J.R. Moehringer. That the ATP didn’t suspend Agassi after he admitted to using crystal meth. And that Pete Sampras taking issue of him being described as a poor (lousy?) tipper.
But then a few weeks back while waiting for a friend at PowerBooks I grabbed a copy of OPEN and started reading. Fuck. It was good. No. It was not just good. It was terrific. The first chapter was engrossing. Almost poetic even.
I grabbed myself a copy and finished the book in half a day. It is a fascinating read of one of the tennis legends who it turns out hated tennis but forced himself to continue playing since he knows of no other skill. We learn he has three other siblings who also plays tennis but not professionally. We learn he had a crush early on, even before he won his first major at Wimbledon in 1992, on Steffi Graf.
The memoir is sometimes hilarious (his rebellion against Nick Bollettieri, his chasing of Steffi Graf), sometimes moving (his talks with the pastor, with his trainer Gil, with his coach Brad), and always insightful.
It is a must-read.
Here are a few of my favorite passages from the book.
On helping out a friend in need: “Remember this. Hold on to this. This is the only perfection there is, the perfection of helping others. This is the only thing we can do that has any lasting value or meaning. This is why we are here. To make each other feel safe.”
On his first tennis practice with Graf: “But I can’t help myself. I’ve never seen a woman so beautiful. Standing still, she’s a goddess; in motion, she’s poetry.”
His speech after losing his final match as a tennis professional: “The scoreboard said I lost today, but what the scoreboard doesn’t say is what it is I have found. Over the last twenty-one years I have found loyalty: You have pulled for me on the court, and also in life. I have found inspiration: You have willed me to succeed, sometimes even in my lowest moments. And I have found generosity: You have given me shoulders to stand on, to reach for my dreams — dreams I could have never reached without you. Over the last twenty-one years I have found you, and I will take you and memory of you with me for the rest of my life.”