Thank god for Rick Reilly. In a blog post for ESPN THE MAG, it appears he’s shaken out all the interesting bits from Andre Agassi’s new book Open. The topper, at least to me, is Agassi admitting that he lost matches on purpose. But almost as perplexing as Agassi fully admitting that he tanked on occasion, like the Australian Open Final in ‘96, was Reilly describing his rhetoric has “hinting.” Judge for yourself:
Losing on purpose isn’t easy. You have to lose in such a way that the crowd can’t tell, and in a way that you can’t tell. Your mind is tanking, but your body is fighting on. … You don’t do those tiny things you need to do. You don’t run the extra few feet, you don’t lunge. You’re slow to come out of stops. You hesitate to bend or dig.”
Of losing in the semifinals of the 1996 Australian Open against Michael Chang — a match Agassi suggests he tanked — he writes, “I’m glad I lost.”
Does that sound like a hint to you? Or would Reilly prefer to be slugged in the head with a sledgehammer?
The other most alarming part of the book that we now know about is Agassi’s dad giving Andre “white pills” before matches as a kid. The ASSOCIATED PRESS has more on that:
Andre Agassi says in an excerpt from his soon-to-be-released autobiography that he swallowed a pill given to him by his father — apparently when he was a junior player — that he believes could have been the illegal drug speed.
In the latest passage revealed from the book Open, which was published Thursday in the German newspaper Bild, the eight-time Grand Slam champion says his father gave him an unidentified little white pill and he took it.
“I swallow it and I feel good. Not much different. A bit more alert,” Agassi wrote in comments translated from German, adding his brother Phillip had warned him against taking anything from their father because it was the amphetamine speed.
“‘Next time you go to the nationals and Paps gives you pills, don’t take them,”‘ Agassi quotes his brother as saying. “As Philly predicted, at the national tournament in Chicago, my father gave me a pill.”
Other hilites from Reilly’s Cliff’s Notes-version:
He was a bit of a pyromaniac. He liked to light things on fire. Once, on the balcony of a Munich hotel, he lit paper, clothes and shoes on fire, his way of coping with “extreme stress.”
He says he got married with lifts in his shoes at Shields’ request.
He says Shields got regular threats from stalkers, and he would put his longtime trainer, Gil Reyes, on a plane to stalk them back. “He … appears … at the stalker’s house or workplace … holds up the letter and says very softly, ‘I know who you are and where you live. … If you ever bother Brooke and Andre again, you will see me again, and you don’t want that,’” Agassi writes.
He describes rival Pete Sampras as one-dimensional, “robotic” and a bad tipper, recalling a time Sampras gave a Palm Springs car valet one dollar.
He saves no love for Jimmy Connors, whom he calls a “rude, condescending, egomaniac prick.”
He was incensed that Chang would point to the sky every time he won a match. “He thanks God — credits God — for the win, which offends me. That God should take sides in a tennis match, that God should side against me … feels ludicrous and insulting.”
Beginning in 1999, he says, he never played wearing underwear again.
As Tony K. noted on ESPN’s PTI today, you wonder if the book will live up to the excerpts that are out there. Or will this be like one of those movies that squeezes all the good parts into the trailer and there’s nothing left to see once you’re inside the theater.
My big takeaway from what I’ve seen so far is that Agassi hates the everyday world he has built for himself. He wants to escape it, which is why he throws everyone in that world under the bus in the book. This could be a prelude to him abandoning public life and all the acquaintances in it.
We’ll see how that’s going for him in a couple years. I believe he’s going to rue the day he threw out so many petty criticisms of people. The big stuff about himself, he can always weather and survive over time. But killing Sampras for tipping a valet a dollar - that’s the kind of thing that’s going to follow him around forever.