Book review by Deane Barker tags: biography

This is a compelling auto-biography. It reads fast and stays interesting.

Agassi claims to hate tennis. His father groomed him to be a tennis player, and the stories he tells of his childhood border on abuse. He grew up hating the game. But he dropped out of school in the 9th grade, so that’s all he really knew how to do.

The book starts very negative in that respect, but it gets better. You need to stick with it.

It’s an exhaustive look at almost every single game he ever played. His memory of these games is amazing. He remembers almost every point – what shot went where and why. And he couldn’t be making it up, because all these games were recorded somewhere, so it would be easy to fact-check. I assume he rewatched all his matches while he was writing the book. Some of the memories are shot-by-shot recreations.

He discusses his climb up the ranks, and the up and down that followed. He was on top, then not, then again, and up and down the charts. He talks about his long-running (but friendly) rivalry with Pete Sampras. He talks about the “up and comers” named Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. He talks about how much he hated Jimmy Connors and Boris Becker. He talks about his doomed marriage with Brooke Shields and his happy (current) marriage with Steffi Graf.

(And he talks about his meth abuse in passing, but I remember that got most of the press when the book came out in 2009, because was on the ATP tour while he was using.)

I spent some time watching Agassi clips on YouTube after I read this. He doesn’t play like a guy who hated tennis. He had a lot of personal demons to work out, but he seems to have arrived on the other side. He seems very happy today, and when the book was written, he was starting on some serious charity work in Las Vegas (he basically invented and opened an entire prep school).

In the end, you’re not convinced he actually hated tennis. For most of his life, I think he just hated himself.

Book Info

Andre Agassi