09/07/2012 by Natasha Lavender
Now that Wimbledon is over, tennis fans can prepare for next year with a crop of the best fiction and non-fiction based on the sport
As the nets are lowered and the gates finally closed, silence descends on Wimbledon after Roger Federer disappointed a nation in his defeat of British hope Andy Murray. If the last fortnight’s tournament has given you a taste for tennis (besides the obligatory strawberries and cream), there are plenty of books to satisfy your craving for the game.
Unsurprisingly, many authors have been inspired by tennis. Lionel Shriver’s Double Fault, reflects the breakdown of a marriage through a seven-page description of an incredibly exciting tennis match. Although she is more popularly known as Sophie Kinsella, Madeleine Wickham’s first novel, The Tennis Party, is a crackling comedy of manners centred round a tennis party at a country manor. David Foster Wallace’s futuristic, postmodern novel Infinite Jest also combines tennis with film theory, relationships and drug use. Noel Streatfeild, who is most famous for his delightful children’s book Ballet Shoes, also penned Tennis Shoes, which focuses on four children training to become professional tennis players. Finally, Tennis and the Meaning of Life by Jay Jennings is a lovely collection of the best fiction and poetry written about the sport.
For those more interested in the game itself, W Timothy Gallwey’s 1972 Inner Game of Tennis provides an insight into all the problems that can keep a player from winning, such as confidence and concentration issues. John McPhee’s Strokes of Genius deconstructs the defining moment of 2008’s Wimbledon men’s final, in which Rafael Nadal beat yesterday’s winner, seven-time champion Roger Federer, in an astonishing five sets.
If the history of the game is what appeals, Tennis: A Cultural History, by Heiner Gillmeister, provides a thorough timeline of the sport from the Middle Ages to now. The Right Set, an anthology of writings compiled by the award-winning Caryl Phillips, also gives readers a fascinating cultural history of the game, focusing on the evolution of our current tennis champions such as the Williams sisters.
For an insight into the minds of the players themselves, there are a host of biographies and autobiographies. Despite being only 22 at the time, 2012 finalist Andy Murray released his autobiography Coming of Age in 2009, recalling his journey from wild card to Grand Slam contender. Following this year’s Wimbledon performance, it seems likely that a sequel will follow soon. For more on the life of his conqueror, try Chris Bowers’ Roger Federer – the Greatest.
This year’s shock exit Rafael Nadal released his autobiography Rafa last year, in which he revealed more about life with his close-knit Majorcan family, particularly with uncle and coach Toni. The most notorious tennis autobiography of recent years, however, was that of former world No. 1, Andre Agassi. In Open Agassi famously revealed that he despised the sport at which he was so successful, and the story of his drug abuse.
Finally the Daily Telegraph has compiled a collection of writings and articles about Wimbledon Lawn Tennis, dating back to as far as 1877. Edited by Martin Smith, Anyone for Tennis? has everything a true tennis fan could want.