Tennis Players as Works of Art

  • John McEnroe: Go Bleep Yourself
    A Performance Piece Directions:1.  Speak the words in bold directly to another human being.2.  Imagine you are McEnroe playing the four consecutive points described below from his legendary 18-16 Wimbledon tiebreaker against Borg. Hold the racquet like a toothpick, a wand, a paint brush . . .  Mac serving at 5-6 (third championship point for […]
  • Michael Mmoh, Lucky Loser
    Growing up in Saudi Arabia. Why do the women walk behind? Why do they never drive cars? His mother explains. She’s a nurse from Ireland. His father nods. He’s a tennis pro from Nigeria. They had named their son after Michael Jordan. They had named him Michael Mmoh. If you’re outside the top 100 on […]
  • Watching Don Budge: Adolf Hitler and Pablo Casals
    July 20, 1937: If it happened today, it would start like this: “Hey, Don, look at this text.” Gottfried gives Budge his cell. “Good Luck against Budge.” It’s from Adolf Hitler. Gay and no lover of Nazis, Gottfried von Cramm will need more than good luck to avoid their punishments and prisons. Budge will later […]
  • Daniil Medvedev, The Octopus
    Thought Experiment: Push the thesis that Medvedev is an Octopus. Medvedev the Octopus because he’s 6 feet 6 inches of pretzel boneless arms and legs moving in every direction, swirling out deep and deeper behind the baseline. His greatest skill is defense. You cannot hit through him. You cannot hit around him. You have to […]
  • John Newcombe and George Bush
    “George Bush once famously described Newcombe as a ‘black-belt beer drinker,’ his son George W. had one too many with Newk on the night he was arrested for drunk-driving.” On back cover of Newk: Life on and off the court 2020: At Chrystal Bridges Museum, I study President Bush’s strikingly good paintings of veterans who […]
  • Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman: Five Beginnings
    2. In the ambition of 19th century America, Hazel’s grandparents travel west as part of a wagon train. They settle in Healdsburg, California, begin to work the land. 3. In the crazy of 20th century America: Hazel’s father starts a canning company that grows and grows until it becomes the Del Monte Corporation. Then business […]
  • “Getting There”: Arkansas Takes Third at Nationals
    After four matches in two days, I asked Greg about his knee. “Getting there,” he said. Then he added: “that could be country song.” “We could end it in heaven,” I said. “We could write it right now in the kitchen.” We were already in Surprise, Arizona. We had qualified for the Sunday semifinals. Getting […]
  • James Wright and Joe Rasgado in Wheeling, West Virginia
    Midsummer, 2022. Though many other players have recommended it, no way I’m playing the Jack Dorsey Memorial Tournament in Wheeling, West Virginia. It’s too far away, a 15 hour drive from home. “Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass. And the eyes of those two Indian ponies / Darken with kindness.”* Across the river from […]
  • Embrace Your Community: Arkansas Razorbacks Men’s Tennis
    Received this email from former Razorbacks Tennis Coach, Robert Cox, on November 28, 2022: “Please reply if you are coming to hit with the Hogs tomorrow, Tuesday night!!  6-8pm…..Coach Jay Udwadia welcomes you to come meet and hit with the Hogs at the indoor courts..” I showed up, of course, with more than 40 other adult […]
  • A Bar in Vancouver, Guest Appearance by Daniel Nestor
    2022. I’m in a bar in Vancouver with Jack. Jack married Emily a year ago. Emily’s lucky. Jack’s chill, works at Space X, and loves the outdoors. Jack’s luckier: Emily’s my daughter. Jack’s studying for his final flight for his pilot’s license. Since I lost my wife, Jacque, a year ago, I, too, dream of […]
  • The Tennis Art of Jeffrey Sparr
    If you want a wide range of compelling art about tennis, Jeffrey Sparr is an artist you need to know. As a four year starter on Ohio State’s tennis team, Jeff turned to art as therapy in response to mental health challenges. He then Co-founded PeaceLove Foundation, an organization that equips human service workers with […]
  • Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Art by Bruce Quiroz
    PRELUDE Fashionista or Anti-Fashionista? Tennis Traditionalist or Anti-Traditionalist? For many years now, BMS has pushed and pulled and rocked and rolled the world of tennis fashion: her iconic long socks, her various hats and head gear, her endless variety of dresses: leopard skin, zebra stripe, toga, metallica . . . anything imaginable or unimaginable by […]
  • Scattering Jacque’s Ashes at Corrallina Cove
    The day after Christmas, my two daughters and I scattered Jacque’s ashes on the small beach in the picture above. Then we watched the waves come in and carry them out to sea. I told Anne and Emily to scatter my ashes here in the very same way. Below is the eulogy I read at […]
  • The Bryan Brothers, Art by Jace McTier
    The Painting: Red, white, and blue. Gold splattered everywhere. The American flag not a Jasper John flag of ironic contemplation, but the rippling backdrop for a full-throated patriotic moment at the 2012 Olympic games. The Bryan Brothers, at 34, have just won their first (and only) gold medal, the greatest moment of their career. Their celebration […]
  • A Tennis Racquet from Vietnam
    For two summers in the late 1970s, I played tennis every week with a much older player named Van Nguyen–a refugee from Vietnam who played with his shirt off and had the exact same body as the man in the picture above. He was a devilishly good tennis player who never missed and moved the […]
  • Suzanne: The Jazz Age Goddess of Tennis, by Tom Humberstone
    I’ve read lots of dry prose about Suzanne Lenglen. Words words words words . . . It’s stuffy inside and I open a window. The breeze coming in feels like turning the pages of Tom Humberstone’s new graphic novel: Suzanne: The Jazz Age Goddess of Tennis.  Suzanne’s not a fixed portrait, but a river, a […]
  • Sport or Art: The Big 3 as Terracotta Warriors, Sculpture by Laury Dizengremel
    What’s the most impressive thing about the Egyptian Pyramids, the Terracotta Warriors? More widely known today than in their infancy, they have endured over 4 millennia. The pyramids and the contents within—the pharoah’s chair, his portrait hewed out of hardest stone, are built to last not only as monuments to the dead but as memorial […]
  • Arkansas Wins Southerns: Waffle House, Redemption, and a Shot of Bailey’s
    Day 1: Driving all day to Dothan, Alabama. 12 hours in the car with Doug and Bill. We talk tennis, theology, politics. BS, too. Remnants of Hurricane Nicole greet us with wind and rain an hour outside Dothan. Right next to our hotel is a Waffle House. Bill says let’s eat there. It feels like […]
  • Esther Vergeer: Fierce and Vulnerable
    I cry when I see that picture of me as a little girl. Helpless and alone after the surgery, she must lie on her stomach for a week. No one told mom or dad she might need a wheelchair. Alone in the bathroom after another gold medal, I must produce for the mandatory doping test. […]
  • “Towards an Indian Gay Image, Oberoi Hotel, 2020,” Art by Sunil Gupta
    Note: When I played high school tennis in the 1970s, I heard many say tennis was a “sissy” sport. Not sure I even knew what that meant: effeminate, gay . . . (not sure I even knew what “gay” meant at 15 years old). Those days are gone. Intriguing, though, that Gupta’s gay figure carries a […]
  • J.J. Wolf Goes Lefty, Hits the Shot of the Year
    “God gave me two hands. I might as well use them both.” –Randy Sontheimer In the finals of the Colorado State Open, I hit a sharply angled crosscourt backhand. No way my opponent, Randy Sontheimer, could reach the shot. Suddenly he went lefty on me and punched a topspin forehand down the line for a […]
  • Three French (S)heroes:  Yannick Noah/Amelie Mauresmo/Suzanne Lenglen
    Miscegenation. I first read that word in a Faulkner novel. Métisse (mixed race). I first heard that word in one of Noah’s hit songs.* Half man whispered in the women’s locker room after Mauresmo came out as a lesbian. A mere decade later, a muscular body such as hers was accepted by everyone, desired by many. […]
  • Autumn at the Stagg Invitational
    Mike Roberson and I shake hands after the final match. We both lost our wives this year. I am the lucky one. At 65 years old, two decades older than Mike, I can already check the box called a long, happy life: a blissful marriage of forty years with two beautiful daughters of intelligence and […]
  • Jimmy Arias and Luke Jensen Visit Team Luke
    The Sixth Annual Play for Team Luke Tennis and Pickleball Event takes place on Saturday, Oct. 29 at Hardscrabble Country Club in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Click here for more info. Special guests are Jimmy Arias and Luke Jensen. Jimmy Arias: So good so young so slight so overpowering he scared everyone. Hit the forehand so […]
  • Louis Armstrong’s Trumpet
    Is there a greater story in American history than how Louis Armstrong developed the improvised jazz solo before white and black audiences in the 1920s? Playing before white audiences, Armstrong would rarely stray too far from the tune. Give them something familiar, easy on the mind. Don’t what those white people to have to work […]
  • Tatjana Maria: The Forehand Slice in Wimbledon’s Garden of Eden
    Tatjana Maria’s grand slam record before reaching the Wimbledon semifinals in 2022: 13 losses in qualifying rounds, 23 losses in the first round; 10 losses in the second round, 1 loss in the third round. In other words, her greatest success by far comes at age 34 a year after giving birth to her second […]
  • Lew Hoad
    Greek Tragedy #1: That something within everyone like Achilles’ heel is fated and waiting to fail. For Lew Hoad it was his back. Greek Tragedy #2:  What being born a decade too soon might mean: his homeland (Australia) would exile him, history forget him.* (slightly overstated but not much) In Medias Res: Pills swallowed, shots taken, […]
  • Bob Davis: Paying it Forward
    The gift he was given was tennis. Segregation was the law in this lawless land, so the color of his skin meant many things: 1) he was not able to play tournaments and compete against his peers 2) he would change the world through the gift of tennis one player at a time. Thousands and […]
  • Arthur Ashe
    Solve this problem: Your daughter’s playing with a doll, a gift she just received from a friend.  The doll is white.  1968: John Carlos’ black power salute Arthur Ashe wins the first US Open. 1970: Toni Morrison The Bluest Eye the problem of “whiteness” as a standard of beauty Arthur Ashe wins The Australian Open. […]
  • Max Decugis, Francois Flameng, and WWI
    Innocence and hats and quiet revolutions. That was before the war. Max Decugis won a record 8 French Championships ending in 1914. Francois Flameng painted Max’s crisply parted black hair and elegant white pants on a tennis court teeming with prewar pastoral: “the men leaving the gardens tidy, The thousands of marriages, / Lasting a […]
  • The Tennis Art of Tommervik
    A woman hits an overhead smash, her racquet a guitar in a cubist painting by Braque or Picasso. Her larger than life limbs travel across countries and centuries of time: ancient, modern, eastern, western. My tennis friends tell me she’s not hitting an overhead. She is hitting the ultimate trick shot, swinging and purposefully missing […]
  • Rafael Osuna: Mexico’s Greatest Tennis Player
    Smells of two worlds mix in the kitchen: one of boiling beans and noodle soup and chile rellenos, the other of black olives and goat cheese and figs. Each day is a clock with its two hands tossing tortillas as a child appears and then another and another till Rafael is born on Sept. 15, […]
  • Tennis Mulligans and Special Needs in Northwest Arkansas
    I double faulted on an important point in a doubles match last weekend. Usually a moment of some agony (few tennis players are intentionally charitable), I smiled at my opponents instead. “Mulligan,” I cried out. (I had purchased 5 mulligans before the match.) So happy to have another serve, I barely thought of all the […]
  • Gael Monfils: Improv and the Human Highlight Reel
    If you could see the moment after in the painting above: Monfils hitting the ground running to cover the next shot, which his opponent misses. If you watch the first two shots in the video below from Tennis TV. First Shot: The long sprint forward sudden scissors kick leap high in the air while […]
  • Murals of Monica Puig, Puerto Rico’s First Gold Medalist
    Her headband draws any softness of hair back away from her fierce, focused eyes. Powerful arms hips legs all work together to crush another backhand winner at the Olympic Games in Rio. No-nonsense, aggressive play. That’s how you take what might be yours. Murals of Monica dot the island. “Siempre va a ser mi recuerdo […]
  • You Can Get There From Here, The Story of Barry Buss
    I softly cried my way through Chapter 25: “Thirty Days in Tuscon.” Maybe I cried because my youngest brother worked through a hidden bottle of Vodka each morning. Maybe I cried because we never knew.  Barry’s parents never knew that, as Barry himself puts it, he was “a suicidal alcoholic bent on destruction.”  In “Thirty […]
  • Tracy Austin Made the Big Girls Cry
    Tracy Austin “hit the hell out of the ball and never missed and never choked and had braces and pigtails that swung wildly around as she handed pros their asses” (David Foster Wallace). Tracy, in other words, made the big girls cry. She even made the goddesses, the legends of the sport–Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova–cry their […]
  • Quartet for the End of Time
    January 15, 1941, a light rain descending on Stalag VIII-A: Jean le Boulaire on violin, Henri Akoka on clarinet, Etienne Pasquier on cello. The composer, Oliver Messiaen, plays piano. How to express the mystical truths of Catholicism in the rhythm of musical movement: bird song, Hindu talas, numerical formulas, ancient Greek meters, Gregorian chant. All […]
  • Pauline Betz
    Pauline works all day at an LA Department Store, then leaps into the back seat of her mother’s car. Her mother negotiates LA traffic while Pauline changes into tennis clothes. Together they will scrimp 17 dollars to travel east. Swing music on the radio drowns out the war. The next year they take out a […]
  • Life Imitates Art: Paul, Fritz, and Opelka and “The Oath of the Horatii”
    From left to right in the picture above: Tommy Paul, Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka.  French Open Junior Champion, US Open Junior Champion, Wimbledon Junior Champion. Great mover, Big serve and groundies, Bunyanesque serve. Teenage Trouble Maker, Video Games Guru, Contemporary Art Collector. When I saw this fantastic photo from @zootennis on twitter, I immediately thought […]
  • Rene Lacoste: The Crocodile
    Why “le croc?” “The machine” is a better nickname. That’s what Tilden called me because I sent every ball back like the ball machine I would invent in 1947. Invented the steel racquet, too, much later. From wood to steel. Another machine like those human beings in modernist paintings of Fernand Leger. I was called […]
  • Vitas Gerulaitis: In Memoriam
    Vitas practiced his weaknesses for hours on end: the second serve, cocaine. This week’s writing challenge: describe his hair. The result, a failure: lion locks Lithuanian in its riding of the rolling level underneath it within it surfers girls waves omg dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon* I want to touch it see it live again please live please […]
  • Callen Cup 2022: The Arkansas Men’s 65s Team
    On the court before us, Doug Stursma (above) is playing Keith Richardson (once #63 in the ATP World Rankings) at #2 singles. We call it getting Stursmad when you lose to Doug, who at 68 years old hits every shot with heavy slice all over the court without missing while running down every shot you […]
  • David Lewerenz: In Memoriam
    A few days before he was shockingly diagnosed with brain cancer, David Lewerenz called me on the phone to talk tennis. His granddaughter had just been a ball girl at a tournament for one of Iga Swiatek’s (now the world’s #1 player) matches. They shared a Polish heritage, and his granddaughter and Iga spoke briefly […]
  • Players Party at Baton Rouge
    All the lines below are from 60-85 year old senior tennis players and their significant others. “Bone on bone.” “Both hips replaced.” “Bet this is the healthiest group of seniors in the country.” “We drive our RV together to tournaments, listen to books on Audible.” “I play for Chile at the Worlds this year.” “I […]
  • Jennifer Capriati: A Celebratory Cautionary Tale
    “When the apple is ripe, you eat it.”               (Jennifer’s father, Stefano).  1989:  Five million in endorsements before turning pro.  “And she’s only 13!” (Sports Illustrated Cover).  1991: Capriati’s US Open semifinal vs. Monica Seles–the birth of power tennis in the women’s game–“a slugfest conducted by a pair of teenagers whose strokes defied age, gender and […]
  • 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 […]
  • 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 […]
  • 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 […]
  • 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. […]
  • 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 […]
  • Margaret Court, LGBTQ+
    Margaret Court, the Aussie Amazon, did sprints in the sand and lifted weights when workouts for “ladies” were a dirty word. On first encountering her, Martina Navratilova said what so many women felt: “Margaret amazed me with her size and strength.” Nicknamed “The Arm” for her power overhead (the serve, the smash) and incredible reach […]
  • Insane Federer vs Nadal 26 Shot Rally, Animation by JCeptable
    Shots 11-15 Rafa hits a topspin forehand crosscourt to Fed’s backhand. Scar tissue scar tissue in Federer’s brain, Federer’s backhand. Fed loops a solid backhand back crosscourt. A losing pattern. A losing pattern. Rafa hits a sharper, stronger topspin forehand to Fed’s backhand. Fed covers it in a flash and from way off court surprises […]
  • 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 […]
  • 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 […]
  • 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 […]
  • Muguruza, Guadalajara, and Covid-19
    “Everything gets on you fast,” said Aggie Radwanska of Muguruza’s aggressive all-court game: big whopping ground strokes, aggressive returns taken early, big serves and swinging volleys, her lengthy six feet of grace and power always looking to move in closer, smother her opponents with big shot after big shot. Covid came fast, too. Put a […]
  • Russian Stars: Medvedev, Rublev, and Shostakovitch’s Fifth
    On the day Russia–or Putin–invaded Ukraine, the Russian tennis star, Daniil Medvedev, became the #1 player in the world. At his match that night in Acapulco, his wife, Daria Medvedeva, was seen subtly wearing the colors of Ukraine. In Dubai at another tournament, Medvedev’s compatriot, Andrey Rublev, the 7th ranked tennis players in the world, […]
  • Angie Kerber’s Smile: The 2016 Aussie Open Final, Art by Andreas Otto
    I watched Kerber brood for years on tour. Did not remember her smile till she won the Aussie Open. This portrait painted soon after: big blue eyes, sparkling white teeth. Exaggerate a feature to express a truth. Caricature 101.   Angie’s smile like the lotus flower of Buddhist thought, a moment of beauty arising before […]
  • Ons Jabeur and the Arab World, Art by Colacat
    Headline: Ons Jabeur Becomes the First Arab Woman to Break into the World’s Top Ten Young Arab women in 22 countries practice Ons Jabeur drop shots of outrageous height and spin. It’s about having the right feel. It’s about having soft hands. Girls in Tunisia and Algeria practice tweeners and trick shots like the one […]
  • 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 […]
  • Fanfare for the Common Man: Tim Huhn’s Art and Aaron Copland’s Music
    Note: Took a week off from tennis posts to feature this artwork by Tim Huhn. Will return to tennis posts next week with upcoming posts on Agassi, Ons Jabeur, and Helen Wills Moody. Fanfare for the Common Man One man moving industry’s gears. The rising of cities. The coming of war. One man multiplied by […]
  • Delpo’s Diary (Six Years after Winning the US Open)
    After Beethoven’s Heiligenstadt Testament* I have been hopelessly afflicted, from year to year deceived with hopes of improvement, finally compelled to face the prospect of a lasting malady. . . . Four wrist surgeries. One on the right, three on the left. The pain most often returns when I hit a two-handed backhand. I have changed […]
  • 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 […]
  • “Yes, Tennis Everyone!” Art by Brian Cowlishaw
    Brian writes me that the inspiration for this piece comes from Donald Barthelme’s story, “The Palace.” In this story, the author is in line at a bank in New York City when he notices the yellow check for $84.06 that a Puerto Rican woman holds. Then he notices that there are many other black and […]
  • Ash Barty’s Fist
    A young girl asks her mother: “How do you know if you are going to die?” The mother answers: “When you can no longer make a fist.”* Ash Barty’s advice to self: have fun be nice if no fun no tennis if not nice no purpose no spiritual . . . ask Evonne G. if […]
  • Chris Evert, A Study in Blue, Art by Lucy McTier
    “Light blue is like a flute, dark blue like a cello, and when still darker, it becomes a wonderful double bass.” Wassily Kandinsky Wassily Kandinksy saw color in musical/spiritual terms: “Color is a means of exercising direct influence upon the soul. Color is the keyboard. The eye is the hammer, while the soul is a […]
  • Funerals, Weddings, Births
    My wife passed away sudddenly in November of last year. Two months earlier, in September, we attended our daughter’s wedding. The above wedding picture includes from left to right: my wife, Jacque; my daughter, Emily; her new husband, Jack Nelson; our younger daughter, Anne; and me. I am so grateful for the 40 rich years […]
  • Emma Raducanu
    September 12, 2021 Dear Emma: Sorry I missed the US Open final today. Incredible that you won it, becoming the first qualifier in the history of tennis to win a major championship.  I am in Seattle celebrating my oldest daughter’s wedding. Emily is 27 years old and much like you, an incredibly hard worker who […]
  • Pete Sampras and Nirvana
    Happy to share this publication, which just appeared in MasticadoresIndia. My thanks to the editor, Terveen Gill, who is doing terrific work editing this new journal. The link to this publication (the full post) and to MasticadoresIndia is below.   Pete Sampras and Nirvana Remember your first funeral? Pete put his first Wimbledon trophy in […]
  • Hugo Dellien, Tu Fu, and the Miracle of Life (Art by ItchiRAE)
    March, 2020. Bolivia closes its borders. Paraguay closes its borders. New words are heard: Pandemic, Covid. The cruelest month is April when an everyday miracle occurs. A birth, a baby named “Mila.” “Mila,” a Milagro. In Paraguay the mother is all alone. In Bolivia the father is bereft. The mother’s name is Camila Giangreco Campiz. She […]
  • Percy Shakespeare, “The Tennis Player”
    Tennis invented so that women and men could play together. Conversation, competition . . . The development of women’s fashion, the body freed from Victorian hoop skirts so it might chase down more balls. Legs for running or for showing off? Feminist or feminine? Traditional or Daring? Married or single? Beautiful or plain? The woman […]
  • Tennis or Art: A Self-Portrait, by Michael Newberry
    I was 20 and holed up in a hotel room in Frankfurt, Germany contemplating my future. I was torn between two really good career options: to continue being a pro-tennis player (I was beating guys top 100 in the world) or give everything I had to my art. The week involved a tremendous amount of self-assessment, a […]
  • Four Americans at the Little Rock Challenger, Art by Shawn Adair
    They come to Little Rock from all over the world: Australia, Ecuador, The Bahamas, Canada, Portugal, Argentina, Colombia, Japan, India, Barbados, Chile, the Dominican Republic. They come to fight for points. Ryan Harrison, recovering from elbow surgery, must arrive five days early and win a Wild Card tournament of 32 players just to get into […]
  • Bianca Andreescu, Art by Scott Kish
    Dynamism of a cross-court backhand. Power, pace, direction. Bianca’s arms muscles legs Scott Kish’s brushstrokes flying right and left black purple and white in lines and arcs and physics of movement. No photo no video might live so fully inside where the body was and where it’s going. Each wildly controlled black line an echo […]
  • Djokovic’s GOAT Win Over Nadal, Art by Phetru
    “Me trying to cover the court,” Djokovic says after seeing Phetru’s Shrinking Hype of him playing—and beating–Rafa in the 2021 French Open, arguably the greatest win of his career. “I’m dying at these,” says another. “Warm and fuzzy,” says one. Small, smaller, and smaller still. Phetru’s Shrinking Hypes a laughing gas way back machine to […]
  • What We Do in Wimbledon Fortnight, by Scott Barclay with Art by Nial Smith
    Clouds broke, breaching their way across the London sky, smokey and wispy in their sunburned paleness and altogether calming in their paced slowness. Below though, chaos reigned, raining down at speeds fearsome as racket hands shook and dreams shivered, wavered and quivered with goosebumps on tight ropes of potential happenings. Breaths were being held, choking […]
  • Haitian Women: Tracy Guiteau Paints Naomi Osaka Reads Tracy Guiteau
    “I know our ancestors’ blood is strong we’ll keep rising,” Osaka said after committing her prize money to the relief effort after the earthquake in Haiti. An admirer of the Haitian American artist Tracy Guiteau’s work—Osaka commissioned the above portrait of herself–would Naomi admire as I do the stunning beauty of Tracy Guiteau’s recent work Hindsight, its three […]
  • Leslie Turner Bowrey: Hand Sculptures
    Mark on his paintings: What I found captivating about Leslie Turner was the way she unconsciously produced these shapes with her hands when she hit the ball. They are so beautiful to me. In a way they are like reifications of her concentration. Hand sculptures! And as sculptures they are forms that reflect her capacity to […]
  • Justine Henin’s Backhand: Music of the Spheres, by David Linebarger— MasticadoresIndia // Editora: Terveen Gill
    Happy to share this publication of Brooke Hunter’s art and my short writing on Justine Henin’s Backhand, which just appeared in MasticadoresIndia. My thanks to the editor, Terveen Gill, who is doing terrific work editing this new journal. The link to this publication (the full post) and to MasticadoresIndia is below. Check out all the […]
  • John Isner’s Serve, Art by Jace McTier
    The explosion of Isner’s serve has happened. Yellow pink green orange burst from the sky. We want to move a little closer or stand back in awe. McTier’s vibrant colors mix with our memories of Isner’s serve, his thrust up from his legs through his core back and shoulders toward the ridiculous height of 10 […]
  • Feminist Fantasy #3: Rosie Casals and the Original 9
    Artwork of Rosie Casals is by Miki de Goodaboom The year is 2101. Someone walks by a grave in Palm Desert. “They Called Her Rosebud. / They Called Her General.”  Few know what the epitaph means. In California, women and men share economic power. In half the world, men and women share economic power. The […]
  • Team Luke: In Memory of Luke Siegel
    This painting of Tim Siegel and Luke is called “My Boy” and is painted by Jeffrey Sparr. It is Tim’s favorite image of he and Luke together. Tuesday nights at the University of Arkansas I play tennis with the greatest group of players imaginable: talented juniors, male and female, former Razorback players, a bunch of […]
  • The West Side Tennis Club, Art by Normandie Syken
    Pen and ink drawing, watercolor. The real world, the artist’s imagination. Life’s drift or dialogue between the two. Normandie Syken’s Junior Tennis mixes a childhood world of innocence with moments of hard-to-pin-down adult introspection. Soft washes of watercolor are everywhere. Tennis balls dot the courts like an impressionist’s flowers. Overly large figures of adult authority—the tennis pros—are […]
  • What a University Tennis Coach Learns from his Players: Two Examples
    By Robert Cox, Head Coach at the University of Arkansas (1987-2013) What I learned from Blake Strode: Recruits like Blake do not come around very often. He was the complete package: smarts, natural talent, high Jr. rankings, speed, and a high tennis IQ. For four years, Blake played high in the line-up earning All American honors, […]
  • The Many Gifts of Manolo Santana
    What Pablo Casals did for the cello Andres Segovia for the classical guitar Picasso for modern art Manolo Santana did for tennis in Spain. He inspired a generation who inspired a generation who inspired a generation so that every tennis aficionado knows what Spanish tennis now is—both a style that evolved and a long list of […]
  • Two Tennis Pregnancies: Daphne Akhurst, Serena Williams
    Note: The writing below was inspired by Richard Naughton’s book: Daphne Akhurst: The Woman Behind the Trophy. All the information below on Daphne Akhurst is taken from this book, which I highly recommend for a more thorough account of her fascinating life. Two Tennis Pregnancies Serena takes pictures with the Daphne Akhurst trophy after winning […]
  • Alice Marble or Alice Marvel
    Which opening scene works best for a Hollywood film on Alice? Scene 1: Babe Ruth hands a ball to a 17-year old girl (Babe Didrikson Zaharias) out in centerfield before a San Francisco Seals Game. He whispers: “Kid, throw it high. You get more distance.” Show in slow motion how the girl, determined, throws a perfect […]
  • Seven Ways of Looking at Dominic Thiem’s Backhand
    After Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” When Zeus throws a lightning bolt, his easy power is bestowed upon him by god-like men or man-like gods from the ancient world. Thiem’s one-hander is modern. As with lightening, all the electrons/muscles fire at different times, lighting up the kinetic chain of his body: […]
  • Maria Sakkari: Greek Goddess or Greek Olympian
    In Athens, the city of her birth, Sakkari sails back 25 centuries to the 5th century BCE. Male nude olympians everywhere sculpted in all their glory. History’s greatest ideas buzz around them like bees: Democracy, Drama, Dialectic. Due to Maria’s athletic prowess—her sprinter’s speed, her gynmast’s arms–she is allowed to compete in the Olympic Games. She […]
  • Bobby Riggs on his Death Bed
    1945: The Enola Gay took off for Hiroshima.  Don Budge and I, the world’s two best players, played a few miles away. A little action. Entertaining the troops. Army (Budge) vs. Navy (Riggs), that’s the way it is boys. Bets? Bets? I was just a pesky hustler, but I finally figured him out. He got […]
  • Simona Halep: Three Easy-but-Difficult, Safe-but-Risky, Calculated-but-Mindless Backhands
    Situation: Having lost the first set, Simona is serving at 4-4 (15-15) in the second set against Sloane Stephens in the 2018 French Open Final. Sloane floats a weak return just past the service line, so Simona steps in and smacks an 88 mph sharply angled backhand cross-court within a foot of the sideline I submit that […]
  • Tennis in the Year 3040
    La Tenista 3040 is prepared to play in two realms at once: 1) the year 3040 2) the mythological past. The Year 3040: A warming planet, biological weapons, alternate realities, cyborg cities . . .  La Tenista 3040 is prepared. Like those insects crawling over the melting of time in Salvadore Dali’s Persistence of Memory, La […]
  • Pat Cash
    Mark on his Painting: “Pat Cash occupies a special place in my young tennis heart. He was someone we all aspired to in Australia. At the junior tournaments we all wore the chequered head band and everyone leapt at the ball just that little bit harder mimicking Cash’s athleticism. This was the thing that most captivated […]
  • Roger Federer and Myron’s Discus Thrower
    When the ancient Greeks sculpted the victors of an Olympic event, the goal was to produce not the athlete itself but the perfect, idealized image of the athlete, the body in rhythmos, the discus throw imagined as god-like, eternal. In Myron’s Discus Thrower, the arms fully extended to their perfect still point form a perfect arc […]
  • Andy Murray: The Pressure of Wimbledon
    Pressure: “the exertion of a force on one body by another body, fluid, etc.” Item: Mouth ulcers every year when Wimbledon comes around. Cliché: Andy carries the weight of an entire nation, 76 years since the last male champion.  Item: Murray got tight, choked for long stretches in his first grand slam final (2008 US […]
  • Lady Pink Paints Serena Williams
    “It’s not just a boy’s club. We’ve got a sisterhood going.” –Lady Pink Bad Ass. That’s what I say to my daughters. That’s what they say to me. We repeat it for emphasis in hushed tones, reverence: Serena’s a Bad Ass. Diva of high notes, fashion. Built like a brick house in black tight leather. Her powerful […]
  • Three-Time French Open Champions: The Women
    Excerpts and links below from previous and forthcoming publications. Justine Henin: I watch Justine in slow motion, the transfer of weight from back to front foot, the coiling uncoiling of the legs the hips the shoulders the core. (Is it true she did a thousand sit ups a day?) Justine ‘s one-handed backhand, “the most […]
  • David Hall’s Golden Socks
    This party was a once off.  To win a gold medal in a Paralympics not only in my home country, but actually in the city of my birth where I lived would never happen again.—David Hall The gold medal’s been in my sock drawer for 20 years, so whenever I get socks I relive the day, […]
  • Three-Time French Open Champions: The Men
    The Women will be published on June 4. Rafael Nadal: 4,500 rpm on the forehand.  Borg’s topspin revolution doubled, squared.  All that topspin means net clearance, safety, angles.  The perfect weapon for clay, its wars of attrition.  Bjorn Borg: I wanted to be Ringo Starr one year for Halloween. Long hair, girls screaming, rock star. […]