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The Dao of Ken Rosewall’s Backhand

The older ones who knew would stop and watch. The younger ones have almost forgotten. Rosewall’s slice backhand as repeatable, as simple, as breath itself. If you could hit it at 22, you could hit it at 70, at 80. Easy on the body, the mind. Not slice, as most say, but struck almost flat with backspin as subtle as the Dao itself: soft yet hard, power yet touch, yin and yang. Rosewall’s backhand can go anywhere; it can anything or nothing at all: down the line, crosscourt, dink, lob approach shot, passing shot, rally shot, forcing shot . . . Oldest major singles champion at 37, ranked number 2 in the world at 40 years old. Longest gap between first major and last major in three different grand slam championships: Australian, French, US Open. 5 foot 7, 145. Muscles, breath, elegance. Not color and flash, but simplicity, artistry, line. Poussin, Botticelli, the aging Matisse. As tennis players get older, as their bodies become ghosts of their former splendor, they all dream of Rosewall’s backhand.

Artist Bio: Leonardo Luque, a retired Columbian naval officer, earned his fine arts degree in 2012 from Jorge Tadeo Lozano University in Bogota, Columbia. A highly ranked Columbian player in the ITF world rankings for men’s 60 singles, Leo has drawn all his life and is especially interested in the beauty and motion of the human body. After traveling through China and Panama, he settled down with his family in 2014 in Boca Raton, Florida.

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“Ken Rosewall’s Backhand” first published with the National Senior Men’s Tennis Association.

4 replies on “The Dao of Ken Rosewall’s Backhand”

I think I could develop a simple backhand that I could place well and hit consistently, but the speed, spin and placement messes it up!

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