Regardless of whether they have a story to tell or the skill to tell it, ex-jocks seem compelled to crank out memoirs. Usually these tell-alls don’t come close to telling all. They unspool clichés about tough childhoods, fast-forward through the glory-days highlight reel, and top it all off with a coda about adjusting to life after the final buzzer.
Of course, Andre Agassi was never an ordinary jock. Even if you didn’t know the difference between a backhand slice and a forehand volley, you knew the wild child of tennis. He hit the ball harder than anyone, he dated a procession of stars, and he looked like he’d just walked in from a Bon Jovi video. But all of that — even the hair, it turns out—was a lie. Agassi hated tennis, he wore a wig to disguise his premature baldness, and, most shockingly of all, he hid a crystal meth habit that would cost him his No. 1 ranking and his marriage to Brooke Shields.
Not for nothing is his autobiography called Open.
Agassi’s drug mea culpa has dominated his autobiography’s prerelease PR blitz. And it is a sucker punch of a confession when it comes, told (like every chapter of the book) with unflinching honesty and style. But Agassi’s most heartfelt and harrowing chapters are saved for his tough-love relationship with his cold, combustible Armenian-immigrant father. ”Violent by nature…he keeps an ax handle in his car. He leaves the house with a handful of salt and pepper in each pocket, in case he’s in a street fight and needs to blind someone.” Whoa.
Eventually, Agassi manages to find redemption on the court (his brilliant retelling of the 2006 U.S. Open slugfest with Marcos Baghdatis is like Rocky with tennis rackets) and off it (with his second wife, tennis great Steffi Graf). By the time Agassi’s hopeful ending arrives, not only has he bared his soul like few professional athletes ever have, he’s done it with a flair and force that most professional writers can’t even pull off. A
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