Tennis has always been favoured by story tellers all over the world. May it have been for cinematic display, through documentary formats or even plain old paper books: there is something inherently intriguing to the game of tennis that makes a great subject for sports writing. What that intriguing part of tennis exactly is, I’m still not quite sure about, but I am sure it has to do with the heroic, and even poetic setup of the tennis courts and stadia, where players are being send off too to fight for glory, very much as we watched gladiators square off in the Colosseum centuries ago.
That makes reading about these historic matches, tournaments and careers something really entertaining and therefore, a good choice of gift for a friend or family. That’s why I wanted to put together this recommended list of great stories I’ve read over the years and of which I am sure, others will too enjoy broaden their knowledge of the game itself and tennis history.
Now these books may not be for everyone, as some are rather specific but if you enjoy tennis as much as I do, you’ll definitely find a couple great finds in there.
Open (Andre Agassi, Erik Davies, et al.)
If you have ever seen Andre Agassi play, you know how precise he could hit his forehands and backhands. But that precision was built upon sacrifice and a high price; a million tennis balls before Andre became pro to be precise. That was the philosophy of Agassi’s father and although it turned young Andre into a professional, the relationship between Andre and his father would be tense forever. In ‘Open’, Agassi literally opens up to tell you about his bizar experiences in his early childhood and teenage years at the Bolletieri Academy.
Conclusion about Open – Andre Agassi (link to check it’s current price at Amazon).
In my opinion one of the true classics to show that what we see on court is just a glimpse of what’s going on in tennis players heads. A must read for true tennis fans.
Rafael Nadal – Chronicle of a phenomenon – Spanish (Jaume Pujol-Galceran & Manel Serras)
Building upon the previous title of Andre Agassi’s Open, Rafa is, aside being one of the first biographies about Nadal, a great recollection of the mountains of work that young Rafa and focused uncle Toni have put in to create one of the most dangerous and consistent (clay) players of all time. The book also gives a great picture of the Nadal family and how much they support each other within the family. It almost makes the Nadal story even more astounding, because it is clear that family, when it matters, comes first. Tennis is second, even to Nadal, but a firm second it is. Or is it because of the support of his family, that Rafael Nadal seems to find energy where others lose out?
A great insight into Spanish tennis in general and a must read for Nadal fans. I’ve read the Spanish edition but I think you can also find it in English at Amazon.
Roger Feder – The Quest For Perfection (Rene Stauffer)
If there is one tennis player we reckon to be have been born with his talents, it must be Roger Federer. However, little did I know that things did not start out so easy for Roger at the beginning of his career. In ‘The Quest For Perfection’ things are clearly been put into perspective. From the early stages in Switzerland, through the breakthrough days of the early 2000’s and the first meeting of his later to-be wife Mirka and down to the glory days and rivalries that unfolded as a result of them. They paint a clear picture of a young man with great ambitions and even greater thoughts about how to get there.
For many Federer fans his early days in Switzerland will be relatively unknown and therefore this is a great addition to every tennis library.
Mr Nastase – The Autbiography (Ilie Nastase)
We like to think Nick Kyrgios and Sasha Zverev are troublemakers on and off the court (and they probably are), but somehow they fall a bit short when they are compared to the true ‘bad boys’ of tennis history. In order to earn that title, there must somehow always remain a bit of class, a glimpse of finesse and knowing what it takes to actually be a gentleman on and off the court. So that you know how to stay away from that image, when needed…
Often it are the stories of these ‘enfants terribles’ that make watching tennis rivalries worthwhile, as it is with Batman and the Joker. You’ll always need both in order to complete the story. So it is with the world of tennis, we need both the absolute champions and the party makers.
The interesting thing with the story of Ilie Nastase is: he’s actually been both a champion and a player of the court and he tells all about it in this autobiography. From his childhood memories, to his first road trips to small tournaments, to late night parties with his life long friend Ion Tiriac. It’s a great story about one of tennis greatest characters and his ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality.
Tennis Anatomy – (Paul Roetert)
When we think about tennis fitness, we may think we know what it takes to be a good and fit player on court. However, it will probably surprise you how many muscles of the human body are involved in even the simplest of tennis strokes and actions. Paul Roetert therefore has done a great job explaining this synergy in this fully illustrated guide about different tennis movements and the muscles that influence them.
Conclusion about Tennis Anatomy (link to check it’s current price at Amazon)
If you are serious about competing at a higher level, you must take fitness seriously. This book will definitely help you master your tennis muscles.
Improve Your Tennis IQ – (Charles Applewhait)
One might think tennis is a fairly simple game. I guess there is a part of truth in that thought, as does the author of this book, Charles Applewhait, which he explains in the beginning of his comprehensive guide. However, as the book progresses, Applewhait takes you trough a thorough, illustrated series of exercises that will get you to start thinking more strategically about this wonderful game. For me, the texts about understanding the anatomy of your serve did actually quite improve my game in that aspect. But also the game plans for court positioning, in singles and doubles, really got me thinking about how I build my points.
Conclusion about Improve Your Tennis IQ (link to check it’s current price at Amazon)
If you are interested in elevating your strategic thinking during the game, this book is definitely for you. As it already is an older title, you can also pick it up at a small price.
The Player – (Boris Becker)
Picking up where we left of with regard to the true ‘players’ of the tennis game, one that we cannot forget is Boris Becker. At seventeen Becker became the youngest player to win Wimbledon. He went on to win Wimbledon two more times as well as the Grand Slams in Melbourne and New York. In total, he won 49 singles tournaments, two times the Davis Cup for Germany and won Olympic Gold with Michael Stich at the Barcelona Olympics. He also is a former world number one tennis player but now is active as a businessman and tennis manager.
However, Becker als has led a headline catching private life with a lot of difficult times. He went through a painful divorce and was sentenced as a tax evader. He battled trough tougher times with pills and alcohol.
Conclusion about The Player (link to check it’s current price at Amazon)
Boris Becker has no doubt lived a remarkable, but often, controversial tennis career and life. This autobiography however gives picture to Becker’s side of the story and therefore makes a very interesting read.
I hope you enjoyed reading through this list of my all time tennis favourites and the good part is: this list is not finished. So if you know any great books and can recommend me one in particular, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section down below. Remember that you can also point others in the right direction with your thoughts. Thanks in advance!