SPIEGEL Interview with Andre Agassi 'I Really Hated Tennis'

Part 3: Why He Wrote 'Open'


SPIEGEL: You were called arrogant.

Agassi: I know, but the truth is that I did not know who I was. I was afraid of losing, of the blame and the jokes, of the public and of my father. I really hated tennis.

SPIEGEL: Then why did you write this book?

Agassi: I felt like I had a lot of things to say. I felt that there are a lot of people who wake up in a life they didn't choose. There's a lot of grown-ups that are in a marriage they don't want to be in. There's a lot of teenagers trying hopelessly to understand themselves. And I felt a book could be a platform to give people hope, inspiration and the tools to better their life.

SPIEGEL: Isn't that a bit much? That sounds like a missionary's approach.

Agassi: Well, if I did not believe that people might learn a lot about me -- and maybe a lot about themselves -- through my story, I wouldn't have done it.

SPIEGEL: I guess you didn't need the money, did you?

Agassi: (laughs) I have a lot more to lose than to gain with what I've written. I put endorsements on the line, but also my reputation, my character -- or how it is perceived -- and some relationships. What do you think of the book?

SPIEGEL: It seems rare and special. Books by or about athletes usually just stay on the surface. They go from victory to victory and, along the road, you are served up cliched lessons like "Always focus on the next point." Your book is stronger: It reaches deeper, and it doesn't spare anyone.

Agassi: Yes, while I do not spare others, I certainly do not spare myself.

SPIEGEL: The Australian novelist Lily Brett once said: "If you write a book, you've got to write your heart out."

Agassi: You've got one chance to tell your story; you've got to give it all you've got. It's like in sports or when you are pregnant or when you become a father: You have to commit without fearing failure. I had no idea where this would lead me. I knew the different stories of my life but not the meaning, not the story of it all. I had the pearls but no idea what the necklace would look like.

SPIEGEL: Books on sports are usually a lot like cheating: There are five or six interviews, and then a ghostwriter sits down and pens something nice -- and everybody makes money.

Agassi: Maybe, but I wanted something different. When I went into retirement three years ago, I was reading this book called "The Tender Bar" and rationing its pages because it was giving me an escape from a lot of the feelings I was going through. It was so powerful. I wondered if my life -- looked at through a literary lens -- could impact somebody the way this book impacted me. What would my life look like through a real deep analytical view of my psyche and my contradictions?

SPIEGEL: So you approached Moehringer without an advance payment or a publishing contract?

Agassi: Yes, I reached out to this author, J.R. Moehringer, and he did not want to do it. He was flattered and honored, but he didn't seem to think this was something that could work. Then we just started talking anyway. After a while, we started taping the conversations; and, from there, it just went on. We had the tapes transcribed and organized; it was several hundred hours. We read old news stories, watched the old videos, and talked to people who had been on this journey with me. J.R. wrote the first draft. Then we set down together and formed the story. It took eight versions and over three years.

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