From the book
THE ENDI open my eyes and don't know where I am or who I am. Not all that unusual--I've spent half my life not knowing. Still, this feels different. This confusion is more frightening. More total.
I look up. I'm lying on the floor beside the bed. I remember now. I moved from the bed to the floor in the middle of the night. I do that most nights. Better for my back. Too many hours on a soft mattress causes agony. I count to three, then start the long, difficult process of standing. With a cough, a groan, I roll onto my side, then curl into the fetal position, then flip over onto my stomach. Now I wait, and wait, for the blood to start pumping.
I'm a young man, relatively speaking. Thirty-six. But I wake as if ninety-six. After three decades of sprinting, stopping on a dime, jumping high and landing hard, my body no longer feels like my body, especially in the morning. Consequently my mind doesn't feel like my mind. Upon opening my eyes I'm a stranger to myself, and while, again, this isn't new, in the mornings it's more pronounced. I run quickly through the basic facts. My name is Andre Agassi. My wife's name is Stefanie Graf. We have two children, a son and daughter, five and three. We live in Las Vegas, Nevada, but currently reside in a suite at the Four Seasons hotel in New York City, because I'm playing in the 2006 U.S. Open. My last U.S. Open. In fact my last tournament ever. I play tennis for a living, even though I hate tennis, hate it with a dark and secret passion, and always have.
As this last piece of identity falls into place, I slide to my knees and in a whisper I say: Please let this be over.
Then: I'm not ready for it to be over.
Now, from the next room, I hear Stefanie and the children. They're eating breakfast, talking, laughing. My overwhelming desire to see and touch them, plus a powerful craving for caffeine, gives me the inspiration I need to hoist myself up, to go vertical. Hate brings me to my knees, love gets me on my feet.
I glance at the bedside clock. Seven thirty. Stefanie let me sleep in. The fatigue of these final days has been severe. Apart from the physical strain, there is the exhausting torrent of emotions set loose by my pending retirement. Now, rising from the center of the fatigue comes the first wave of pain. I grab my back. It grabs me. I feel as if someone snuck in during the night and attached one of those anti-theft steering wheel locks to my spine. How can I play in the U.S. Open with the Club on my spine? Will the last match of my career be a forfeit?
I was born with spondylolisthesis, meaning a bottom vertebra that parted from the other vertebrae, struck out on its own, rebelled. (It's the main reason for my pigeon-toed walk.) With this one vertebra out of sync, there's less room for the nerves inside the column of my spine, and with the slightest movement the nerves feel that much more crowded. Throw in two herniated discs and a bone that won't stop growing in a futile effort to protect the damaged area, and those nerves start to feel downright claustrophobic. When the nerves protest their cramped quarters, when they send out distress signals, a pain runs up and down my leg that makes me suck in my breath and speak in tongues. At such moments the only relief is to lie down and wait. Sometimes, however, the moment arrives in the middle of a match. Then the only remedy is to alter my game--swing differently, run differently, do everything differently. That's when my muscles spasm. Everyone avoids change; muscles can't abide it. Told to change, my muscles join the spinal rebellion, and soon my...
Author: Andre Agassi
Andre Agassi played tennis professionally from 1986 to 2006. Often ranked number one, he captured eight Grand Slam singles championships. Founder of the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation, he has raised more than $85 million for the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy for underprivileged children in Las Vegas, where he lives with his wife, Stefanie Graf, and their two children.
"Agassi may have just penned one of the best sports autobiographies of all time. Check--it's one of the better memoirs out there, period. . . . An unvarnished, at times inspiring story [told] in an arresting, muscular style. . . . Agassi's memoir is just as entrancing as his tennis game." - Time
"Fascinating. . . . Inspiring. . . . Open describes Agassi's personal odyssey with brio and unvarnished candor. . . . [Agassi's] career-comeback tale is inspiring but even more so is another Open storyline. It could be called: The punk grows up. . . . Countless athletes start charitable foundations, but frequently the organizations are just tax shelters or PR stunts. For Agassi helping others has instead become his life's calling. . . . Open is a superb memoir, but it hardly closes the books on an extraordinary life." - The Wall Street Journal
"Honest in a way that such books seldom are. . . . An uncommonly well-written sports memoir. . . . Bracingly devoid of triumphalist homily, Agassi's is one of the most passionately anti-sports books ever written by a superstar athlete." - The New York Times
"Not your typical jock-autobio fare. This literate and absorbing book is, as the title baldly states, Agassi's confessional, a wrenching chronicle of his lifelong search for identity and serenity, on and off the court." - Los Angeles Times
"The writing here is exceptional. It is can't-put-down good." - Sports Illustrated
"An honest, substantive, insightful autobiography. . . . The bulk of this extraordinary book vividly recounts a lost childhood, a Dickensian adolescence, and a chaotic struggle in adulthood to establish an identity. . . . While not without excitement, Agassi's comeback to No. 1 is less uplifting than his sheer survival, his emotional resilience, and his good humor in the face of the luckless cards he was often dealt." - The Washington Post
"The most revealing, literate, and toes-stompingly honest sports autobiography in history" - Rick Reilly, ESPN
"Much more than a drug confession--Agassi weaves a fascinating tale of professional tennis and personal adversity. . . . His tale shows that success is measured both on and off the court." - New York Post
"Not only has Agassi 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." - Entertainment Weekly
"[A] heartfelt memoir . . . Agassi's style is open, all right, and his book, like so many of his tennis games, is a clear winner." - O, The Oprah Magazine
"Hard-won self-knowledge irradiates almost every page of Open. . . . Not just a first-rate sports memoir but a genuine bildungsroman, darkly funny yet also anguished and soulful. It confirms what Agassi's admirers sensed from the outset, that this showboat . . . was not clamoring for attention but rather conducting a struggle to wrest some semblance of selfhood from the sport that threatened to devour him." - The New York Times Book Review
"A riveting and reflective memoir by a man who rose to the top of his sport--despite hating it." - San Francisco Chronicle
"Celebrity tell-alls have rarely been this honest and this interesting." - Baltimore Sun
"A vivid portrait of the internal battle faced in some measure by every athlete." - Bloomberg News
"Articulate. . . . Expertly rendered." - The Morning News (Boston)
"Refreshingly candid. . . . This lively, revealing, and entertaining book is certain to roil the tennis world and make a big splash beyond." - Publishers Weekly