Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played

Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played

3.8 17
by L. Jon Wertheim
     
 

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In the 2008 Wimbledon men’s final, Centre Court was a stage set worthy of Shakespearean drama. Five-time champion Roger Federer was on track to take his rightful place as the most dominant player in the history of the game. He just needed to cling to his trajectory. So in the last few moments of daylight, Centre Court witnessed a coronation. Only it

Overview

In the 2008 Wimbledon men’s final, Centre Court was a stage set worthy of Shakespearean drama. Five-time champion Roger Federer was on track to take his rightful place as the most dominant player in the history of the game. He just needed to cling to his trajectory. So in the last few moments of daylight, Centre Court witnessed a coronation. Only it wasn’t a crowning for the Swiss heir apparent but for a swashbuckling Spaniard. Twenty-two-year-old Rafael Nadal prevailed, in five sets, in what was, according to the author, "essentially a four-hour, forty-eight-minute infomercial for everything that is right about tennis—a festival of skill, accuracy, grace, strength, speed, endurance, determination, and sportsmanship." It was also the encapsulation of a fascinating rivalry, hard fought and of historic proportions.

In the tradition of John McPhee’s classic Levels of the Game, Strokes of Genius deconstructs this defining moment in sport, using that match as the backbone of a provocative, thoughtful, and entertaining look at the science, art, psychology, technology, strategy, and personality that go into a single tennis match.With vivid, intimate detail, Wertheim re-creates this epic battle in a book that is both a study of the mechanics and art of the game and the portrait of a rivalry as dramatic as that of Ali–Frazier, Palmer–Nicklaus, and McEnroe–Borg.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Imagine a world heavyweight championship fight in a cathedral. Jon Wertheim brings one back to nail-biting-life in Strokes of Genius. His stirring blow-by-blow (and behind the scenes) account of the 2008 collision of Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal in the tennis temple—Wimbledon's Centre Court—illuminates a kingdom changing hands. An engrossing book, Nadal over Federer overseen by Wertheim make an unforgettable trio.”
Bud Collins

“... A volume that should appeal to those who care little about tennis. Why? Because it manages to be—simultaneously—about achieving greatness at an endeavor, about handling the fame wrought by greatness, about the psychology of friendship and sportsmanship, about the role of sports in societies and about the positives and negatives of intense competition.” —Cleveland Plain-Dealer

“Wertheim has not only given that glorious moment in tennis history the precise kind of literary treatment it merits, but he has done more than that. Writing with clarity and superb interpretive insight, conveying a depth of appreciation for both players that few of his peers could equal, building drama across chapter after chapter, Wertheim does a masterful job of allowing all of us to revisit an incomparable occasion . . . Compelling and penetrating . . . An honorable piece of work, one that will appeal across the board to fans, and one that will enhance the landscape of tennis literature.”
—TennisChannel.com

“Compelling . . . Hardcore tennis fans will revel in Wertheim’s expertise and his proximity to the players and their event; others can’t help but be attracted to a vision of two champions and a rivalry in their prime." — Booklist, starred review

“Comprehensive and thoroughly engaging . . . Wertheim’s informative backstories behind the clash itself and the contrasting personalities...should convince readers that this drama-filled and high-quality duel of tennis titans gives the historic 1980 Borg-McEnroe final a well-earned run for its money. Recommended.” — Library Journal

“Gripping . . . Wertheim’s involving tone is well suited to the sweep of his project, which successfully reawakens the excitement of one of the greatest encounters in sports history.” — am NewYork

When Roger Federer arrived at the 2008 Wimbledon finals, 13 Grand Slam titles under his belt, tennis fans around the world knew that they were watching the most dominant player in the history of the game. Only one man, 22-year-old Rafael Nadal, stood in his way. What transpired, as Sports Illustrated senior writer L. Jon Wertheim deftly notes in this book, was a 4-hour, 48-minute demonstration of "skill, accuracy, grace, strength, speed, endurance, determination, and sportsmanship." Welcome to the Golden Age of Tennis, up close and personal.
Mary Jo Murphy
What we most likely knew before opening the book was the title match itself, the gentlemen's final…at Wimbledon. We knew its likable protagonists, its trajectory, its feats, its outcome, its brilliance. If we didn't, chances are we wouldn't be reading about it. We wouldn't care about having the match replayed for us, stroke by magnificent stroke, on paper. But that is what Wertheim sets out to do, because singular sporting events sometimes require a written record, preferably an elegant one…Here is where you lay the flowers to mark the memory of awesome. Here is the tattoo that says Rafa-Roger Forever. In this sense the book undoubtedly delivers.
—The New York Times
Library Journal

Could there have been more on the line when No. 1 ranked Roger Federer attempted but oh-so-narrowly lost to arch nemesis Rafael Nadal in 2008 when he sought to capture a modern-day record sixth consecutive Wimbledon title? Sports Illustrated writer Wertheim provides a comprehensive and thoroughly engaging look back at the nearly five-hour epic center-court contest, excelling at the details that support his claim of "greatest match ever played." The decisive moments in the five-set marathon are expertly retold, and the match statistics box is a welcome addition. Wertheim's informative backstories behind the clash itself and the contrasting personalities of "delicate, brush-stroking impressionist" Federer and "dogged, free-wheeling abstract expressionist" Nadal should convince readers that this drama-filled and high-quality duel of tennis titans gives the historic 1980 Borg-McEnroe final a well-earned run for its money. Recommended for sports and general collections.
—Howard Katz

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780547232805
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
06/04/2009
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

L. JON WERTHEIM is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and the author of five books, including Blood in the Cage, a chronicle of the rise of mixed martial arts, and Running the Table, about a bipolar pool hustler named Kid Delicious, which has been optioned for film by Tom Hanks’s Playtone and is currently in development. His work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing numerous times.

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Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
MinTwinsNY More than 1 year ago
Rating: 4 1/2 of 5 stars (excellent) Review: Mention the word “Wimbledon” and even non-tennis fans immediately know that you are talking about one of the most prestigious sporting events of the year. So when the finals pit the top two players at the time playing in a match that some consider the greatest tennis match ever played, it will take on a life of its own. L. Jon Wertheim writes about the match and that life it takes in “Strokes of Genius”, a riveting account of the 2008 Wimbledon finals between top ranked Roger Federer and second ranked Rafael Nadal. Just a recap of the play on the court would make a terrific book. It was as even as a match could be, no matter which advanced tennis statistic one wants to use when evaluating the epic battle. While Wertheim’s recap was not a shot-by-shot account, there is plenty of description of the action on the court. He writes it in such a detailed and descriptive manner that just like when I was watching the match on TV in 2008, I was getting goose bumps reading about it even though I knew what the outcome would be. I had to take a breath and exhale after reading the passage describing Federer’s backhand shot to avoid losing in the fourth set tie-breaker. That describes how good both the match and the writing about the match were. Wertheim mixes in plenty of information and stories on the two tennis legends as well. These stories are well researched and the knowledge he has gained as a writer of tennis at Sports Illustrated is evident. Topics such as the players trying out new rackets, how they handle media requests and their middle-to-upper class upbringing are described in equal parts humor, detail and precision, with a dash of melancholy when appropriate. Some other nuances about the game in general are also included. One of the better passages on tennis came early in the book when he writes that only in tennis do the opponents warm up with each other. Nadal and Federer warmed up for this match by hitting balls to each other. Can you imagine Mariano Rivera throwing batting practice to David Ortiz? Or Tony Romo throwing warm-up passes to Victor Cruz? These stories are mixed into the play by play of the match at various points and this is the only downfall of the book. At times, these seemed to hamper the flow of reading the book. The best analogy to describe them is that they felt like excellent commercials you enjoy during breaks in the telecast of the match. I liked reading them, but would have preferred that they come at the beginning or end of chapters, not in the middle after reading about a fantastic Nadal serve or Federer return. Overall, this is an excellent book that any sports fan will enjoy. This was a match that does become one of those “Where were you when” questions. Reading it will help one relive those great memories. Did I skim? No Pace of the book: Good, despite the switching back and forth between topics. Positives: Many, but the best is the rich prose and style of writing. Wertheim paints a picture on each topic, from the game itself to Nadal’s lifestyle (relatively simple for a sports superstar). This was the first book I read by him, although I have read many of his articles in Sports Illustrated and he is an excellent author. Negatives: Only the placement of stories and information on the players and the game. That was covered in the review. Otherwise, there were no negatives in this book. Do I recommend? Yes, especially for tennis fans. I do think, however, that just like the match, this book would attract non-tennis fans for the excellent storytelling and recap of a historic event.
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Really cool with lots of description. I didnt know so much about federer and nadal!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The strokes of a genus is for all tennis likers