on 26 February 2013
Peter Bodo's book is good enough purely on his chapter of Wimbledon alone. Overall it is a golden volume on the Golden Age of Tennis. Peter has covered tennis since the dawn of the 'Open' era as the chief writer for Tennis magazine, and all of the really great legends of the sport are here including: Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Chris Evert, Evonne Goolangong, Tracy Austin, and Martina Navratilova. Buy it today for an absolute steal, and read it at your leisure... simply the best.
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Originally published in 1995, The Courts of Babylon describes both the players and the infrastructure of Tennis' Open era - from the late 1960's to the early 1990's.
By the time the book was published, Bodo had been writing about the game (in Tennis Magazine) for decades and had got to know the players well, counting some (like Evonne Goolagong Cawley) as personal friends. But Courts of Babylon isn't a straightforward celebration, as he increasingly came to believe that money and politics had corrupted the sport.
In the amateur days of the 1950's and 1960's, he maintained, players would call their own fouls and respect their opponents, something he saw less of as the 1970's progressed. Having said that though, this is by no means a diatribe or a series of character assisinations. There are some players (Borg, Navratilova, Billie Jean King) for whom he expresses somewhat jaundiced views - but even there he is able to find the positives about their play, even if he disliked some of their off-court activities.
Others, like Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, who seemed at times to embody the unprofessional attitude he disapproved of, come off well, with their strengths and weaknesses well described. Elsewhere, some venues like Wimbledon and the U.S. Open come in for criticism and he is also particularly scathing about the rise of the professional Tennis parent who push their offspring too fast, too soon and then have to watch them burn-out.
This is well illustrated in the case of Jennifer Capriati as Bodo deftly recounts the teenager's well-publicised troubles. It's a shame that the book was never updated though, as that means we don't have the conclusion to the story - which saw Capriati return to the tour and eventually become a multiple Grand Slam champion.
As Bodo states in his introdution, this is an opinionated book and it's unlikely that everyone will agree with all he has to say. But there's enough interesting material here to make this a must-read for anybody interested in this era of the game.