[You are reading the ninth in a series on Andre Agassi's 'Open'. Click here to start at the very beginning]
And just like that, riding a blazing wave of optimism, Agassi hits the road once more.
Or, you know, not quite.
He’s dropped to #141 in the rankings, and is playing Challengers in places like UNLV and public parks. Having to self regulate and fetch your own balls once again – oh the indignity of it all.
Agassi is humbled - at least that’s the way the Press see it.
His own view of things is rather different:
“I was humbled in the hotel room with Brad – I was humbled smoking Meth with slim - now I’m just glad to be out here.”
-- ‘Open’ An Autobiography
But it was at this point too that Agassi would begin to fashion (with Perry’s help) the beginnings of what would eventually be known as “The Andre Agassi Foundation with Education”.
And despite everything still being in it’s infancy, it’s effect on his tennis is electric.
His results don’t suddenly improve of course – but there’s an unmistakable paradigm shift in almost every other sphere; a palpable sensitivity and respect towards the game.
At Key Biscayne, he describes himself as “crazy to win” rather than desirous of avoiding a loss, so long the staple of a pre-Philanthropic Andre. An exact inversion in fact, of his earlier years.
‘Open’ presents these feelings of elation as being born of playing for his foundation, clearly a higher purpose; one that’s “large than myself - yet still closely connected to me – it bears my name but isn't about me”
When a shoulder injury he receives attempting to parry the powerful ground strokes of an angry young Russian going by the name of Marat Safin, puts him on the sidelines for a while, he even speaks of missing being on court. “I will never again take for granted the privilege of hurting on a court”.
Noble sentiments indeed, and as close as you might ever get to a religious experience on a tennis court, without the aid of Gack.
With this spiritual upgrade going on, it’s only natural that order be restored in other spheres of his life, and time is finally called (by Brooke) on the troubled and incongruent match up that is “Brandre”.
The episode is subject to the same breezy treatment we saw with Gak, but this time it was a little too skittish for me.
In their efforts at limiting the episode to what he presumably thinks are the most pivotal moments, the narrative lost much of it’s powerful honesty.
It’s not that I find Andre’s recollection of events difficult to accept – as with any break up it’s impossible to know what actually happened.
“Us is hard”, “You just want to stay home and watch TV”, “Your friends are bad for you” are common enough complaints in any relationship – but ‘Open’ lays out the details of the final moments of “Brandre” like a film script for a daytime soap from the nineties.
Andre comes off as the stereotypical “Frat Boy” that chooses to harbour latent resentment instead of expressing any honest emotion about the state of their relationship.
Brooke comes off as a slightly overbearing and demanding “Prom Queen”, someone intent on turning him into something he’s clearly not happy being.
Reality is usually a lot more complex than that.
It’s all very ‘high schooly’ – in fact the moments that led up to this showdown, where the ever increasing distance between the two is revealed in dribs and drabs of mutual apathy towards that growing distance, came off as far more realistic and honest.
I suspect the specific intention behind this selective narrative has a lot to do with not wanting to dig up the past – not any more than is necessary to shed some light into the turmoil within Andre’s head – and as a sentiment I laud that.
People will take what they want from this episode – and Andre is probably laying out an honest account of what he thought was wrong with the relationship.
But his cause would I felt, have been helped by – dare I say it – a slightly more ‘Open’ exploration: how much truth there is to many of her complaints against him is never given much attention (other than admitting that he would prefer a night in in front of the TV, or with JP and his wife round for dinner), nor does he ever admit to anything he might have done to contribute to the relationship’s demise.
I don’t think it would have changed anyone’s opinion that they were an ill-matched pair, both young rich and famous, and with careers that were pulling them in different directions.
But the book deserves it. More than it deserves this last installment of the 'MTV' edition of ‘Brandre’ – the only point I felt he was a little let down by the writing.
Agassi was clearly affected by the break up – but we only know this from the tears he sheds when he stops his car a mile away, having quickly thrown some essentials into it’s back seat and pulled out of their ‘sterile’ home for the very last time.