Recently I read Jon Wertheim's book Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and The Greatest Match Ever Played. The book is centered around, and recounts, the 2008 Wimbledon gentleman’s singles final, but it does much more than that. It paints a great and true picture of these two athletes from the point of view of someone who has covered and knows the game well. Jon Wertheim writes for Sports Illustrated and in this book he compares and contrasts the on-court styles as well as the off-court personalities of these two giants of the game.
Even if you're a casual tennis fan you will come away liking both of these athletes after reading the book. In today's world of sports stars who are immature jerks, both Nadal and Federer are in a rare class. From the way they treat the media and fans to the respect they have for the sport and their places in the history of it, these two are special. It doesn’t take a tennis insider to realize that, but the stories the author relates drive home the points in very entertaining fashion.
Wertheim goes into some detail about the families of Federer and Nadal and how each ones early life influenced their play, which I found interesting. My favorite parts of the book however is where the author describes what each ones personality and ritual is like in the locker room and stories of how each one has respect for the other. Federer has something that Wertheim describes as "soft power" in dealing with the pressures of all the off-court stuff a star of his stature has to deal with. After reading this book I became an even bigger fan of his.
Tennis is a great sport and has been likened to boxing which I think is spot on, and these two are classic heavyweights both on and off the court. I’m in the camp of Federer. Always was. I love it when I get to see, over the course of several years, one guy dominate a sport and break all kind of records. When I see that, I feel like I'm seeing something special.
I feel like this book is something special too because it delves into a rivalry which is not only current and exciting, but a microcosm of what ALL sports rivalries should be.
A tennis-themed still life I did a while back.