Agassi’s Sour Grapes: The US Tennis Open

by Mark Richardson


Rafael Nadal, 2012


The US Open has kicked off its second week in Flushing Meadows, Queens, NY. The US Open, formally the United States Open Tennis Championships, is a hardcourt tennis tournament which is the modern iteration of one of the oldest tennis championships in the world, the U.S. National Championship, where men’s singles was first contested in 1881.

Although the literary buzz being generated comes from the new Rafael Nadal biography, I’d rather take a quick look at Andre Agassi’s book, Open.


Andre Agassi, Martin Schoeller/Knopf


Open, in my opinion, sets the bar for sports-related biographies. It’s beautifully written by J.R. Moehringer, who penned his own autobiography called The Tender Bar.  Open is told in a fast-paced, first person voice that drags the reader along. It’s also told in the present tense, which gives readers insights into how Andre felt at the time. I liked that. Open is more than a simple a recounting of Andre’s athletic triumphs. I really enjoyed learning about Andre’s childhood, and how his father forced him to focus on tennis at the exclusion of anything else. The result was that Andre became one of the greatest players ever, but he also grew to hate tennis.

There were a couple of things about Open that rubbed me the wrong way. I’m sure there’s a tendency when telling your life story to cast yourself as the hero, to gloss over your failings, to have a ready explanation for any egregious act. Andre definitely fell into that trap. But the bigger issue I had, was some of the cheap shots at Pete Sampras. I detected the smell of sour grapes (Andre did, after all, have a 0-6 record vs. Sampras at Wimbledon and the US Open). I’m sure Andre would just say he was being honest, “Open.”


Andre Agassi, signing “Open” in Berlin


Still, this was a very good read, and impossible to put down.

Note: In the first few years of the United States National Championship, only men competed. The tournament was first held in August 1881 at the Newport Casino, Newport, Rhode Island and in that first year only clubs that were members of the United States National Lawn Tennis Association were permitted to enter. From 1884 through 1911, the tournament used a challenge system whereby the defending champion automatically qualified for the next year’s final. In 1915, the tournament moved to the West Side Tennis Club at Forest Hills, New York. From 1921 through 1923, it was played at the Germantown Cricket Club in Philadelphia and returned to Forest Hills in 1924.


Rafael Nadal


Previous post:

Next post: