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Welcome to the Dance

The picture above is of Steve Stagg, who just built a clay court not far from my house in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It’s our favorite place to be. He is holding a copy of Paul McNamee’s book: Welcome to the Dance: Master Clay to Master Tennis. (I describe below a few of this book’s key ideas about […]

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Thirty Years in Marseille, Art by Arnaud Brosset

Click here to see all 30 years of anecdotes from the Open 13 Provence in Comics: Note: I wrote the piece below after reading through all 30 of Arnaud Brosset’s great comic strips in French (with a dictionary, of course). The links below for each player will take you to the corresponding comic strip. Thirty Years […]

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Li Na, China

On Painting Li Na: Some comments below taken from Debra Di Blasi’s emails to me: “It’s a bit socialist-art style, which I kind of like. (We have quite a bit of Vietnam and China socialist-style posters, prints and statues, so it was not a big leap.)” “The paper, by the way, is unbleached mulberry, which […]

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Pancho Segura, Ecuador

Rickets. Poor. Ecuador. Dirt. His two small hands sweeping, picking up balls at the Guayaquil tennis club while cruise liners sailed the ocean nearby. This bow-legged kid loved to watch them. Maricon, they called him. “Fairy.” Too small, too weak, so two hands on the forehand. He played and played until everyone wanted to hit with him. […]

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Steffi Graf and Mark Rothko

I picture her alone before a late Rothko painting, his darkening palette. Steffi’s favorite color was black. Rothko’s floating color field, “a universe for viewers they do not have in the real world.”  Black a type of protection, a barrier against stalkers, reporters, celebrity, noise. Black a tunnel, a cave, a hole, a portal.  The […]

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The Czech, Jan Kodes, Hears Whispers: “Beat the Russian. Please, Beat the Russian.”

With Soviet Union Forever! the propoganda posters shout. Propaganda Posters = Truth, the truth of propaganda posters. Jan Kodes the “son of an independent businessman—reject application to Secondary education!” Eventually the Czechs soften their communist principles. Kodes witnessed the result outside his window in August, 1968: a parking lot full of Russian tanks. Kodes one of […]

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Helen of California

Challenge: Combine the two portraits below of Helen Wills as classic beauty and Helen Wills as tennis player into a single portrait. Recommendation: Skip this challenge. Helen Wills as Classic Beauty: Four Male Perspectives Charlie Chaplin on the most beautiful thing in the world: “the movement of Helen Wills playing tennis: it had grace and […]

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Elina Svitolina’s Tear

Shadow Puppets Our doors kicked in to see what’s there. Sometimes bread,sometimes vodka,their rifles bobbingin makeshift chairs. Sometimes a sheeton the basement wall,our fingers dancing,shadow puppetsto a soldier’s flashlight. I did not have words,but I understoodwhen women leftfor another room. Mother refused.She held us closein her iron arms.I begged her to goand save us. She […]

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Andre Agassi’s Wig

At dawn I sighed to see my hairs fall;At dusk I sighed to see my hairs fall . . . Did Agassi lose his first French Open final because he worried his wig might fall off? “Image is everything.” Vegas, entertainment, the flashy shot. When the going got tough, his beautiful zen-like-deer-in-the-headlight eyes. How to […]

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Gottfried von Cramm: Gay in Weimar and Nazi Germany

Weimar Berlin’s transvestite balls. Crossdressing women dance with crossdressing men. “What sex are you?” a famous line goes. “What sex do you want me to be?” The painter, George Grosz, saw one of Weimar Germany’s truths before anyone: “this gaily colored froth on top that many people mistook for the true.” Grosz’s art gives us […]