Andre Agassi signs copies of his autobiography, Open, at
Paper Plus Newmarket in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by
Hannah Johnston/Getty Images)
He entertained tennis fans around the world for 20 years
as a professional player and last night it was Auckland's turn.
During an event at the Langham Hotel sponsored by the Mad
Butcher, Andre Agassi spoke about his childhood and life on
the professional circuit which reaped eight grand slams.
Personalities listening to the 42-year-old included Sir
Graham Henry, Olympic gold medal-winning rower Mahe Drysdale,
young professional boxer Joseph Parker, former Black Cap
Martin Crowe and ex rugby player Inga Tuigamala.
Agassi's frank autobiography Open, first published in October
2009, in which he spoke about his drug use, marriage to actor
Brooke Shields and resentment of tennis at an early age, won
him new fans, and last night he touched on those topics.
In an emotional video introduction, Agassi said his hatred of
the game stemmed from the way his father Emmanuel, known as
Mike, forced him to practise.
Agassi, who hails from Las Vegas, said the object of his
hatred was a machine which spat tennis balls at him at a
speed of more than 160km/h, which he called The Dragon.
He only wanted to do well in the game to please his
Iranian-born father, he said.
In a question-and-answer session at the sold-out event, he
added: "I wasn't born to play tennis, I was made to play
tennis, so this conflict - became the central core of my
life. That started my resentment for the game."
"I was sent away at 13 years old to an academy which was all
about tennis. There was no adult supervision, it was like
Lord of the Flies with forehands."
"I never accepted that ... I worked really hard to succeed
only to be hit with the realisation that succeeding doesn't
fulfil you," he said.
On Wednesday night he spoke at a function in Christchurch.
Book signings at Paper Plus stores there and in Auckland's
Newmarket attracted crowds of 1100 people.
In his book, Agassi, who is married to former women's No 1
player Steffi Graf, spoke about the dullness of his great
rival Pete Sampras.
There was little dull about the confessions last night from
the first man to win all four grand slams on all three
surfaces - grass, hardcourt and clay.
- Patrick McKendry