LADIES OF THE COURT by Michael Mewshaw


Grace and Scandal on the Women's Tennis Tour
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 A decade after his account of life on the men's tour (Short Circuit, 1983), journalist/novelist Mewshaw (True Crime, 1991, etc.) turns his attention to the women's game--in a frequently insightful, but surprisingly tepid, chronicle of the 1992 season. Setting the scene for salacious revelations by his observation that, whereas in the men's realm ``the main buzz was about money,'' in women's tennis, ``the buzz was all about sex,'' Mewshaw instead delivers a depressing tale of talented teenagers enduring ``fatigue, nagging illness, homesickness, [and] boredom'' as they struggle to survive within the non-stop grind of the pro tour. The main bombshell, hammered home with numbing repetition, is the emotional, physical, and sexual exploitation of young players (average age, 20), primarily by unscrupulous male coaches, but with opportunistic fathers and sleazy hitting partners close seconds. Refreshingly, Mewshaw devotes little hand-wringing to the question of lesbianism--quoting only one player as recalling unwelcome advances and singling out forthright bisexual Martina Navratilova for her candor and intelligence--and he gives a neatly feminist critique of reporters' search for ``bitchy'' comments and preoccupation with players' weights. The problem is that, with most of his informants remaining anonymous, Mewshaw never serves up the decisive ace to move his chronicle from the tut-tut level to the truly shocking. An accompanying reticence (even when he can name names, as in a salty anecdote involving ``liberated heterosexual'' Chris Evert, ``the Teflon Princess of Pro Tennis'') and a lack of either the intimacy of John Feinstein's Hard Courts (1991) or the intensity of Eliot Berry's Tough Draw (1992) leave a well-meaning narrative emotionally flat. Enough for a game perhaps, but far short of set or match. (Eight-page photo insert.)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-517-58758-0
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993


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