“Open” by Andre Agassi

Since my grandparents arrived in the Czech Republic a few weeks ago and my grandmother wants to spend as much time as possible with Sofia, I have a lot more time to read. I have been reading as much as I can swallowing books like a madman. For some good balance, I am now alternating between fiction and non-fiction with my latest read being “Open” by Andre Agassi. It is an autobiography and I had a lot of fun learning more about tennis.

I did not know about Andre Agassi before reading his biography. And if you don’t know either, as Nicolas described him, he won a few slams, was okay and then he had an angry. Haha, pretty accurate for a short summary. I would also add that he is married to one of the greatest tennis players of all time – Steffi Graf.

I watch Stefanie watching kids, smiling and I think of the four of us, four distinct Personalities. Four Different surfaces. And yet a matching set. Complete. On the eve of my final tournament, I enjoy that sense we all seek, that knowledge we get only a few times in life, that the themes of our life are connected, the seeds of our ending were there in the beginning, and vice versa.

All jokes aside, I found the biography interesting, although slightly too long, specifically in the description of tennis matches that were quite detailed. Besides that, the book was quite insightful, especially about being a high-profile athlete. I think my two takeaways from the book were that you can be physically fit but mental fitness is way more important for success and that you can be good at something but not necessary love something when it is not connected to a purpose. Also, as I suspected, every athlete’s career is a journey with lots of ups and downs – not just a glimmering success of what we are seeing on TV.

Life is a tennis match between polar opposites. Winning and losing, love and hate, open and closed. It helps to recognize that painful act early. Then recognize the polar opposites within yourself, and if you can’t embrace them or reconcile them, at least accept them and move on. The only thing that you cannot do is ignore them.

For a while in the book, I was wondering why Agassi was so discontent and angry even though he seemed to be successful. He went through a lot of rollercoasters with his anger and perfectionism. I could not quite understand but later in the book he shares how he always hated tennis because it was lacking purpose for him until he found one that was bigger than himself.

***

“Also, I tell reporters, I have game left. I don’t know how much, but some. I still think I can win.
Again, they stare.
Maybe they’re confused because I don’t tell them the full story, don’t explain my full motivation. I can’t, since I’m only slowly becoming aware of it myself. I play and keep playing because I choose to play. Even if it’s not your ideal life, you can always choose it. No matter what your life is, choosing it changes everything.”

***

“After dinner Mandela stands and gives a stirring talk. His theme: we must all care for one another – this is our task in life. But also we must care for ourselves, which means we must be careful in our decisions, careful in our relationships, careful in our statements. We must manage our lives carefully, in order to avoid becoming victims. I feel as if he’s speaking directly to me, as if he’s aware that I’ve been careless with my talent and my health.”

***

“Our best intentions are often thwarted by external forces – forces that we ourselves set in motion long ago. Decisions, especially bad ones, create their own kind of momentum, and momentum can be a bitch to stop, as every athlete knows. Even when we vow to change, even when we sorrow and atone for our mistakes, the momentum of our past keeps carrying us down the wrong road. Momentum rules the world. Momentum says: Hold on, not so fast, I’m still running things here. As a friend likes to say: quoting an old Greek poem: The minds of the everlasting gods are not changed suddenly.”

***

“But I don’t feel that Wimbledon has changed me. I feel, in fact, as if I’ve been let in on a dirty little secret: winning changes nothing. Now that I’ve won a slam, I know something that very few people on earth are permitted to know. A win doesn’t feel as good as a loss feels bad, and the good feeling doesn’t last as long as the bad. Not even close.”

***

“Even the structure of tennis, the way the pieces fit inside one another like Russian nesting dolls, mimics the structure of our days. Points become games become sets become tournaments, and it’s all so tightly connected that any point can become the turning point. It reminds me of the way seconds become minutes become hours, and any hour can be our finest. Or darkest. It’s our choice.”

***

“Life will throw everything but the kitchen sink in your path, and then it will throw the kitchen sink. It’s your job to avoid obstacles. If you let them stop you or distract you, you’re not doing your job, and failing to do your job will cause regrets that paralyze you more than a bad back.”

***

“The finish line at the end of a career is no different from the finish line at the end of a match. The objective is to get within reach of that finish line, because then it gives off a magnetic force. When you’re close, you can feel that force pulling you, and you can use that force to get across. But just before you come within range, or just after, you feel another force, equally strong, pushing you away. It’s inexplicable, mystical, these twin forces, these contradictory energies, but they both exist. I know, because I’ve spent much of my life seeking the one, fighting the other, and sometimes I’ve been stuck, suspended, bounced like a tennis ball between the two.”

***

Although “Open” was a bit too long to my taste, I still recommend it as a great autobiography to read!

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