Although I’ve never attended a tennis tournament, I do love getting stuck
in watching on tv as much of one of the majors as my work schedule allows. And Rowan Ricardo Phillips— the award winning poet of the books The Ground and Heaven and critic (When Blackness Rhymes With Blackness)—makes me wish I had paid full attention to all of the viewable tournaments and tennis journalism during 2017.
Very fortunately, I have the next best thing in this - Phillips’ book, The Circuit: A Tennis Odyssey, a sterling account of that year’s ATP tennis tour, which he followed very closely and in person whenever he could. He acquaints the reader with the seasons of the tennis year, with the tournaments on hard surfaces, clay, and grass. I became familiar with the competitions at Doha and Indian Wells. Understood more about the duels among the great quartet of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray, the stories of many other players, and the dynamics of the tour. Phillips enlivens and colors this grueling year.
There’s plenty else about the sport here, from scoring and terminology to the mysteries of character. There’s history, too, including the story of the English Renshaw brothers and the venerable clay court at Roland Garros. It’s a wonderful enough book, that it will find a place on the shelf with my favorite sports books, including those by Kahn, Bouton, Plympton, McPhee, Leavy, and Halberstam.