Enigmatic tennis great Agassi lays it all on the line.
Near the end of his beefy confession, the author excerpts one of the more famous passages from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”: “Do I contradict myself? / Very well, then, I contradict myself.” It’s a powerful invocation that resonates well with the portrait unveiled here of the boy born with spondylolisthesis and racked with lower-back pain; the rebel who quit school at 14 but went on to found an academy for underprivileged children; the world-class player who won eight Grand Slam titles yet sometimes hated tennis because of his overbearing father (“Bad things happen when my father is upset. If he says I’m going to play tennis, if he says I’m going to be number one in the world, that it’s my destiny, all I can do is nod and obey”); the champion who became, at age 33, the oldest player to be ranked No. 1. From a heart-wrenching childhood loss to a cheating Jeff Tarango to his last professional victory, a brutal five-setter against Marcos Baghdatis, Agassi’s photographic recall of pivotal matches evokes the raw intensity of watching them from the stands. Lovers of the sport will also appreciate this window into the mind of a champion who lived and breathed his father’s belief that “tennis is noncontact pugilism. It’s violent, mano a mano, and the choice is as brutally simple as in any ring. Kill or be killed. Beat or take your beat-down.” Those intrigued by Agassi’s personal life will relish the accounts of his significant romantic liaisons, particularly his obsession with and eventual wooing of current wife, Steffi Graf, and his team mentality in building a close support network.
An ace of a tale about how one man found his game.