Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mini-Review: “Strokes of Genius – Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played” by L. Jon Wertheim

I am a passionate, albeit mediocre, recreational level tennis player. Self-taught in the sport, I lack any discernible style or classic strokes, but I have a strong appreciation for good tennis. So, as I watched the 2008 Wimbledon Men’s Finals with awe, I knew instantly that I was seeing history in the making. That preliminary verdict has been affirmed and verified in a wonderful new book about the event written by acclaimed Sports Illustrated writer, L. Jon Wertheim.

Werthein does a wonderful job of taking the reader through the unfolding events that occurred a year ago at Wimbledon. He adds spice and texture by weaving in back stories from the early lives and tennis careers of Federer and Nadal – the latest personal embodiments of the ages-old Athens vs. Sparta rivalry. On the surface, the grace vs. brute force analysis is a tempting one to endorse, but the styles of these two great players are not so easily distilled and deconstructed.

Here is how Wertheim sets the stage in contrasting their divergent styles and personas:

“Beyond the records, their rivalry was heightened by clashing styles. One could spend hours playing the compare-and-contrast game. Federer versus Nadal embodies righty versus lefty. Classic technique versus ultramodern. Feline light versus taurine heavy. Middle European restraint versus Iberian bravado and passion. Dignified power versus an unapologetic, whoomphing brutality. Zeus versus Hercules. Relentless genius versus unbending will. Polish versus grit. Metrosexuality versus hypermuscular hypermasculinity. A multitongued citizen of the world versus an unabashedly provincial homebody. A private-jet flier versus a steerage passenger. A Mercedes driver versus a Kia driver.” (Page 4)

This is a book that will delight even the most casual of tennis fans and everyone who has an appreciation for superlative levels of human achievement.



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