Title: Open: An Autobiography
Author: Andre Agassi
Release Date: November 9, 2009
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Audiobook
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
In this brutally honest and illuminating memoir, Andre Agassi takes the reader through his life, starting with the time he was just a child, yet his father forced him to play tennis. It continues with his enrollment in Bollettieri Academy, a sort of sweat shop for young tennis hopefuls, and continues through his pro career until his retirement after the 2006 US Open.
I’ve been a huge fan of tennis all my life. I grew up watching the Agassi-Sampras battles on TV and played the sport (badly) for many years. I even managed to attend a weekend of the 2009 U.S. Open and loved every minute of it. Therefore, last year, when I heard Agassi had a memoir coming out, I wanted to read it. I didn’t feel any real sense of urgency because I’m not generally a celebrity memoir person, but it’s Andre Agassi, so I knew I’d want to see what he had to say. But then, once it came out, I started hearing amazing things about this book, that it was like no other celebrity memoir you’ve ever read. Convinced, I chose to consume it on audio and devoted a lot of time listening to this wondrous book.
I was so impressed by Open. First of all, the writing quality is really unparalleled in a celebrity memoir. This is actually a well written book – there is a full story, rather than merely vignettes. The prose is solid and actually very impressive. It’s funny that this should be so surprising, yet it is. Agassi chose a very talented writer to partner with (whoever that might be) in order to tell his story.
I absolutely loved Agassi’s candor in Open. He puts a lot of trust in the reader, baring his soul for us to see. Rather than physical battles on the court, most of Andre’s demons were in his head. As he grows, the thoughts change but they are always still there – the voice of his father, forcing him into a sport he hated. I was really impressed with how, while Agassi seemed completely candid, this book didn’t have the feel of a tell-all. Agassi didn’t say anything in order to make waves, he merely told the story as he saw it.
The insights into the life of a professional tennis player were also fascinating to me, as they will be to anyone who enjoys watching the sport. The constant travel, the aches and pains – Andre was perpetually at war with his body, trying to make it cooperate when all it wanted to do was rest. He also addresses the struggles of trying to keep a relationship going – Andre is honest about his well-publicized relationship with actress Brooke Shields and why it didn’t work out. He also discusses such tennis greats as Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, and Steffi Graf and it’s really interesting to see them through his eyes.
One thing I did appreciate about Open is that it isn’t a blow-by-blow of Andre’s tennis matches. He does discuss some of his pivotal matches in depth, but generally he provides an overview. With the amount of tennis Andre played from the beginning of his career to the end, that is definitely appreciated.
I listened to Open as an audiobook, a choice that worked very well for me. The audio production is a bit of a commitment – it is unabridged and runs about 18 hours. But Erik Davis, the narrator, was so expressive and talented that the time flew by. He does a great job with the different voices, such that you can tell who’s talking by the voice he uses. Admittedly his Steffi Graf voice is a little grating, but you can’t have everything!
I have rambled on about Open, yet I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. There is so much to read, absorb, and analyze in this book. I’m not sure I’d recommend it if you have absolutely zero interest in or knowledge about tennis, but if you are like me and enjoy the sport, you will love this book. Agassi is so open and honest, you can’t help but feel for him as he struggles to make his way through the tennis world. It’s a marvelous book that I thoroughly enjoyed, from beginning to end.