When I read Andre Agassi’s autobiography, “Open”, I was going through a dark time. At the age of 15, I had just been placed on final warning at my school – one step away from expulsion. I was struggling with deep-rooted psychological issues, for which I was scared to seek help, and even my relationship with my father – which had always been my one constant – was beginning to deteriorate.
What struck me was how fundamentally similar he seemed to me. Both of us were incredibly self-conscious – and we both masked it by acting out. It had nearly cost Agassi his career in the late 1990’s, when he started using crystal meth and dropped from 1st to 141st in the ATP World Rankings. Having been in serious trouble at school myself, I felt I understood his behaviour.
Another topic he discussed in-depth was how he got himself into a marriage with actress Brooke Shields that he did not even want. At the time, I could not fathom how it could happen. However, in my first year at Rhodes, I found myself in a dark space again and found myself using an obviously unhealthy relationship as an escape.
With the benefit of hindsight, I realise that although I didn’t fall quite as deep into this self-induced relationship crisis as the eight-time grand slam winner, I most certainly pulled an Andre.
Agassi is a walking contradiction – a perfectionist with a self-destructive edge rooted in low self-esteem. Most readers probably didn’t understand how – even when ranked first in the world and married to Shields – he still felt so trapped that he risked throwing his entire life away.
What many people don’t understand is that when your core sense of self-worth is impaired, you can never be satisfied even by the finest objects, titles, and achievements anyone could ask for. It quite simply feels as if nothing you do is good enough.
Agassi was forced into tennis – a sport he despised – by his father, so it was little surprise that he felt purposeless even when there was nobody better at his job than him. However, he regained control of his life when he had an epiphany and realised that even though he hated his circumstances, he still had the opportunity to take ownership for his career and life.
“Open” is a must-read for everybody who has ever woken up in a job or relationship they didn’t want – and everyone who was constantly told that they were doing fantastically well at life, but felt as if it was all based on lies.
As Agassi said in the book himself: “Feeling depressed after a loss is one thing, but feeling depressed about nothing, about life in general, is another thing altogether. The minds of the everlasting gods are not changed suddenly.”