Thanks to Judy for passing this story along to me!
Sports Illustrated reports that Pete Sampras is not happy with the “shots” that Andre Agassi took at him in his newish autobiography, Open. Sampras told reporters via a recent conference call that he’d like to meet “man to man” with his rival and hash things out. Is this an invitation to a beer summit or to “take it outside”? And will Andre bring his sometime bodyguard, Gil Reyes, with him as backup?
Here’s Pete on Andre and Open:
“I got wind of a few things that he said about me, and I was a little surprised and a little disappointed,” Sampras said. “I always felt like Andre and I had risen above taking shots at one another. When I did my book, it wasn’t my way of settling scores or taking shots.”
And. . .
“He was a big rival. I think it’s a reflection that I didn’t know Andre all that well in our competitive days. Got to know him a little bit better as we got older, but in [our] mid-20s at times he was there and at times he was a little removed. Little did I know he was getting involved in some bad decisions.”
Even if you haven’t read Agassi’s book, you’ve probably heard that he calls Sampras “dull,” “uninspired” and “robotic” – and even worse, a bad tipper.
How’s this for a backhanded compliment?: “I envy Pete’s dullness. I wish I could emulate his spectacular lack of inspiration, and his peculiar lack of need for inspiration.” (via Open) Because, you know, then Andre would be the one with 14 slams.
But to be fair, Andre preludes this unflattering portrayal with this equally blunt assessment of himself: “Tennis is (Pete’s) job, and he does it with brio and dedication, while all my talk of maintaining a life outside tennis seems like just that – talk. Just a pretty way of rationalizing all my distractions.”
There’s also some bitchy, funny stuff. Here’s Andre, gleefully remembering the time he took Pete to see Brooke Shields on Broadway:
“He (Pete) doesn’t like the theater and he doesn’t get actors, since he’s never pretended anything in his life. In the quasi-darkness of the footlights, I smile at his discomfort. Somehow, forcing him to sit through “Grease” feels more satisfying than beating him in Key Biscayne. We go together, like rama lama lama. . .”
As Pete’s own mother would probably say: Andre’s just teasing you, Pete, because he feels insecure about himself! And I think Andre (and his Pulitzer Prize winning co-author) know it, too. Who wouldn’t sympathize with Pete’s reaction to Grease starring Brooke Shields? It’s Andre’s superficial sadism that’s the unexpected, unsympathetic part of the story. (Pete also mentions this evening in his own book – but only in passing and with no commentary.)
Here’s one last Agassi anecdote – and probably the most embarrassing one if you’re Pete Sampras. Before playing Pete in the 2002 US Open final, Andre recalls his coach Brad Gilbert asking a Palm Springs valet how much Pete Sampras tipped him:
“He gave me a dollar,” the valet said.“And he told me to be sure to give it to whichever kid actually brought his car around.”
Ouch! (But come on Pete, even I don’t tip that bad!) Yes, Andre’s being petty and snide, but he’s also creating some dramatic tension. Sampras goes on to beat him in that US Open final, and Andre writes about a certain expression he notices on his rival’s face: “Here’s a buck kid. Bring my car around.”
I happen to be reading Sampras’s book, A Champion’s Mind: Lessons from a Life in Tennis, right now, and I can confirm that Pete doesn’t use it to settle scores or take shots. (Wish he had!) Just comparing the titles is instructive. Pete’s book comes from on high – he’s the Champion and we’re the pupils – while Andre’s Open is like a booze soaked therapy session with friends. Pete’s effort is more text book than page-turner and he often writes off potential controversies with an unsatisfying and cliched “I’m just a live and let live guy.” (Not that Andre’s book is perfect. For all of his “openness” I sensed some smoke and mirrors stuff, too – appropriate for a Vegas showman.)
My take on this new chapter of Agassi vs. Sampras: Pete’s a legendary tennis player, a dignified person and not much of a story teller. I’d rather spend an evening doing sake bombs with Andre – and not just because he’s more likely to pick up the tab!
Pete told reporters that he hasn’t read Open, and he has no plans to read it in the future. For some reason, this makes me think of a passage from Pete’s own book: “. . .bottom line was that I enjoyed playing Andre. Good as he was, and no matter what the score on a given day might be, he didn’t really move me far out of my comfort zone if I was on top of my game.”