I have a question: What percentage of tennis do you think is mental? I always thought it was a minimum of 50 percent and a maximum of 99 percent, depending on whom you play, the tournament and match score.
It's a good thing the editors at Long Island Tennis Magazine asked me to review John McEnroe's book, You Cannot be Serious, because I discovered a big, fat lie on page 260. Describing a February 1991 match against his brother, Patrick, John McEnroe says he was serving at match point when a phone rang. The older McEnroe brother looked at his father who was sitting at courtside and said, "Dad, mom's on the phone."
If you think the main job of a sports memoir is to tell the athlete's story in his own voice, and that's a reasonable thesis, then you have to credit Jimmy Connors' book, The Outsider with accomplishing that.
David E. Moe has written a book that will be of use to any tennis player if they are open to a multi-disciplinary guide to improving their game. The Making of a Winner: A Fable About the Power Within takes tidbits from sports psychology, biofeedback and Eastern religions, and weaves them into a short primer on how to play better tennis.
Boy, does this novel lay it on thick. It is full of references to the island in the title, the history of Wimbledon especially in the early 1960s and what could be construed to be a rather naive, worshipful take on the mating rituals of upper class Brits and colonials during that period.
I am supposed to review books about tennis in this space, but every so often, a book comes along that weaves the tennis content with so much other profound content that the tennis parts seem secondary.
Winning Tennis Strokes is a short guidebook to tennis techniques and a splendid general introduction to tennis strokes. With this book, Bill Longua, a veteran tennis instructor and USPTA pro, has produced a concise guide to learning the fundamentals of the game.
The two top American tennis players of the 70s and 80s, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, were Irish-American lefties who were cheaters. Brad Gilbert doesn't say this in his classic guide to the mental side of winning tennis matches, but it isn't a far-fetched inference from some of the war stories he tells.
It is impossible not to compare Matthew Cronin's Epic: John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg and the Greatest Tennis Season Ever with Stephen Tignor's High Strung: Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and the Untold Story of Tennis' Fiercest Rivalry.
You don't have to be a New Yorker, or a New Yorker who plays tennis to savor the pleasure of Tennis in New York by Dale G. Caldwell and Nancy Gill McShea, a delightful addition to any library, or even as a surprise gift for that doubles partner or singles rival who has everything.
For tennis fans too young to remember the glory days of the 1970s and the early 1980s, High Strung: Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and the Untold Story of Tennis' Fiercest Rivalry is a thoroughly researched guide to an era when the game was on the front pages of the world's sports consciousness in a way it hasn't been since those days.
Rafa, an autobiography of former number one player Rafael Nadal, was published last summer, but considering that its subject has just scored another career triumph, playing on Spain's winning Davis Cup team late last year, this is a good time to revisit Nadal's story.
Players will want to read this book for its many interesting anecdotes and because it may arm them to win drinks at tennis gatherings by betting on either of the following obscure tennis history questions: Who was the youngest Wimbledon winner for over 50 years until Boris Becker's first title in 1985? And, who is the only tennis player in history to win Wimbledon by default?
I think many of us in the tennis world, understandably, take the Williams Sisters and their accomplishments for granted. But just because they have been mainstays on the women’s tour for more than 10 years, it is instructive to take another look because Venus and Serena are quite a story.
Right before the Grateful Dead played “Johnny B. Goode,” guitarist Jerry Garcia used to announce, “This is the one that started it all off.” For tennis memoirs, the same can be said about A Handful of Summers by former South African tennis pro Gordon Forbes. A Handful of Summers is a coming of age story set against the cosmopolitan background of the pro tour in the 1950s while it was still segregated between amateurs and pros.
In the novel The Tennis Handsome, Barry Hannah launches his main character, French Edward, the tennis handsome of the title, onto the tennis circuit. French has a powerful game and his exploits on the tour include matches with tennis greats like Rod Laver and Arthur Ashe, but he has one small problem, he’s brain dead.
You might not think a 35-page pamphlet could take a reader on a rollercoaster ride with stops that pose questions about death, the nature of time, the mysteries of the male anatomy, the limits of language and whether a truly stellar performance by a ballboy can win back the love of a ball girl.
I am almost the perfect reader for Marshall Jon Fisher’s A Terrible Splendor: Three Extraordinary Men, a World Poised for War, and the Greatest Tennis Match Ever Played, the story of the 1937 Davis Cup match between the American Don Budge and Germany’s Baron Gottfried Von Cramm.
Among the many fascinating tidbits of tennis history, the reader can glean from The Education of a Tennis Player by Rod Laver with Bud Collins is that accusations of stinginess between top rivals didn’t start with Andre Agassi’s jokes about Pete Sampras being a lousy tipper.
Patrick McEnroe’s account of his 25 years in and around pro tennis makes a fascinating read. After Andre Agassi’s book, Open, any tennis celebrity’s book is likely to fall short in the sensationalism department. And while Hardcourt Confidential isn’t totally Hardcourt Deferential, it is clear that there are a lot of toes McEnroe avoids stepping on.
Eleanor Dwight’s story of the life of Jimmy Van Alen, the man who gave tennis the tie-breaker, presents a much more versatile and accomplished figure than I’d expected to encounter. I’m a hardcore tennis fan, sure, but if the only interesting thing Jimmy Van Alen did in his life was to invent the tie-breaker, I might have told Long Island Tennis Magazine readers they could pass on Dwight’s Tie Breaker: Jimmy Van Alen and Tennis in the 20th Century.
Last year was a tough year to publish a tennis biography if your name wasn’t Andre Agassi. But Caroline Seebohm’s account of another baseliner who also had the best return of serve of his era should not be overlooked.
In this biography of Roger Federer, Quest for Perfection: The Roger Federer Story, Swiss tennis writer Rene Stauffer offers a glimpse of the stages in the development of the recently dethroned U.S. Open champ. Stauffer, who had the cooperation of Federer and his family, goes all the way back to the Swiss star’s earliest exposure to the game and tells the story of his emergence as a champion.
I have never been a fan of reading encyclopedias. So it was with some trepidation that I opened Randy Walker’s book On This Day in Tennis History. The thought of reading about things that happened in tennis from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 through the years sounded slightly, but only slightly, more fun than curling up with a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica.