Best Tennis Writing of the Week: The Controversial Connors, Kleybanova’s Comeback, and Serena’s Legacy

In a new weekly feature, I will use the weekends to take a look back at some of my favorite tennis writing of the week.

My Top 5 Tennis Reads of the Week:

1. “Jimmy Connors Shouldn’t Be Talking About Chris Evert’s Abortion” by Jessica Luther of The Atlantic .

I am so glad that Luther wrote this phenomenal piece, which hits on all the things I’ve been thinking (and more) about Jimmy Connors revealing that Chris Evert had an abortion in his memoir. This must-read leaves no stone unturned as it explores the complexities of right and wrong in this controversial issue.

Connors telling Evert’s story decades later shows the particular vulnerability that women face in a culture that stigmatizes abortion. Even decades later, after a career that most professional tennis players will only ever dream about accomplishing, Evert has had to deal with potential fallout from a decision that allowed her to have both a successful professional and personal life. (She eventually had three children with Andy Mills).

Other than the statement released through her agent, the only other thing that Evert has said publicly about Connors’ revelation is a simple tweet on May 5 that reads: “Thank you guys for your support this week; means a lot to me…” Evert has weathered many a storm in her life both publicly and privately since she broke onto the tennis scene at the age of 15. The point, though, is that she shouldn’t have to weather anything. Connors should never have made that decision for her.

2.“‘The Outsider,’ by Jimmy Connors” a review by Joel Drucker for San Francisco Chronicle.

I’ve been (rightfully) appalled about Connors’ memoir ever since the news above broke, and have vowed not to spend any money on it. However, I was glad that tennis super-journalist Joel Drucker, who wrote a book called “Jimmy Connors Saved My Life,” gave the rest of the book the attention and the prose that Connors earned with his play on the court and dedication to the sport all of the years.

More significant was Connors’ persona. Before his arrival in the early 1970s, tennis champions favored understatement in the manner of actor Cary Grant or Bing Crosby. Connors turned the acoustic lawn into a raucous jungle. Squeaking and snarling with his steel racquet and Prince Valiant haircut, “Jimbo” blended Marlon Brando’s youthful bravado and Elvis Presley’s new rock ‘n’ roll sound. As he writes in his elliptical but engaging memoir, “The Outsider,” “We talked to the fans, shouted, laughed, cursed, and made rude gestures, but they came back the next day to see more. The noise, the abuse, the language – it was wild.”

3. “No Frills on the Road Back” by Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times .

In fantastic news, Alisa Kleybanova is continuing her comeback from cancer this week at a small 10K in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Earlier in the week Rothenberg went to the off-the-beaten-path event to get a firsthand account of the trials and tribulations involved with rebuilding a pro career after beating Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

There were a lot of tennis tournament essentials missing on Sunday at the $10,000 U.S.T.A. Pro Circuit tournament at Hempfield Recreation Center here.

There were no ball girls or boys. No line judges. No chair umpire. No electronic scoreboard.

But there was a woman who was ranked No. 20 in world in singles and No. 10 in doubles a little more than two years ago.

4. “Serena Williams’ dominance unrivaled in women’s tennis” by Bruce Jenkins of Sports Illustrated.

I learned a lot by reading this piece by Jenkins, who put Serena’s domination against her rivals into context by looking at the entire history of women’s tennis, dating all the way back to the 1920s. Whether you believe she’s the best ever or not, it’s hard to not come away incredible impressed.

The most spirited sports debates never quite get settled. Mays and Mantle, Palmer and Nicklaus, Russell and Chamberlain — there’s so much evidence on either side, there’s really no closure to the arguments.

Here’s something that’s beyond question: In the history of women’s tennis, nobody has crushed the notion of “rivalry” quite like Serena Williams.

The really stunning part is that Williams, at an age that suggests retirement for so many players, has separated herself from the world’s top players in the manner of Tiger Woods in his prime. And you wonder: In women’s tennis, when has this happened before?

5. “Minor Miracles” by Jesse Pentecost of The Next Point.

As we’ve mentioned on this site before, Pentecost’s Next Point blog is always a treat, but I particularly enjoyed this recap of the first few days of the event in Rome, which served as a proverbial love letter to the French Open warm-up.

Of the nine Masters 1000 tournaments unevenly studding the ATP calendar, Rome’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia is my favourite. For one thing, the location is perfect, and perfectly peculiar. Whatever the Foro Italico’s provenance – confected in the 1930s, it reflected Mussolini’s determination, common among tyrants, to legitimate his rule via a spurious connection with ancient glories – one cannot deny that set dressing this sumptuous helps establish a certain tone.The kitsch statues dotting the grounds are no more authentically Roman than the props in Gladiator, but they work the same trick.

Other Winners:

-Are you a fan of long-form, nerdy, reflective sports-writing? (Chances are that if you’re a fan of this site, you are.) Well, you’re in luck, because The Classical has a monthly magazine available for purchase and download here!  

-Foot Soldiers of Tennis on Fernando Romboli’s drug ban.

Tweets I Loved:

Lindsay is an author, a filmmaker, a long-winded blogger, and a huge tennis fan.

One Response

  1. James
    James May 19, 2013 at 10:46 pm |

    Nice roundup, Lindsay. As a fellow tennis addict, I spend WAY too much time just as I wake up to check the scores. Rafa over Roger was particularly painful given that Roger said in his presser that he hoped to be the one to stop Rafa. (sad face)

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