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The Right Set: A Tennis Anthology by Caryl…

The Right Set: A Tennis Anthology

by Caryl Phillips

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375706461, Paperback)

Divided into nine sections ("The Great Match," "The Old Guard," etc.), The Right Set moves easily down the line through time and culturally across court from the noblesse oblige of white flannels on green lawns to the smoldering tempers of Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, and Venus Williams. In between, James Thurber volleys a smashing winner with his courtside observations of Suzanne Lenglen and Helen Wills; Ted Tingling waxes movingly on Bill Tilden; Grace Liechenstein celebrates Billie Jean King; and Arthur Ashe deftly takes apart his most formidable opponent--skin color--in "The Burden of Race." John McPhee's superb Levels of the Game--a book-length report on a match between the fluid Ashe and the mechanical Clark Graebner at Forest Hills--is happily excerpted twice.

If the pieces themselves range from the sparklingly witty (see Martin Amis's "Tennis Personalities," positively radioactive with observations like "Laver, Rosewall, Ashe: these were dynamic and exemplary figures; they didn't need 'personality' because they had character") to the curiously quaint (check out Wills's 1928 essay on etiquette), editor Phillips doesn't let his anthology cohere as a unit because he doesn't get in there and rally with it: first, his introduction is less sure-footed than Sampras on clay; second, he provides no context for the individual pieces or the writers who penned them. Which is too bad, because he's assembled a collection of tennis nonfiction that offers both power and touch--and an awful lot of memorable prose. --Jeff Silverman

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:27 -0400)

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