‘I hate tennis, hate it with all my heart and still I keep playing, keep hitting all morning and all afternoon, because I have no choice’ – Andre Agassi from his book ‘Open: An Autobiography’
This quote comes from Andre Agassi’s 2009 autobiography Open. Agassi, one of the big guns in tennis during the 1990’s and early 2000’s, was a very troubled young man. Despite having a highly successful career, having won 61 titles overall. When you break them down, there’s 8 Majors (4 Australian Open Titles, 1 French Open title, 1 Wimbledon title and 2 US Open titles), 1 ATP World Tour Finals title, and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics Gold Medal amongst all the ATP World Tour titles he’s won.
But underneath all of that, there is a very troubled man. A man who hates tennis with every fibre of his very being. A man who struggled with taunts from his vicious father, saying he wasn’t good enough and even went as far as offering him Ecstasy to try and improve his performance at a tournament as a child. As you can imagine, Agassi was very disappointed when his father accepted a scholarship offer for him to attend the Bolleterri Tennis Academy, meaning he had to spend every day doing something he hated passionately.
Before he knew it, he had was a ranked player on the tour, as much of a toll it took on him. After struggling on the tour for the first years of his career, he attempted to give it all up by giving all of his racquets away on random people on the street. But, of course, his father did not allow for this and insisted he invest in new ones. A few more years went by, and he began playing his best tennis, creating some of the best rivalries (with Pete Sampras and Jimmy Connors) knows to sport. Through all of this, he was completely tortured by doing something that he hates every single day for the best part of his life.
In 1997, Andre Agassi tested positive for Crystal Meth. This was during a very difficult time in his life, during a lull in his form and deep personal troubles. Not wanting to disappoint his father by getting in being banned from the sport, he told the ATP after being questioned about his positive test result that his manager at the time was a regular user of the drug and would take it by dissolving it into his soft drinks. The drugs got into Andre’s system when he mistook his managers soft drink for his own and drunk the spiked drink.
If Andre only had a good support network, a lot of his inner demons would never have become a problem. Having a good support network around you is often enough for you to get where you want to go. Having someone who believes in you is enough confidence to pick yourself up when you’ve been knocked down.