Here is a quick look at some of my favorite tennis articles ever written. You may want to bookmark this one and read one per month. I am listing them chronologically from oldest to most recent.
1. Raised by Women to Conquer Men by Frank Deford
Sports Illustrated 28 August 1978
This is a must read. It gives a lot of insight into the psyche of Jimmy Connors. Love or hate Jimbo, it is worth knowing more about what drove him on the tennis court. This article is so good I considered not returning a friend’s copy of SI that contained a reprint of it in 1994 so that I could re-read the article whenever I liked. My conscience won out, but thanks to the web and free archives I can read it at my leisure.
2. On Guard And Quite In Control by Gary Smith
Sports Illustrated 28 April 1986
Another great look inside the mind of a champion. This time Ivan Lendl comes into more full relief.
3. The String Theory by David Foster Wallace
Esquire July 1996
A look at the preternatural skills and self-discipline required to be a journeyman on the tennis tour. I remember first reading this in 1996 and thinking Wallace nailed what is interesting about playing and watching tennis. His writing style is pretty unique and hyper-detailed.
4. Coming into Focus by Gary Smith
Sports Illustrated 17 July 2006
Agassi was never my favorite player to watch. I can’t think of more than 5 matches in which I pulled for him to win. In the late 80’s and early 90’s my favorite players were Boris Becker, Jimmy Connors and Jim Courier. Not pulling for Agassi did not mean I did not come to appreciate his tremendous vision, his longevity and his off court work. This article really was Open before Agassi released Open.
5. Roger Federer as Religious Experience by David Forster Wallace
New York Times 20 August 2006
The question of transcendence being raised by a gifted writer and focusing on my favorite player, Roger Federer, is an ideal read for me. I have often maintained that Federer is the closest to the Platonic form of a tennis player we are likely to see. Some people love that about him and others like a more visceral version of tennis. Federer’s critics dislike the nearly transcendent quality of his tennis rather than deny it.