He meets with Tony
Robbins, the oracle of accountability, and gives himself a crash course in
dreams, so he can learn to defang the hallway apparition and escape the endless
loop of the tongue and the crumbling teeth. Number 50....
Each morning he
awakens and writes two or three goals for that day in a notepad, then checks at
night to make sure he accomplished them. Number 31....
He becomes the
best-conditioned athlete in tennis, pares all motion between points except
those that hasten the next point, to grind his huffing opponents to dust.
At last he fully
embraces the methodical game that Brad Gilbert, ever since replacing
Bollettieri, has been pushing him to play, to stop gambling and start letting
his opponents lose points instead of his having to win every one. Number
He decides that
the Boys & Girls Club and the 3,000 kids he's helped clothe aren't enough.
He seizes on Perry's idea of a charter school and commits to building the Andre
Agassi College Preparatory Academy. Number 6....
One more thing
must be resolved: his inauthentic marriage. As he leaves his wife that night in
1999, as he grabs the world's best coffee beans and shuts the refrigerator
door, his eyes fall on the picture there that Brooke cut out because she
admired the graceful legs of the woman in it. Her. The undanced dance. The holy
She's here. He can
see Steffi's balcony from the condo he rents six weeks later on Fisher Island,
Fla., where he's staying while he plays in the Key Biscayne tournament. What
if...? Nah. She's already said no. She's had the same boyfriend for seven
years. But if the guy hasn't sealed the deal by now.... Besides, the guy's not
Go down swinging,
Andre tells himself. You're not the same guy she turned down. He goes to work.
Huddles with his old pal John Parenti and starts preparing that first phone
call to Steffi as if it's a State of the Union address. Recruits the Fisher
Island ferry operator to report her comings and goings. Discovers her practice
time, with help from Brad, so they can accidentally schedule Andre's practice
right after hers. Contact! They hit together for a half hour! He's aching to
tell her what's still a secret--that he and Brooke have split--and the other
secret bursting in his heart. But he doesn't want to blow it. He floats back to
his room. He blows it. He orders a bouquet of roses too big for the lobby of
the Ritz-Carlton. He paces, bleeding over every word in the note to go with it,
calls Perry to help him revise it again and again and finally sends the bouquet
to her room. He watches her balcony window, spying ... dying....
At last Steffi
staggers out under the megabouquet and deposits it on her balcony. That can't
be a good sign. He waits. Forever. The phone rings. He pounces. "I want no
misunderstanding between us," she says. "Don't come near me now. My
boyfriend is here."
Here? He blanches.
Reconnaissance failure! He parses every word she uttered. Don't come near me
now. He loses his first match and heads home, his whole life rising and dipping
on the kite string of that one word: now.