A passionately impressionistic and insightful celebration of professional tennis from former junior player Berry. With the...

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TOUGH DRAW: The Path to Tennis Glory

A passionately impressionistic and insightful celebration of professional tennis from former junior player Berry. With the 1990 outdoor season as backdrop, Berry sketches an alternately fierce and fluid physical and psychological battleground--one that pits gritty veterans and established young stars against a startling array of talented newcomers. Refreshingly uninterested in scandal and gossip, and paying scant attention to the sport's political and business aspects, Berry searches for the heart of the game itself--""the source for the drive top players have and the tremendous, pure appeal of the action""--locating it in an amalgam of killer instinct and the desire for social acceptance. The latter point--arising from a thoughtful reading of the first-generation backgrounds of Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, and Pete Sampras, and the broken families of Martina Navratilova and Jimmy Connors--though occasionally wonderfully on target (e.g., self-conscious ""rebel"" Agassi is ""America itself, part immigrant, part blonde""), is, unfortunately, more often undercut by overstatement (the Maryland-born Sampras is hardly a ""Greek kid""). Much better is the picture of the larger tennis world--as much a matter of parents, coaches, officials, fans, and retired greats as of the players themselves--moving from Florida's Lipton International to the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open. Included are sensitive glimpses of the perhaps ruinously introspective Boris Becker and the articulate and driven Navratilova, along with less talented but equally determined ""strugglers"" such as Jay Berger, and, in a brief coda set at the 1991 US Open, the remarkably resilient Connors. Fittingly, however, Berry is at his best in charting the furious shifts of individual matches, going beyond simple play-by-play to capture the ""combination of talent, concentration, brains, luck, and heart"" needed for tennis greatness. Not quite an ace, but an impressive sportswriting first serve.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1992

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1992