Wow. Okay, although I must confess to taking a few tennis lessons in my life and, on occasion, watching Wimbledon, that is the extent of my interest in tennis. I recommended this book as a present for my son, who I am valiantly trying to get to read more. Tennis isn't his game, but I read reviews of this book and thought it might catch his interest. It had caught mine. After seeing it parked on his dresser for nearly six months without having been moved a single inch, I thought, hmmmm, does this live up to the hype? You bet your sweet ass.
First of all, any book that throws down the gauntlet and says, yeah, I know you don't know anything about "fill in the blank," but you're going to learn and you're going to like it has my respect. I feel that way about John McPhee's books. This is solely down to an author's expertise. In any one else's hands the very concept wouldn't get me by the second page. And while Agassi's book is ghostwritten, there is absolutely no denying that it's Andre Agassi's voice on the page. By page 2 this book owned me. Seriously.
I tore through it, relishing every single, fascinating description of the matches that Agassi played. Of course, what sells this book is that these aren't just descriptions of matches. They are Agassi's evaluation of both his mental and physical state and judgments of his opponents' mental and physical state. The psychological aspects of this book were a surprise and a real treat. How a match can turn depending on the mental shift of a player. How to evaluate a player's strengths and turn them into weaknesses. This is all told against the backdrop of what is now a familiar story with prodigy child athletes: abusive, ambitious father, athlete mills (similar to puppy mills), etc. It's a poignant read (ghost written, which Agassi freely admits in an afterword), funny in many places, gripping in others, and fascinating to watch a young man who was certainly swallowed up by the machine of professional sports but didn't, in the end, let them spit him out. I highly recommend this book.