I swore that I would never buy the Agassi book "Open". In the interest of full disclosure, my two experiences with him with both somewhat less than extraordinary. Firstly, he mocked my college teammate/friend ON-COURT after they played in the first round of the Sybase Open in San Jose. After beating my friend 2 & 2 in what was a very uneventful match. The on-court interviewer asked after the match, "So what do you think of the future of your opponent, 18-year old Ryan Wolters?" Now, even if Agassi didn't think much of Ryan (who was #1 in the country in college at the time and a consistent sportsmanship winner) he could have thrown Ryan a bone and said something about how it would be great to see another American do well. Instead, Agassi smirked and deadpanned, "Well...I'd love to play him again in the next round." I admit, it was a very funny/witty line. But it emitted that awkward silence that arose from the crowd similarly to when Agassi recently called Sampras cheap during a charity exhibition.
A couple of years later, I ran into Agassi at a country club in Los Angeles. Andre had just finished a practice session and he was signing autographs with his wife at the time Brook Shields. Being that I was trying to play pro tennis for a living and he had publicly dissed my friend, I went to get Brooke's autograph while my friends went to get Andre's autograph. When we got there he reached for my pen and I nervously said, "I actually don't want your autograph. I want Brooke's autograph." He ended the autograph session right there, bumped me as he left the crowd, and cursed at me under his breath. The ironic thing was that Brooke heard the whole thing and if it wasn't for the fact that I was a struggling tennis player and she was a famous actress, my friends and I could have swore she starting acting flirty towards me.
Recently, I was given the book "Open" as a gift. I steadfastly refused to read it but came to my senses when a student's father smartly mentioned that as a coach I should read it for the insight...and he was 100% right. I'm in the middle of it now and I have one issue with it. I don't care about the drugs. I am completely against them but if he wanted to do damage to himself, that's unfortunate but his business. My issue is that for him to say how much he disliked tennis is to completely ignore how much tennis has given to him. He also likes to include that although he hated tennis when he was young, he was really good. Am I crazy, but to achieve a sick amount of success and fame aren't there going to be not so fun behind the scenes moments where you have to practice and play when you don't feel like it. I realize he didnt feel much of a choice when he was young. This playing with "the dragon" helped give him all the fame, money and opportunities he could ever want. I may sound like a hater, Im not trying to. But if Andre could wish he could give it back then he shouldn't call "his people" to get that dinner reservation or courtside seats opportunities that being a good tennis player has undoubtedly given him. It is disrespectful to the game that has given him back so much.
As far as Agassi's mention of Sampras being cheap. I was lucky enough to practice with Sampras when he was in New York City 10 years ago. It was one of the best experiences of my life. Seeing people's faces when they walked onto their seasonal courts and seeing Sampras playing on the court next to the them was awesome. He was also very nice, funny, open and inquisitive about my career. I was a Sampras fan for life. However, when we walked in and the club told us that the court and two cans of balls would be $46. He fumbled around as if he had no money on him and I laid down the most memorable $46 of my life!
Ricky Becker is The Director of Tennis at the prestigious Pine Hollow Country Club and independently coaches high-performance juniors year-round predominantly at Bethpage Park Tennis Center. As a player, Becker was awarded Most Valuable Player for the 1996 NCAA Championship Stanford Tennis Team and 1989-1992 Roslyn High School Teams. He was ranked number one in the Eastern Section and fourth in the United States in the 18-and-unders. He can be reached at email@example.com, 516-359-4843 or via JuniorTennisConsulting.com.