“Open” – The Aftermath of a Savage Battle

People either loved him or hated him, but in the end, they all cheered.

Andre Agassi spent his entire life playing a sport that he despised. Working relentlessly to become the world’s best, and to go down in history as one of the greatest tennis players of all time.

He was often criticized for his appearance and was seemingly misunderstood. He didn’t fit in with the tennis crowd. He was just a punk interrupting traditional norms.

But in the end, they all rose to their feet and cheered loudly in celebration of his career, his journey, and his performance in, arguably, one of the greatest matches that he ever played.

“Open” is the powerful and riveting autobiography of Andre Agassi.

“One of the best sports autobiographies of all time…One of the better memoirs out there, period.”

– Time

I fell in love with this book the instant that I picked it up. I was deeply inspired and endlessly entertained.

It’s one thing to read unknown details of the people who live in the eyes of the world, amongst the Gods. It’s another to be exposed to how human they really are.

I revisited various sections of this book last week and found myself, again, mesmerized by the stories that make up his extraordinary life. All of the emotions came rushing back as I bounced from one section to the next.

Below, is a part that holds a special place in my heart. It brought back all of the goods so I wanted to share with you here.

Context: This comes at the very end of the first chapter,  entitled “The End”. It is the immediate aftermath of a match against Marco Baghdatis in the 2006 U.S. Open – Andre Agassi’s last Open ever. His last tournament ever.

Enjoy!

I don’t dare stop. Must keep moving. I stagger through the tunnel, my bag slung over my left shoulder, feeling as if it’s slung over my right shoulder, because my whole body is twisted. By the time I reach the locker room I’m unable to walk. I’m unable to stand. I’m sinking to the floor. I’m on the ground. Darren and Gil arrive, slip my bag off my shoulder and lift me onto a table. Baghdatis’s (opponent) people deposit him on the table next to me…

A Kaleidoscope of faces appears above me. Gil, squeezing my arm, handing me a recovery drink. I love you, Gil. Stefani (Graff), kissing me on the forehead and smiling – happy or nervous, I can’t tell. Oh, yes, of course, that’s where I’ve seen that smile before. A trainer, telling me the doctors are on the way. He turns on the TV above the table. Something to do while you wait, he says.

I try to watch. I hear moans to my left. I turn my head slowly and see Baghdatis on the next table. His team is working on him. They stretch his quad, his hamstring cramps. He tries to lie flat, his groin cramps. He curls into a ball and begs them to leave him be. Everyone clears out of the locker room. It’s just the two of us. I turn back to the TV.

Moments later something makes me turn back to Baghdatis. He’s smiling at me. Happy or nervous? Maybe both. I smile back. I hear my name coming from the TV. I turn my head. Highlights from the match. The first two sets, so misleadingly easy. The third, Baghdatis starting to believe. The fourth, a knife fight. The fifth, the never-ending ninth game. Some of the best tennis I’ve ever played. Some of the best I’ve ever seen. The commentator calls it a classic. In my peripheral vision I detect slight movement. I turn to see Baghdatis extending his hand. His face says, We did that. I reach out, take his hand, and we remain this way, holding hands, as the TV flickers with scenes of our savage battle.

At last, I let my mind go where it’s wanted to go. I can’t stop it anymore. No longer asking politely, my mind is now forcibly spinning me into the past. And because my mind notes and records the slightest details, I see everything with bright, startling clarity, every setback, victory, rivalry, tantrum, paycheck, girlfriend, betrayal, reporter, wife, child, outfit, fan letter, grudge match, and crying jag. As if a second TV above me were showing highlights from the last twenty-nine years, it all flies past in a high-def whirl.

People often ask what it’s like, this tennis life, and I can never think how to describe it. But that word comes closest. More than anything else, it’s a wrenching, thrilling, horrible, astonishing whirl. It even exerts a faint centrifugal force, which I’ve spent three decades fighting. Now, lying on my back under Arthur Ashe Stadium, holding hands with a vanquished opponent and waiting for someone to come help us, I do the only thing I can do. I stop fighting it. I just close my eyes and watch.

*****There are multiple You Tube videos of this match. Here is one that I found under 2 minutes of just some quick highlights. LINK

I hope that you enjoyed as much as I did.

BOOK

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