Tale of a talisman
December 30, 2009 1 Comment
I am no Times Literary Supplement to ‘review’ a book but it is not very often that I have felt this urge to write about a book even before I have finished reading it.
Yesterday as I reached home my parents had a quizzical look on their face as they handed me a brown wrapper.
‘Another online purchase is it ?’ my father asked. I said yes and rushed to my room to open the wrapper to lay my hands on the ‘open’.
‘Open – An autobiography’ by the talisman from Las Vegas, ‘Athimber’ Andre Agassi. (The bit about Athimber, see footnote)
As usual I went directly for the photographs. Surprisingly (actually not, I found later) there is no exclusive photo section. The photographs are ‘seamlessly integrated’ to use a jargon with the narrative, something unique. Sadly they are not in colour, I wonder why.
Besides cricket, the only other sport that could keep me engrossed is Tennis. Despite Leander and Mahesh, we don’t have home grown tennis greats to idiolise and hence we have little choice but to look for American or European players.
McEnroe never impressed me for all his greatness, Connors too wasn’t eye-catching and so it was all left to Edbergs, Beckers, Ivanasavics, Sabatinis et all. There were three players outside of this group that I hate to group as ‘Tennis players’.
Pete Sampras is to me the ‘God of Tennis’ Federer notwithstanding; Steffi Graf was to me the epitome of achievement and Agassi, the ultimate showman.
This autobiography is all about me correcting myself for everything that I thought about Agassi. I am in Page 172, near mid-point of this book but as I said, I couldn’t resist writing this first up this morning.
Yesterday, actually today, I cursed myself for feeling sleepy at 3 a.m ; I missed an opportunity to finish the book.
I thought that I had understood the meaning of the word often used in book reviews – “unputdownable” – but yesterday it assumed newer proportions and meanings.
I am still dazed by what I have read ; what I am reading and with bated breath awaiting for what’s on store in the next pages.
I don’t think there can be a champion quite like Agassi. I have lost count of the number of times he says that he actually “hates tennis”.
I am still undecided about whether Agassi’s father was his curse or blessing. I am amazed at the kind of childhood that Agassi has had. The ruthless, emotionless, almost cold-blooded father that he had.
I am not going to write anything about the contents of the book, that in my view would be a huge injustice to those who are yet to read it.
Agassi’s a tale of ‘Champions being made’ not born ; The insights that the 170 odd pages have given on what goes through in the mind of a champion is truly amazing.
I think I can make some assertions here :
a) Natural talent isn’t half as important as hardwork and determination.
b) Champions are not made by the “right” coaches but by “right” people.
c) Support systems for a Champion are almost as important as the champion himself.
Agassi despite his claims of not having completed school writes wonderfully well laced with sparkling wit and humour. And I don’t think he has ghost-written this. Some of the words I am sure can only be coming from the heart of Agassi, never from a ghost-writer or a scribe even if Agassi had employed Shakespeare for the job.
Agassi’s candor is strikingly refreshing ; We have only known those who’d claim to have ‘spotted’ a Champion several years before anyone else knew him but Agassi shows no such false pretensions.
He puts down Sampras and is bold enough to say that Chang and Courier were a lot inferior than him. He doesn’t even spare the seniors of his time. He is bold enough to call Connors an “asshole” for his prudish behavior. And he calls Jeff Tarango a cheat.
He is quite hard on the man who churned champions from his ‘Tennis Factory’ Nick Bollettieri accusing him of not being there when he needed him the most.
I am yet to come to the section where Agassi would describe his relationships or his use of crystal meth but what the heck, I don’t care.
In this book Agassi shatters every myth about Champions and firmly establishes that Champions are first humans. It is so bloody honest and straight from his heart. Nothing else to me matters.
I don’t think there will be a better book about Tennis except of course if Pete Sampras would write one. I am completely swayed by this honest, down-to-earth detailed book of what it takes to be a Champion.
‘Open’ An Autobiography by Andre Agassi : Buy it, Open it and there is a good chance that you may, like me, would never want the book to end.
- ‘Athimber’ in Brahmanical tamil is Brother-in-law. Since Graf was our ‘adopted sister’, once married her, he naturally became our BIL.
- My friend MJR Krishnan may refuse to believe this: but Krish, it is true. Agassi once lost to ‘Ramesh Krishnan’, the Thacchi Mammu (Thayir Sadam or Curd rice) from Madras.