It’s almost that time again as the eyes of the tennis world fixate on the All England Club for the 2018 Wimbledon Championships. Roger Federer bids for a record-extending ninth title on the men’s side, while Garbine Muguruza returns aiming to defend her ladies title.
Ahead of the July 2-15 tournament, I thought it would be fitting to put together a list of 8 of the best tennis books to get us all in the Wimbledon spirit.
So put on your all-white outfits, make up a bowl of strawberries and cream, pour yourself a jug of Pims and settle down with one of these ace (get it?) tennis books.
Open: An Autobiography – Andre Agassi
The 1992 Wimbledon champion, Andre Agassi’s autobiography is one of the most candid and remarkable memoirs ever written by an athlete. Agassi, one of the finest players of his generation, documents the highs and many lows of his life on and off the court. A player who despised tennis for much of his life, Agassi was forced into the sport from an early age by his father. And despite owning otherworldly talent that would propel him to eight grand slam titles and a place among tennis legends, Agassi portrays the resentment and unhappiness that life as a tennis player caused.
Open sees Agassi write revealingly about his struggles to handle fame and expectations, his doomed marriage to Brooke Shields, and his return to the top after slumping to his all-time low. Agassi also addresses his charged rivalry with Boris Becker, his thoughts on Pete Sampras, and of course the failed drug test that only came to light in this book.
While a deeply intense memoir, Open isn’t all doom and gloom – his pursuit and eventual marriage to fellow tennis legend Steffi Graf a particular highlight.
For tennis fans, or sports fans in general, Open is a riveting book from one of the world’s most talented, iconic and complex stars.
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Serious / But Seriously – John McEnroe
A little two-in-one treat for our next option: John McEnroe’s superb, unflinching autobiography Serious documents the tennis legend’s life and illustrious career – from his younger days as a tennis misfit growing up in New York all the way up to his years as a bonafide superstar. McEnroe takes us behind the scenes of his epic rivalries with Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors and others as we learn all the details about how he handled being tennis’ greatest rock star. Serious also delves in to his life beyond, and then after, tennis as McEnroe continues to exert influence even after his playing days are over.
But Seriously is the follow up to Serious, where McEnroe goes into detail about life after tennis: his role as an elder statesman of the sport and his position as a broadcaster, commentator and author. Delivered in McEnroe’s typically outspoken style, the seven-time grand slam champion reveals the struggles he faced when transitioning from player to observer, while giving his thoughts on the modern game.
Serious and But Seriously work well together like an original and sequel, and allow us to get the full picture of one of tennis’ most colourful personalities.
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Book Depository (Paperback)
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Rod Laver: An Autobiography – Rod Laver
A list of tennis-inspired books without including the great Rod Laver? Forget about it! In many eyes the greatest player to ever pick up a tennis racquet, Laver is the only player to win the calendar Grand Slam – Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open in the same season – twice. A four-time Wimbledon champion, Laver documents his life from a country boy in Australia to the most dominant force in tennis, providing insight from when tennis was still an amateur sport and its subsequent move into professionalism in 1968.
As well as being packed with anecdotes from his playing days, Laver also delves into his life after tennis: he writes candidly about his recovery from a stroke and his enduring relationship with his wife.
To get the complete story of one of the most important figures in tennis history, read all about it from the man himself.
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Knowing the Score: My Family and Our Tennis Story – Judy Murray
The best-selling and award-winning memoir from the current matriarch of British tennis, Knowing the Score is Judy Murray’s memoir of her life as the mother of grand slam champions Andy and Jamie.
As well as her all-important influence in the careers of her sons, Murray’s role in British tennis also expanded to Scottish National Coach and coach of the Fed Cup team. But beyond her hands-on positions, Murray reveals the sacrifices she and her family made to support the ambitions of her sons, including financial desperation and battling institutional sexism.
A memoir from a tennis player’s mother should not be this gripping, but Knowing the Score is a remarkable story of family, sacrifice and the complete belief in pursuing your dreams.
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Federer and Me: A Story of Obsession – William Skidelsky
Roger Federer is the greatest men’s champion in Wimbledon history. Throughout his illustrious and game-changing career the Swiss has earned iconic status and has transcended tennis.
As such, Federer has garnered millions of fans – some of them on a near obsessive-level… like William Skidelsky.
In Federer and Me, Skidelsky recounts in hilarious detail his all-consuming obsession with Federer and delves into the history of professional sports and fandom. He addresses what it is about the 20-time grand slam champion that transfixes him, and millions others, so much.
Like a true fan, Skidelsky revels in Federer’s wins and despairs at his losses, but in documenting his one-sided relationship with Federer, he also weaves his own story into the narrative – exploring the evolution of modern tennis and the role of beauty in sports.
Tennis’ answer to Nick Hornby’s classic Fever Pitch.
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Unstoppable: My Life So Far – Maria Sharapova
It was at Wimbledon, in 2004, when a 17-year-old Maria Sharapova shook the tennis world when she defeated the mighty Serena Williams to win her first grand slam title.
A star was born and Sharapova would establish herself as one of the biggest stars in all of sports – winning the career grand slam and reaching world No 1, as well as building a business empire that would make her the richest female athlete on the planet.
In Unstoppable, Sharapova charts her remarkable journey – from arriving in the United States with her father with just $700 to their name and her time at the famed Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, through to her meteoric rise on the WTA Tour.
Sharapova takes us inside the women’s locker room, revealing details about her enduring rivalry with Williams and relationship with fellow players, before addressing the doping scandal that resulted in a 15-month suspension.
Unstoppable is reflective of its author: fearless and unforgettable.
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Unbreakable – Jelena Dokic
At the 1999 Wimbledon Championships, a 16-year-old qualifier from Australia took on the all-conquering defending champion Martina Hingis in the first round. That qualifier would topple Hingis 6-2, 6-0 in one of the biggest upsets in tennis history.
It was then that the world was introduced to Jelena Dokic, who would go on to become one of the best tennis players in the world with a career high ranking of No 4. Yet, Dokic’s on-court success was offset by off-court struggles, including a fractured relationship with her domineering father.
In Unbreakable, Dokic details her remarkable life story. Arriving in Australia as a Yugoslavian immigrant, Dokic endured poverty and racism during her childhood but continued to excel on the tennis court. She describes her tortuous rise to the top, her subsequent fall, and how she has rebuilt her life.
Most troubling of all, Dokic, for the first time, reveals the physical and mental abuse she suffered at the hands of her father.
Unbreakable is not only a memoir detailing the troubled life of a star athlete, but an inspirational story of Dokic’s will to survive.
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The Outsider: A Memoir – Jimmy Connors
A two-time Wimbledon champion and the most decorated male singles player in history, Jimmy Connors is remembered as much for his fiery personality as he is for his remarkable success. Connors led tennis during a golden and explosive era in the 1970s – his duels with John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg and Ivan Lendl were part tennis rivalries, part prizefights.
After retiring from tennis in 1995, Connors all but disappeared from public life, but the release of The Outsider in 2013 saw the eight-time grand slam winner reveal all about his life on and off the court.
More than just a sports memoir, Connors provides typically unfiltered insight into his complicated relationship with his mother, his romance with fellow tennis legend Chris Evert, and his battles with gambling and infidelity that nearly cost him his marriage to former Playboy model Patti McGuire.
The Outsider offers tennis fans the full, unadulterated story of one of tennis’ most memorable figures.