Tennis is a sport, I’ve never really learned to play properly. The reason for this is the fact that I played a lot of badminton, and the badminton (pols) technique is the opposite what they teach you in tennis. That’s the reason why I always was more a passive tennis lover, looking at the top games and grand slams on television. Andre Agassi (born April 29, 1970) is one of my all-time favorites, as I liked his rebellious look, with the long hear and the earring. I recently read his book “Open” which is a fantastic title, as it refers to the “Open tennis tournaments” as well as to the Open way of telling about his life, from a young age towards his twenty year career as a professional tennis player.
Father Mike Agassi, an immigrant from Iran, was a great influence in Andre’s life. During the search for a home in the state of Las Vegas, Mike Agassi seemed only interested in the size of the back yard…..to build a tennis court for his children. It was Andre who he ultimately focused on, and from the age of seven father Mike trains Andre every day, with the self built ball machine nicknamed “The Dragon”.
Andre feels a deep hate towards the game of tennis, but cannot prevent that his father sends him at the age of 13 to the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida. This was only for three months as the family couldn’t pay for a longer period. Andre was hoping to go back home as soon as possible, as he hated the academy, the militaristic environment and even going to school. Once the owner Nick Bollettieri however noticed his talent, Andre was given a free pass to stay at the academy at no costs. This was the moment when Andre started to rebel, smoking weed, drinking whiskey and getting his rebellious Mohawk. He told the stylist “I want it high, and I want it spiky. Then dye it pink”.
When Andre wins a panda bear at an amusement park, this seems to be a turning point for him at the tennis academy. His coach Nick Bollettieri wants this panda so bad for his daughter, that he lets Andre blackmail him for wildcards, big tennis tournaments and even no more school.
The love-hate relation between Agassi and tennis remains, but he manages to get along with his coach and in 1986, at the age of 16, he lost a final but still was entitled to get a check of $1,100……that’s when he turned a professional tennis player. The next day he negotiates together with his brother Philly a two year deal with NIKE of $20,000 and $25,000 the second year.
The autobiography takes you through the whole range of yearly international tennis tournaments and gives intimate details about Andre’s relationship with his closest friends, Philly (brother), Perry (Best friend and later manager) his first wife Brooke Shields and Gil Reyes (fitness trainer), but also with other tennis players like Boris Becker and Pete Sampras (the one who Andre seemed to have the most difficulties winning from).
Gil Reyes didn’t only play a father figure, but was also a true confidant, and they shared together a love for hamburgers. “Gil is the reason why I’ve won more Slams after the age of 29 than I did before”. In 2001 Andre named his child Jaden Gil Agassi.
It is until the end of his career (2006) and after his two year marriage with Brooke Shields that Agassi gets to find himself. He starts the “Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy” which is a 26,000-square-foot education complex with a $40 million campus for 500 students, and a waiting list of more than 500. It is a tuition-free charter school for at-risk children in the Las Vegas area, and ironically there is a uniform policy, something Andre Agassi hated in his younger years.
With help of his coaches he finally gets in contact with Steffi Graf, who at that time is in a relationship. They got married and got two children. In the period that they started dating, Agassi tells Graf how he basically hates tennis; she replied “Of course, doesn’t everybody?”…