Thursday, July 8, 2010

On the Coffee Table: L. Jon Wertheim

Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played is L. Jon Wertheim's account of the men's final at Wimbledon 2008. It was, indeed, a magnificent match and certainly worthy of study but Wertheim goes far beyond the court to address the back stories of both players and tangential narratives exploring the many factors which shape modern tennis. If you're looking for a quick summer read, this is it. I finished it in four days.

Wertheim has been an essential part of the tennis experience for me. I think it's fair to say that he has done as much as any player to draw me into the tennis world. His weekly mailbag at has been a must-read for me ever since the summer of 2002 when Sampras lost in the second round at Wimbledon. As a result, he has been my guide throughout the Federer-Nadal era. He's a wonderfully engaging writer and his love for tennis is infectious. I have learned a great deal about the sport from reading his columns. His conversational tone makes me feel like I'm sitting with him at a dinner party and his book is written in much the same spirit.

My favorite parts of the book were the back stories of Federer and Nadal. Before reading it, I knew a lot more of the Federer story than the Nadal story. I suppose that's to be expected as Federer has been the protagonist of the tennis saga for quite a few years. Now that Nadal is likely to stay at #1 for a while, I imagine we'll all get to know his story better.

Now, if I were Mr. Wertheim's editor, I would respectfully request that he clean up the run-on sentences, particularly in the book's introduction. But most of the book is so elegantly written that it hardly matters. He does write about other sports, too, but I hope we'll see more tennis books from him in the future.

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