Open and Shut

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Open and Shut

I have been playing tennis competitively since I was 8 and when one is thrown into the competitive tennis world - whether it be the juniors, college or professional level - you experience things most people never will and for this reason alone I was intrigued by Andre Agassi's memoir, Open.  Being a product of junior and collegiate tennis in the 80's, I was ranked in the East throughout High School and competed on a national level for four years in college.  I am well aware of the influence Andre Agassi had on me and other aspiring athletes coming up in the competitive ranks.  In general, athletes are viewed by the public in a totally one-dimensional light and I think writing a memoir about his life on and off the court is the only way for people to get a real sense of who Andre is and was and most importantly, what he is trying to accomplish in this book.

I have seen some interviews with Andre and read some book reviews of Open and while the entertainment media blitz has focused on the scandal of drug use and the materialism of hair pieces, I found Andre really focused on the fact that his life was more a decision of his father's than his, to be a tennis star. You can see in his face how he is reliving these moments of torture and pain when discussing decisions his father has made for him growing up.  This is something I and many other tennis players who competed as child prodigies can relate to.  Fortunately for me, my parents never pushed me.  I had many 'after-school' activities and picking one was up to me (also more cost effective for my parents).  My parents, unlike most 'tennis parents' (a term with much more strength behind it than a 'soccor mom'), took a backseat approach to my talents.  As we all know, tennis was and will always be an expensive sport.  Having said that, my parents would support me in my choice to pursue and compete in this world only if I took the initiative on my own and showed them that this is what I really wanted, not what they really wanted for me.  Which leads me to my next point; I competed all over the tri-state area in tournaments against girls who lived in fear of their parents should they lose or get glares from the windows over the indoor courts from their parents after double faulting.  Looking back now, it seems like that must be the feeling an abused wife feels right before she knows her husband is going to hit her.

The other things that give this book shock value and probably increased sales are the things that lead Andre to rebel and be isolated in a way no one could see from the outside.  Andre describes a dark time in his career where he felt alone and experimented with drugs.  He also mentions using a hair piece to keep an image that he thought the public adored.  I don't think that by admitting these faults in his book, Andre is looking for sympathy or shock, I think he is trying to convey that he just like everyone else had pressure to 'fit in' and 'do the right thing,' whether that be cool or not. I think only now that he's been gone from the game a few years can he finally feel comfortable in his own skin and have a sense of self.

Many people (including both his arch-enemies and his ardent supporters) ask why write a book discrediting such a tumultuous career ending in 2006 with 60 titles and 8 grand slams?  Why now? He clearly doesn't need the money. I think the reason for this book is personal and has more depth to it than most would imagine.  I believe that Andre doesn't care how his fans feel about him or view him anymore. This book was written for his own self-cleansing. I know this sounds very new-agey and full of holistic bullshit but having gone through very similiar situations it seems only appropriate the he comes clean with all this information if only to clear his conscience. Not to denounce his claim as one of the greatest tennis players in the world.

However, maybe the real reason is that he has written Open is to deter psycho tennis parents from acting the way his father did.  It's really all about his dad, in the end, but it seems that he's settled these internal disputes already, or else he wouldn't have been able to write it. There's something in the prologue of the book with a scene with him and his kids, that he's the dad he perhaps wanted his father to be. By writing this memoir, he's not just trying to undo what his father did to him, he's trying to forgive his father.  I was watching Regis and Kelly (I know, don't hate me) and Andre was talking about how he was prepping his dad for some things he said in the book, that they may be hard for his dad to read.  And not surprising to me, his father has said "I don't need to read your book, I was there, I know what happened."  Does he?

1 Comment

  • 1

    Well done, Caren. The more chicks writing for this sausage fest the better.

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