The best tennis books for Christmas
Originally published on 01/12/14
By Paul Newman
Published by Vision Sports Publishing (£20)
Wimbledon 2014: The Official Story of The Championships is the evocative and beautifully illustrated re-telling of another glorious fortnight of tennis at the All England Club. Written by Paul Newman, tennis correspondent of The Independent and a regular contributor to tennishead magazine, you know this book will be bursting with great stories.
All the top players are featured, from Djokovic and Federer to Sharapova and Kvitova, while stars were born in the shape of Nick Kyrgios and Eugenie Bouchard. With articles on every day's play, coverage of the stories and personalities that defined The Championships and features that take readers behind-the-scenes at the All England Club, this annual book has become a fans’ favourite and the 2014 edition is a fitting legacy of a tennis tournament that will live long in the memories of tennis fans everywhere.
By Mark Hodgkinson
Published by Aurum Press (£18.99)
In just over two years working with Andy Murray, Ivan Lendl helped turn the Scot into a two-time Grand Slam champion. When Murray announced in March that he had parted company with Lendl the news was met with as many raised eyebrows as when he appointed the eight-time major champion in December 2011.
Like Murray, Lendl lost his first four major finals but went on to become world No.1 and win eight Grand Slams, but he had no experience of coaching. In Ivan Lendl: The Man Who Made Murray, Mark Hodgkinson, author of Andy Murray Wimbledon Champion, investigates how Lendl turned Murray from a perennial runner-up into US Open champion and the first Briton to lift the Wimbledon trophy in 77 years, offering an insight into the relationship, and how it came to an end.
By Chris Bowers
Published by John Blake (£17.99)
Among all of today’s top tennis players, Novak Djokovic’s story is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating. In The Sporting Statesman: Novak Djokovic and The Rise of Serbia, Chris Bowers, a freelance journalist for The Times, Independent and Observer, doesn’t just look at Djokovic as a tennis player, but as an ambassador for Serbia.
He delves into the history of Djokovic’s family, his relationship with his volatile father Srdjan and how he continued to play tennis even when NATO planes bombed Belgrade. Although not an authorised biography, as Djokovic wants to write his own when he retires, Bowers did speak to the Serb as well as family members, friends and, most significantly, Jelena Gencic, the woman who taught Djokovic to play tennis. In her last formal interview before she died from cancer, Gencic tells Bowers how she saw enough in her first afternoon with a five-year-old Djokovic to know he was a potential world-beater and how she came to be his ‘second mother’.
By Rod Laver
Published by Allen & Unwin (£16.99)
“No player occupies a bigger part of [tennis] history than Rod Laver,” writes Roger Federer in the foreword to the Australian’s autobiography. “From my earliest tennis memories, Rod ‘The Rocket’ Laver stood above all others as the greatest champion our sport has known.”
Laver’s 11 Grand Slams are dwarfed by Federer’s 17, but he missed playing for 21 major titles between 1963 and 1969 after turning professional. He won the Grand Slam in 1962 and made history in 1969 by repeating the feat at New York. In one of many fascinating anecdotes, Laver recalls how his wife Mary was expecting their first child on finals day, and after beating Tony Roche in the final, he rushed to call his wife but didn’t have 10 cents to use a payphone: “I had $16,000 but no dime.”
Laver explains how his own game evolved in his childhood; from having to change his racket grip after he nearly lost his finger after a fishing accident, to honing his quick reflexes by playing in near darkness on the family court in Rockhampton. He talks about his early coaches Charlie Hollis and Harry Hopman, resisting the temptation to turn professional until he was 24 while virtually living on the poverty line, and the nomadic life as a touring professional. In his own words, Laver “scaled the Mount Everest of tennis,” and this book reveals the man who arguably did more for the sport than any other.
By Kevin Mitchell
Published by John Murray (£18.99)
2013 was the year of the narrative. From Rafa’s return from injury to Federer’s decline and Murray finally ending his wait for a Wimbledon win, it was a year full of stories. And they weren’t all about the ‘Big Four’ either, with new challengers starting to show signs of threatening the established order and stars of the future beginning to show their potential.
All in all there were more than enough narratives to write a book about, which is exactly what Observer and Guardian journalist Kevin Mitchell has done with Break Point. Mitchell starts where the story of 2013 began for Murray – at the US Open in 2012. He explores the relationship between Murray and the travelling media, how he has changed in recent years and gives first-hand insight into his training regime in Miami – ‘the experience was enough to render us mute’.
Mitchell then gets stuck into 2013, the high-quality Australian Open final between Murray and Djokovic, Nadal’s return from injury in Vina del Mar and Federer’s ‘dilemma’ over whether he could still challenge at the very top. As he continues to chronicle the year’s events, Mitchell gives illuminating insights into life as a full-time tennis correspondent and explains why Wimbledon 2013 was the ‘single most significant turning point in the realignment of men’s tennis since the decline of the serve volley game’. Fittingly, Mitchell finishes with a chapter entitled ‘Who’s next?’ looking at who will crack the ‘Big Four’ this year and whether men’s tennis is indeed on the cusp of change.
By Eric Allen Hall
Published by John Hopkins University Press (£22.50)
Arthur Ashe was a great tennis player: he won three Grand Slams and reached World No.1. He was the first African American player to be selected by the United States Davis Cup Team, overcoming racial and class barriers to reach the top of the tennis world in the 1960s and 1970s.
This book explains how Ashe rose to the summit of world tennis, but more importantly how he evolved into an activist who had to contend with the shift from civil rights to Black Power. Ashe positioned himself at the centre of the movement, navigating the thin lines between conservatives and liberals, the sports establishment and the black cause. He had to negotiate the comforts of tennis-star status and the obligation to protest the discriminatory barriers the white world constructed to keep black people “in their place".
Hall has drawn on a variety of published memoirs and interviews, archives and coverage of Ashe’s tennis and social activist career to create an intimate, nuanced portrait of a great athlete who stood at the crossroads of sports and equal justice.