September 4th, 2010
12:48 PM ET

Andre Agassi's life is an 'Open' book

Jim Kavanagh

(CNN) - Andre Agassi felt his life was not his own until he was nearly 30, and now he wants to help young people take charge of their own lives, the retired tennis star told CNN's Anderson Cooper.

In "Open: An Autobiography," Agassi describes the loneliness and pressure of growing up under his father's relentless expectations of greatness.

"It was definitely a life I didn't choose," Agassi said during an interview for CNN’s "Anderson Cooper 360°."

The former No. 1 tennis player in the world wrote that he resented what the pursuit of stardom did to his childhood and self worth.

"Do you really hate tennis? (If so,) I think you misdirect it," he told Cooper. "I think you hate what tennis does to your family, you hate what tennis makes you feel."

The flamboyant clothes and long hair for which he was famous early in his career were not self-expression but a quest for identity, he said.

He said his resentment hurt his game.

"I could have been better," the eight-time Grand Slam tournament winner and Olympic gold medalist told Cooper.

He admits in the book that he used crystal meth for a time, and he told Cooper that sports' governing bodies need to set and enforce strict standards on the use of performance-enhancing and recreational drugs.

Agassi's father, whose blind ambition caused Agassi so much misery, hasn't read the book, he said. "’What the hell do I need a book for? I was there, I was there,’" Agassi said his father told him.

His father's only regret is that he didn't push Agassi into golf or baseball instead of tennis, "’because you can play longer and make more money,’" Agassi said with a laugh, recounting a conversation with his father.

"And I said, 'You know what? God bless you, man. God bless you.' He was clear then and he's clear now, and we all should be so lucky to know ourselves so well."

Agassi, who dropped out of school after ninth grade to pursue his tennis career, now owns a K-12 charter school in Las Vegas, Nevada. The 653 students attend tuition-free.

"With education comes choices, comes options," Agassi told Cooper. "My goal is to take (my pool of resources) and give that to those children who society says we should write off, that don't have a chance."

Filed under: 360º Follow
soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. tony

    What a sad individual. His unconventional (i.e., immature) conduct early in his career was obviously a poorly crafted cry for attention. Years later, after all that tennis provided him, Andre still yearns for attention. Perhaps he should consider what his life would have been like otherwise, i.e., as a high school drop out.

    September 6, 2010 at 3:03 am |
  2. Koge

    Sorry you were doing this for your father. I pray you find peace and identity in Jesus Christ

    September 6, 2010 at 1:21 am |
  3. toddsaed

    Agassi won the Golden Career Grand Slam, having won the Olympics too, which was not played by the earlier slammers. His wife won the Grand Slam, one of three women, and the only one to win the Golden Grand Slam. I wold pick her as greatest woman player, a possible toss up with another slammer , Margaret Smith because of her serve

    September 5, 2010 at 10:07 pm |
  4. kirsi mikkola

    really cool guy , a really great role-model.

    September 5, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
  5. Steve Coppens

    Choices eh?
    Please read Freedom, a book by Jonathan Franzen
    Then we'll talk again Andre...

    September 5, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  6. Jose Shorochov

    I think Mr Agassi is doing a excellent work giving choices to many kids with no opportunity at all in the actual American society. However many people remember the good times when he used to be the best tennis player around the world and he doesn't care nothing except himself. Maybe is a trick to publicity another kind of business about his father or family, could be a trick for make some money at his time of crisis? How know? Give a good reason Mr Agassi, in order to believe you in this new role of your live.

    September 5, 2010 at 11:27 am |
  7. jackson

    Aggassi should be much more grateful to his Dad.
    Without his Dad, he would be choosing to play video games whole day during his childhood and we will never head the name "Aggasi".

    September 5, 2010 at 10:04 am |
  8. TMoney

    God bless you man.

    September 5, 2010 at 8:42 am |
  9. Onyibe Leonard

    In as much as we want our kids to be successful in life we should only be life coach to them and not force our dreams on them. Thanks, Cooper for this great insight.

    September 5, 2010 at 7:32 am |
  10. toddsaed

    Very Inspiring and enlightening, there was always the feeling that there was more to Andre than you could see, more than others, and it could be the self awareness his father had was passed on a bit, he was funny too, and a real person and gentleman, the fifth in history to win the Career Grand Slam. He payed for the funeral of Pancho Gonzalez, after fifty years of playing , teaching , studying and watching tennis, I would say Pancho was the greatest player ever, and he married Andres sister, turned out to be a mistake, but maybe it was the pressure of the stage mother-tennis father that caused some of the mistake. The success did not come from no where,so cannot judge on this maybe, but the cult of celebrity seems a pernicious factor in the development of democracy. WHy Andre stands out, it seemd to never go to his head, and his thirteen years of educating youth proves it, hope he does not go too co dependent and finishes his own education, if he has not.

    September 5, 2010 at 6:37 am |
  11. al say

    He did his best to become number 1 and he deserve it.

    September 5, 2010 at 4:09 am |
  12. Gaham

    I am amazed. Anderson Cooper is a very poor listener. He asks a question then interrupts before the answer is given. He talks over the interviewee. My advice to him is to get some coaching from Australia's Richard Ackland.

    September 4, 2010 at 11:06 pm |
  13. truebob

    Sour Grapes. We all could have been better. Without the kind of driving force that his father gave him, who knows where he would be? Kids learn drive and discipline,they sure aren't born with it, lol.

    September 4, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
  14. charles

    I knew Andre's uncle George who was a former Olympian. He said Andre dragged his tennis racquet around with him all the time when he visited. Andre was 2 years old. So dad had him at 2 years old playing tennis.

    Just more child abuse untouched because the lawyers of the world are more interested in making money than making a better world.

    Teach kids what Child Abuse is in grade school, Junior High and Senior High, and report the parents to CPS.

    It could be worse Andre, your dad wasn't named Menendez.

    September 4, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
  15. Cory

    Boohoo. Does anybody really care about your daddy issues?

    September 4, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
  16. Carl


    September 4, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
  17. Greg

    So your dad pushed you to be the best tennis player in the world, but you could have been better? Your upset that you became a Legend in the sport of Tennis because of your Dad pushing you. Sounds to me like he did the right thing, his son is alive, healthy, and a success..
    Most kids go through experimenting with drugs, and questions of self worth, and finding ones self.. thats just part of growing up.

    Glad your giving money to help out the kids who dont have any, but the sob story is pathetic. It does a dishonor to your father who im sure sacrificed so much to get you in the position to help these kids today.

    You may not agree with everything, but he is a big reason you are who you are today. You should be tahnking him.

    September 4, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
  18. bmicore

    Please spare me the details. I am getting sick of these self serving brats who think all that bad happened was some one elses fault

    September 4, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
  19. Sari in Vegas

    I just wish he had put his prep school in a slightly safer neighborhood, or that Metro would assign more officers to the area. It's not a safe place to send your kids.

    September 4, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
  20. Paul C

    You are a good man Andre.

    September 4, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
  21. vijay

    We are reading about Andre due to his dad's relentless push and his ultimate stardom.
    What's his complaint against his dad after all this??

    Certainly, Andre need to be more mature for now and he can't blame his dad for his whining..

    September 4, 2010 at 4:25 pm |
  22. BB

    Ungrateful wretch. Owes all his name and fame to his father. Yeah, try becoming the star that you are(were) with a father who would has his 'expectations'set to simply let you live 'a life of your own'.

    September 4, 2010 at 4:20 pm |
  23. Mark

    Good for you, Andre. You were and are still inspirational. Much success to you!

    September 4, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
  24. jayne rhodes

    BOO HOO! Enough already of your miserable life growing up with a dad that pressured you to work hard and excel. Don't forget that if your Dad had not pressured you so much to work hard at tennis, you would not be where you are today. The anger and stress you felt from your Dad are the same tools that helped you excel in your sport, and helped you deal with the stress and pressure of being a tennis superstar.

    September 4, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
  25. Steve

    We can't choose our parents or change the past. But at some point as adults, we can set ourselves free, come to terms with it and choose a new course for ourselves. Thanks for sharing and I applaud your efforts to provide education and hope for a better life to those who otherwise might be written off. You will make a difference in their lives and thereby in society in general by doing this. Not many have the resources or guts to choose to do this. I wish you much success and happiness in this endeavor.

    September 4, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
  26. Binaya

    The world won't have recognized you if your father didn't push you so hard.

    He did, that's why today everyone cheers "Andre Agassi"..

    September 4, 2010 at 4:06 pm |
  27. Limer

    Get a hold of yourself man. For crying out loud.

    September 4, 2010 at 4:05 pm |
  28. Frank L.

    The world needs more people like Andre Agassi.

    September 4, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
  29. obsthetimes

    Agassi is being a baby.
    I first heard this story 2 years ago on NPR and now 2 year later, Agassi is still talking about it. On CNN.
    People have much bigger problems Andre.
    And who's to say that you might not have been a much worse player without your father's pressure.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:56 pm |
  30. Penny

    Andre, hat's off to you and to Steffi for what you are doing to help the disadvantaged youth in the Las Vegas – and other locations – area. You two are what is so good about professional sports – giving back, no controversy, no ego. You see the responsibility that fame gives you.

    And, your family with Steffi is rock solid. Way to go! By the way, I miss your long hair. 🙂

    September 4, 2010 at 3:56 pm |
  31. Ben Tammami

    I believe Agasi's real problem is his denial to his past and his roots. He, for political and professional reasons has declined to accept that he is from Iran. Somene who refuses to accept his origin and true identity can never reach his goals. Now he tries to blame his father for that. Without him, he would have never reached his goal of becoming top tennis player in the World.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:55 pm |
  32. Shantal

    That's sad that this happened, but at least Mr. Agassi can take his experiences and use them to help other kids now.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:52 pm |
  33. TxUnImpressed

    This is old news. Why are yo taking up band width reporting this several years late?

    September 4, 2010 at 3:50 pm |
  34. Dave

    Stardom and tennis, or no tennis, Agassi is a very special person. One of the best human beings you will ever meet, if you ever have the privilege to meet him.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:44 pm |
  35. sarah palin nutjob

    sounds like his father is as deaf as sarah palin.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:44 pm |
  36. chris

    BS he could have been better.The guy gave 120% all the time,,was less physically gifted than others and played at a high level much past his prime.

    A textbook over-achiever.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:42 pm |
  37. Mike M

    I thought this story was already played 6 months a go on "60 Minutes." What is he promoting? Andre agassi is not a poster child for young people to follow their dreams but for someone who has it all and wants people to feel sorry for him. Sorry, I think he is a Narcasist.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:42 pm |
  38. Marcia Russell

    The author notes that students at Agassai's charter school all attend tuition-free. The implication is that Agassi is somehow responsible for that. The author should correct this misnomer. ALL charter schools are without tuition, because they are funded with public dollars that would normally be funneled to local public schools. Including this statement is as relevant as saying all students at a public school attend tuition-free.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
  39. Bonaventure Stephen Gomes

    While complimenting Andre Agassi for giving back, it hurts to belittle his father who gave Agassi the American dream. Hindsight, it is easy to blame the old man. Your old man gave you more than an education. He gave you values. May more Agassis and their dads bloom to make the world a better place. Love you Agassi. Love you Dad.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
  40. Sudhir Kumar

    Yes Agassi can put his dad down. What would he have been if his father was not so much interested in his sons success and not pushed him to be the best.
    This is what most kids lack in this generation, Parents who expect decipline, have structure and expect the most out of their kids in all walks of life.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
  41. Michele

    It's a shame that the relentless pursuit of fame and riches by a parent winds up having such a devastating effect on the child. While this is only part of the story, as Andre's father has not had a chance to respond, we can only speculate as to what the whole story would reveal. I would not want to spend my life doing something I resented to please someone else. How empty.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:22 pm |
  42. JH1

    Isn't this pretty much an exact copy of the interview Katie Couric did on 60 Minutes with Agassi in November 2009 when his book first came out?

    Try to keep up Anderson.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:19 pm |
  43. fastball

    Andre's father sounds like a real prince.
    Blinded by the all-encompassing notion that having more money is the answer to everything – and the relentless pursuit of the non-attainable state of "perfection". Driving a child to reach those goals...yet not having a clue what that pressure does to a person, especially a young one.
    When a child becomes a cash cow for the parents....only bad things can happen.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:17 pm |
  44. J

    Fascinating story. Parents do this all the time and not just in tennis. I was surprised to see the parallels between my own life and Andre's in the fact that parents sometimes push their kids unrelentlessly toward their own goals whether that be in sports, academics, etc. Kudos to Andre for talking about a tough subject.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
  45. Bubba North

    Poor multi millionaire had to work hard and by the age of 30 was set for life. Gimme a break... If only that were me.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
  46. Mother Carmody

    I stand in righteous judgment of this sicking spectacle of a human being, this meth-addicted devil who seeks to further sicken America with his spewed lies. The Number of the Beast is marked upon him.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:14 pm |
  47. Stephen

    I love it! Andre has opportunties and advantages that others would desperately love to have and all he can do is whine. In two words: "Grow up".

    September 4, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
  48. teresa, oh

    re: "pressure of growing up under his father's relentless expectations of greatness." You gotta give it to your father: he wasnt wrong was he? Out of the bad comes good: look at what you can afford to do: EASILY AFFORD TO DO: for those children in YOUR charter school.
    You own a school... incredible.

    And really: what you are doing for those kids, isnt that what your dad did for you, in a roundabout way? yes?

    you didnt miss anything growing up the way you did. many of us dont think we came into our own until we were 30 or even 40...

    If it werent for your fathers relentless ambition for YOU, you wouldnt even be on the AC show selling a BOOK that will make a fortune. Your dad is worth way more than his worth in gold.... he is a gift that keeps on giving– through you.

    September 4, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
  49. Lusi Murod

    We should learned from the people who's already experienced it. Like education, he realised how imporatant that is.
    To be succesful needs a lot of sacrifices. But you came out great Mr.Agassi.

    September 4, 2010 at 1:22 pm |