Open (2009) is a revealing account of the turbulent life of one of America’s all-time best tennis players. More than anything else, it’s a story of Agassi’s battle for balance and self-understanding, all while dealing with the constant stream of complications that arose from fame and public scrutiny.
Andre Agassi has been blasting back tennis balls for as long as he can remember. At the age of seven, Agassi faced off every day against a machine that his father had built in their backyard in Las Vegas, Nevada. Agassi called this contraption “the dragon.” It growled and bellowed smoke as it shot out tennis balls like a cannon. Agassi faced up to 2,500 balls a day as his father barked directions at him from behind: “Hit harder!” “Hit earlier!”
In these circumstances, it’s easy to understand why Agassi hated the dragon and the sport of tennis. But Agassi’s father wasn't just determined for his son to succeed. He was prone to violence as well. Agassi didn’t dare resist.
An image of his father’s aggression is still etched in Agassi’s mind. One day Agassi senior, in a fit of road rage, pulverized another driver with his fists and left him unconscious in the middle of the street. Would he die? Or would another car accidentally run over him? All this had happened simply because the other driver had honked his horn.
The pressure was palpable. His father's demands and expectations had a source. He himself had dreamed of becoming a famous tennis player. As a young child in Tehran, Agassi’s father had watched British and American soldiers playing the game. In fact, he’d even acted as a ball boy for them.
Sadly, there weren’t any other kids with whom he could play tennis, and Agassi’s father took up boxing instead. He even represented Iran in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics.
He never won a medal himself, but he was damned sure his son wouldn’t be short of them. He wanted his son to become the best in the world.