Courts of Babylon

Peter Bodo, Author
Peter Bodo, Author Scribner Book Company $25 (480p) ISBN 978-0-684-81296-0
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Tennis was the last major sport to abandon the British ideal of the gentleman amateur, which it did with the advent of so-called open tennis in 1968. The results of that seismic change are detailed in this chronicle by reporter-analyst Bodo, who has covered the sport for two decades for Tennis magazine. The first result in the U.S. was that the amateur game was all but abandoned, with outstanding players often turning pro at the age of 14 or 15, especially girls. The second was the erosion of sportsmanship and its replacement by what Bodo calls the puppy-eat-puppy world of cutthroat young players, the extreme cases being Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. Bodo considers all the factors involved, including parents, coaches, the controlling associations, television, even the born-again Christian movement. But his greatest strength lies in discussing the players, all of whom he likes enough to see the individual beneath the media image. He may veer at times into pop psychoanalysis, but he adduces enough personal data from his in-depth interviews that his portraits have the ring of truth. (July)
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