Contrary to popular opinion, I am now going to convince you all that Andre was the real GOAT. Let me preface with a disclaimer that I am a disciple of the book Open, which I devoured in a single summer’s weekend leading up to this year’s Aussie Open. I thought it was a brilliant insight into the universe of tennis and, even more so, into the psyche of one of the greatest players this game has seen.
I’m saying this not simply in tribute to Agassi’s game, which despite its excellence is commonly taken apart by those critics who watch his defeats at the hands of Mr Sampras a few too many times. Sure, we can all admire his prowess with the racket – you can’t win a Golden Slam without it.
What Open did teach me, and thanks to Mr Agassi for the insight, is the importance of mental focus, the incredibly draining nature of professional tennis and sport in general, and the massive power of positive thinking, perseverance, and good old-fashioned American cockiness.
For those of you who haven’t read it, Open is a gripping account and lets you fully understand the brutal nature of the tour. Agassi’s tale of his unrelenting father who inculcated a hatred for the game from an early age due to the “dragon” machine spewing tennis balls in his homemade backyard tennis court; to his hero-worshipping adulation for his older brother; his typical teenage rebelliousness as overlooked by Nick Bollettierri; his messed up marriage with Brooke Shields and eventual fairytale romance with Stefanie Graf (not Steffi, kids – never again will she be Steffi!); his rise, fall, and comeback again; the slams, the Olympic gold medal; his work with the Andre Agassi Foundation; and of course – the famous rivalry with terrible tipper Petey. I loved every word and it’s made me see a man who was previously no more than a favourite tennis player and an admired athlete, into a fully dimensional character with loves and hates, weaknesses and strengths, who has prevailed against his worst enemy, one which most of us have a hard time getting over – his own mind. More importantly, he’s opened the window for me to understand a sport I love.
So I’m raising my glass to Andre on the big 40. Hope you have a nice cuddle with Stefanie and the kids, and a glass of champers or two.
And don’t listen to the haters.
You can head over to Aussie for Hit For Haiti v3 anytime.