Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tennis Writing on Roger Federer

Lately have come across some very interesting writing on tennis star Roger Federer. The work is from a variety of different sources over a pretty wide timeframe, but a constant is there's something about the guy and his game that lends itself towards great copy.

In 2009 I posted and linked to writing about the Federer-Nadal rivalry with this review of an L. Jon Wertheim book as well as this blog post on an S.L. Price story for Sports Illustrated. More recently I had recommended to me the Michael Kimmelman New York Times column "Where They Paint the Lines With Topspin." It's really solid prose that features a short description of Federer as tennis virtuoso.


With the US Open tournament played out over the past few weeks, there's been a raft of interesting tennis writing (perhaps because of the individual rather than team sport competition)... and writing on and related to Federer being some of the best.

For, Jeff MacGregor did the column "U.S. Open: Beginnings and endings." It's solid and lyrical writing with the subtitle "The constant of Roger Federer's grace seems to soothe a volatile sport in transition."

Posted on Grantland a few days later was the piece "Director's Cut: Federer as Religious Experience". Director's Cut is a recurring Grantland feature with writer Michael MacCambridge detailing background on well known writing and providing his take on what makes a piece good... in addition to providing the original writing.

In this case, "Federer as Religious Experience" was on the 2006 profile of Federer by the late David Foster Wallace for the New York Times magazine, Play. The Wallace piece is remarkable writing with it's description and use of language and MacCambridge provides really interesting content around the story and process of it.

As an aside and not to say that it's done as well on this blog as by MacCambridge in his "Director's Cut" features, but what he does in linking to great work and noting what makes it stand out is much the exact same intent of what's posted here.


Wrapping up this dissertation on Federer and Federer writing was another Grantland piece. This one by Brian Phillips, "Novak Djokovic: The Shot and The Confrontation" was posted the day after Djokovic fought off two match points to win the semifinal matchup between the two star players.

The writing was certainly solid, but what struck me was the actual play sequence described... where another Federer triumph could have wrapped itself up, but was instead completely turned around in a stranger than fiction shot and Djokovic reaction.

Also interesting from the piece was the description of Federer's post-match reaction to Djokovic's shot. Some may view it as dig against Djokovic, but when you're a player of Federer's stature and have hit against you on match point the shot that Djokovic unleashed probably really truly does seem a matter of a "lucky shot." It doesn't in any way make the win by Djokovic any less impressive, but does perhaps make sense in the context of the person he hit the shot and got the win against.

This remarkable shot then turned into a remarkable championship win by Djokovic and capped off probably one of the more remarkable individual year's in modern tennis. So, acclaim deservedly due to Djokovic, but that Federer sure plays an amazing brand of tennis... which in turn has spawned some great writing.