Wed. Nov 29th, 2023

The sport of tennis has seen its fair share of legendary battles over the years. From intense rivalries to epic showdowns, these matches have not only defined an era but also left a lasting impact on the sport itself. In his book, “The Art of Rivalry: Legendary Tennis Battles That Defined an Era,” author David Foster Wallace delves into some of the most iconic rivalries in tennis history.

Wallace provides an in-depth and captivating analysis of four major tennis rivalries that took place in the 1970s and 1980s: Bjorn Borg versus John McEnroe, Chris Evert versus Martina Navratilova, Ilie Nastase versus Arthur Ashe, and finally, the “Hingis Heat” between Martina Hingis and Venus Williams. Through extensive research and interviews with the players involved, he dissects the psyche of these players, exploring what drove them to greatness and how their intense rivalry fueled their success.

One of the most compelling rivalries explored in the book is Bjorn Borg versus John McEnroe. Borg, known for his ice-cold demeanor, was the epitome of coolness on the tennis court. McEnroe, on the other hand, was a fiery and temperamental player, constantly challenging the limits of sportsmanship. Their contrasting personalities exemplified the age-old clash between the calm and collected versus the passionate and explosive, captivating audiences for years.

Another gripping rivalry Wallace delves into is Chris Evert versus Martina Navratilova. These two female tennis legends dominated the sport for over a decade. Evert, often referred to as the “Ice Maiden,” showcased incredible mental strength and consistency, while Navratilova, known for her athleticism and power, revolutionized the game. Their rivalry transcended the sport, igniting discussions about gender, sexuality, and feminism, making them true icons of their time.

“The Art of Rivalry” also sheds light on lesser-known rivalries such as Ilie Nastase versus Arthur Ashe. Nastase, a flamboyant Romanian player, clashed with the elegant and dignified Ashe. Their rivalry extended beyond the court, symbolizing the tensions brewing between Western democracy and Eastern bloc communism during the height of the Cold War.

Lastly, the book delves into the “Hingis Heat” between Martina Hingis and Venus Williams. Hingis, the precocious Swiss tennis prodigy, faced off against the talented and powerful Venus Williams. Their rivalry showcased the clash of generations, with Hingis representing the traditional finesse of the sport, while Williams epitomized the rise of athleticism and power in tennis.

“The Art of Rivalry” is not solely focused on dissecting tennis matches and rivalries. It delves into the personal lives of these athletes, exploring the insecurities, ambitions, and vulnerabilities that propelled them to greatness. Wallace provides a deep psychological analysis, shedding light on the complexities of human nature and the impact of intense rivalries on individual and collective motivation.

Ultimately, “The Art of Rivalry: Legendary Tennis Battles That Defined an Era” is a thought-provoking and immersive read that not only appeals to tennis enthusiasts but also serves as a captivating study of human nature. It showcases the indelible impact of these legendary rivalries, forever etching them into the annals of tennis history.

By Dave Jenks

Dave Jenks is an American novelist and Veteran of the United States Marine Corps. Between those careers, he’s worked as a deckhand, commercial fisherman, divemaster, taxi driver, construction manager, and over the road truck driver, among many other things. He now lives on a sea island, in the South Carolina Lowcountry, with his wife and youngest daughter. They also have three grown children, five grand children, three dogs and a whole flock of parakeets. Stinnett grew up in Melbourne, Florida and has also lived in the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, and Cozumel, Mexico. His next dream is to one day visit and dive Cuba.