When Andre Agassi decided to tell his life story — all of it — he knew he would reopen old wounds in his soul.
He also knew he was going to inflict new wounds. But if the Las Vegas tennis legend was going to be totally honest, he was going to have to confront his demons one more time.
Agassi’s highs — his eight Grand Slam victories — and his lows, including his use of crystal meth — are laid out in a book appropriately titled "Open."
The 386-page autobiography, which goes on sale today (Alfred Knopf Publishing, $28.95), doesn’t hold anything back, with Agassi’s dislike of the sport that made him famous a constant theme throughout.
"It flies in the face of how people perceived me," Agassi said of exposing his human side.
"I had demons I had to fight through."
Agassi said in a recent phone interview that writing the book was a catharsis for his soul.
"I felt it was important to move forward with my life and tell my story," he said.
Agassi, who will hold a public book signing tonight at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas, goes into great detail about his childhood, about being pushed into tennis by father Mike. About being sent to Nick Bollettieri’s Tennis Academy in Florida when he was 13, which he likened to being sent to prison. About trying to be successful early in his pro career and his frustration at being unable to please those he wanted to please the most.
"People ask me if I had a love-hate relationship with tennis," Agassi said in the phone interview. "Actually, it was a hate-love relationship. I hated it as a kid. I hated it as a teenager. When I hit rock bottom at age 27, I took control of my life, and it was at that point where I could love tennis."
Agassi reveals his despair over his career, his failed marriage to actress Brooke Shields, his recreational use of crystal meth and how his career was on the brink of ending as he plummeted in the rankings in 1997.
His drug use has been criticized by those in tennis. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the game’s current top two players, have been critical. So has legend Martina Navratilova, who likened Agassi’s crystal meth use to Roger Clemens’ alleged use of steroids.
"Sure, it’s disappointing," Agassi said of the criticism from his peers. "Those are feelings I’ve had about myself. I was angry at myself.
"But none of it surprises me. People are going to say what they want. It’s just one small window of a large life I’ve had. If people want to focus on that window, I can’t stop them."
Agassi was paid $5 million advance on the book. Contrary to rumors, the money is not going to his foundation or his charter school.
"This is not about tying the foundation to book sales," Agassi said. "This was personal for me, and I had way more to lose than to gain in writing this book.
"But I’m so proud of the book. I’m proud of my life — not all parts of my life — but I have no regrets at all. The timing was perfect. It’s the start of a new life for me. If I had waited, it would have been very difficult to do a book."
Agassi is going through a legal battle with one-time best friend and manager Perry Rogers. But Agassi is complimentary to Rogers throughout the book.
He also is fair to Shields while ebullient in his praise of Gil Reyes, his strength and conditioning coach and confidante.
He talks of his romance with fellow tennis legend Steffi Graf, their subsequent marriage and their two children, Jaden and Jaz.
"You’re not going to cover everything in 400 pages," he said. "This wasn’t about settling scores or about others. It was about me and my experiences."
Agassi is looking forward to tonight’s book signing in his hometown and to meeting the public in the weeks ahead.
"I’m thrilled to get this book into people’s hands," he said. "This book has power.
"I think many of the things in the book were painful to revisit. But if I can inspire one person with my story, it’s worth everything I went through."
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913.BOOK SIGNING EVENTS
Las Vegans will have two opportunities to meet tennis star Andre Agassi and get his autobiography — appropriately titled "Open" — signed.
The first is at 7 p.m. today at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas; the second is Nov. 22 at the Costco in Summerlin, 801 S. Pavilion Center Drive.
A ticket is needed to attend tonight’s event at Encore.
Tickets are free and are available at any Borders bookstores in Las Vegas.
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