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3.8 out of 5 stars26
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 3 September 2014
I was glad when I finished reading this book. I have no doubt that Harman has done the travel miles, watched a fair number of matches and burnt the midnight oil to meet many deadlines. That said, although I found the book loaded with anecdotes about things I did not know - they were mostly diluted by the frustration that much of what he commented on was fairly innocuous. There is way too much gossip and opinion in the book and not enough evidence and analysis. The book clearly illustrates that the tennis business is fraught with benefits going to whom you know off the court and only the highest ranked players on the court.

Despite Harman giving a structure to the book, using the four Slams, Doping, Seasons (for example) as chapters, he doesn't really do justice to any of the chapter headings. They all seem to lack any meaningful depth or court side insights. However, he does spend a lot of time pondering who is dating whom (Serena Williams and Berry Gordy Jnr's son for instance) Since he does like to name drop as to whom he is friends with. Maybe this allows him interviewing opportunities. I don't begrudge him that having paid his school fees. It's just that he does make it rather obvious that he wants you to know that he is well connected, without telling the reader anything material about whom he is connected to.

In case the reader didn't quite get the message that the author is a good guy, despite his plagiarism admissions, he said 'I sent Roddick a note later that day wishing him well. He sent one back thanking me `for being one of the good guys'. It meant the world. being one of the good guys'. Got it.

Harman does play more than a supporting role in the book. He goes as far as to let you know when he chokes up when players are ill. He can be rather preachy and sanctimonious too. Especially when he bends the rules for knowingly entering the off limits players restaurant and when reprimanded, he accuses and preaches to the person for overly reprimanding him. In another instance he said, 'The way most of us run around the world - those who hit the balls and those watching those who hit balls - does not often give us pause to consider the world around us. We become blasé.' Really? Surely only speaking for yourself?

I think readers eyebrows could be raised at a few of the writers unsubstantiated and veiled allegations. For instance, I was left wondering what the writer was in fact alleging regards the ambiguous impression he left regards Federer and his seemingly relentless money making or money grabbing deals. Also, if any doping amongst the Spanish players could have involved Nadal. At the US open the author has a go at his fellow writers, as he questions if any of them ever actually watch any tennis.

I found the writer well connected and clearly knowledgeable, however not very likeable. His is ego seemed to appear fairly often. While he clearly has bent the rules by his own admission, yet he snitches on Bitti. He wrote 'Even Ricci Bitti was seen using his mobile phone in the box during one match and I sent a cheeky text to Brook, the chairman, telling him that a chap two rows in front of him was breaking the rules. Brook waved from across the opposite side of the court that he had received the message.'

The author's friendliness with Rory McIlroy was undermined by his relentless lack of success to interview him with his then girlfriend, Caroline Wozniacki. I fail to understand why the reader would be interested to hear so often about an interview that never happened.

There are some good points made about the splitting of the prize money, leaving many players not even breaking even on the tour after expenses. Some seemingly appropriate pot shots were taken at wastefulness by the tennis hierarchy and their not keeping in touch with the changing world of tennis.

Round about half way through the book there was this frustrating piece about some Spanish players getting lost driving from Heathrow and reaching their hotel in the early hours of the morning. At this stage I was wondering why the book was meandering in so many directions. For example, the narrative goes on about the Nottingham tournament within the Wimbledon chapter. All very confusing and frustrating at times.

Needless to say, some meanderings involved the writer. Such as when Ivan Lendle was supposed to have noticed the importance of Harman's collar and tie at Wimbledon. Then there is a story about the writer having engaged Rupert Murdoch in tennis talk in his USA office. He writes 'I met Mr Murdoch in his office in New York three years earlier, while talking tennis with Robert Thomson, the managing director of the Wall Street Journal and my first editor at The Times. Thomson said how much he felt I had engaged Mr Murdoch. I was pretty pleased with that.' ...Right.

In conclusion, I failed to recognise the value and purpose of this book as a means to gather new information or as a riveting read. It was neither. It reads like a series disconnected excerpts from a diary over a year, clustered together under some decent chapter headings. Hence his relentless use of anecdotal name dropping. I haven't as yet read any of the other reviews regards this book and I would we interested to know if any other readers agree with any of my opinions.

For a seasoned hack, I would have preferred less gossip, bias and opinions, more facts and analysis. I didn't like this book and don't recommend it, as I found it frustrating and expected more coherence from a travelled professional.
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on 28 June 2013
A look inside the world of tennis rarely seen by the average fan. All the intrigue of the governing bodies who run the game and the thoughts of the top players in the world. As always, well written by Britain's top tennis correspondent. This really is a must read if you consider yourself a fan of the best sport in the world.
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on 27 July 2013
Although I read Neil Harman's in "The Times", and I follow him on Twitter, I still found this book fascinating. Neil is clearly held in high regard by the tennis world, so he has unprecedented access to its inner sanctum. What was a pleasant surprise was that it wasn't just a diary of who played who at which tournament, there is much more to it than that. I learnt a lot about how professional tennis works, what needs fixing and what works well. It's very well written, so is easy to read (as you would expect from Neil's newspaper writing). I read it during Wimbledon and it was great to re-live the triumphs and disasters of 2012 (I'm British!) and as an Andy Murray fan, good to reflect on how he's improved since the beginning of that memorable year. I recommend this book highly.
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VINE VOICEon 29 June 2014
This book by The Times's tennis correspondent covers the tennis year of 2012, the year in which Andy Murray reached his first Wimbledon final, losing to Roger Federer, before triumphantly taking the Olympic gold and winning the US Open, his first grand slam win. It contains a lot about tennis politics and administration, sponsorship and endorsement, which I found rather dull, though it is an inevitable part of any major sport. I found the book less engrossing than I thought it might, and I think the problem is that (no offence intended to the author) a journalistic style is clearly much more suited to short written pieces, rather than full length books. The book just feels rather insubstantial overall. Perhaps I'm being a bit unrealistic and unfair - I learnt a fair few things, though I got the impression the author is a bit controversial with some people in the tennis world, so there may be alternative interpretations of some of the things he describes.
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on 24 September 2013
The author himself points out the almost 'death' of tennis journalists due to Twitter and constant media coverage of tennis tournaments, and then follows up by writing a book with no real insights into the personal lives if super stars of the tennis world. Instead the author seems more impressed by the officials and organisers of the various tennis bodies hosting these events. Granted these administrators do a wonderful job at administrating tours and tournaments but the players are the real stars of the tennis show.
The book is a diary of sorts of a tennis journalist viewing from the court side of most of the big tournaments on the ATP circuit for the year 2012. It does have interesting stories about allocation of wild cards and UK tax laws which affect all foreign players playing in the UK, but for me falls shorts of any serious profiles of the players. There is also too much focus on British players in the book. All in all I found the book a pretty disappointing read.
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on 24 August 2013
Very interesting overview of life on tour

Some clear messages in there for British Tennis - hope someone is taking notice!
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on 27 August 2014
Buying a book from a known plagiarist?

No thanks.
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on 30 June 2013
If you want a book about 12 months in front of and behind the scenes in Tennis, this is the one for you! It takes into account the four Grand Slams of 2012, along with the Olympics and various Masters Series events, culminating in the World Tour Finals at the 02 in November.

I have been an avid fan of the sport for over 30 years now, and even taking that into account learnt things in this book that I was unaware of. Well written, well paced, informative and certainly meriting a follow up. Maybe even a yearly version please Neil! For those of you interested in a similar book, try "Hard Courts" by John Feinstein. Admittedly released over 20 years ago now, but worth tracking down.

Neil Harman has been an established Tennis writer for many years and knows his subject inside out. Most tellingly, the players respect him. For example Andy Roddick, who is not exactly known for suffering fools gladly (and why should he!) describes Mr Harman as one of the "good guys". The likes of Djokovic, Azarenka and Murray all speak highly of him.

One final thing, those of you out there who are tennis fans I suggest you follow Neil on Twitter. Always an interesting read and not without humour! You may even be lucky and find he takes the time to reply to you!i
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on 6 August 2013
Not sure what I expected but it was a great read and very insightful into the world of tennis. Now a fan of Neil Harman.
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on 22 June 2013
Rather than the normal bull , Neil Harman has been involved in the tennis world for so long, a true and honest point clearly
comes across about the sport. His knowledge of the sport is second to none.
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