cover image Queen of the Court: The Many Lives of Tennis Legend Alice Marble

Queen of the Court: The Many Lives of Tennis Legend Alice Marble

Madeleine Blais. Atlantic Monthly, $30 (432p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2832-4

Blais (To the New Owners), a journalism professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, serves up an enthralling biography of pioneering tennis player Alice Marble (1913–1990). Born in rural Beckwourth, Calif., and raised in San Francisco, Marble took up tennis in high school and quickly mastered the sport. Blais offers a detailed overview of Marble’s career—from winning junior tournaments to nabbing singles and doubles titles at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 1939 to going pro in 1941—but the narrative is equally exciting when describing Marble’s endeavors off the court, which included overseeing a line of comics about notable historical women and pursuing a singing career. More consequentially, she spoke out in 1950 to support ending racial segregation in tennis so that phenom Althea Gibson would be permitted to compete in the U.S. Open. Blais’s handling of Marble’s spurious claim to have served as a spy during WWII showcases the author’s dogged research and empathetic analysis, pointing out travel records that contradict Marble’s story and suggesting that it may have stemmed from the former champion’s yearning to hold the public’s attention as her star power declined. This will likely stand as the definitive account of Marble’s life. (Aug.)