NONFICTION

The Circuit: A Tennis Odyssey

Farrar. Nov. 2018. 256p. illus. ISBN 9780374123772. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374718671. SPORTS
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Poet and sports columnist Phillips (Heaven) takes readers on an armchair excursion of the men's professional tennis tour, writing passionately about the charming nuances and maddening intricacies of the game. While he only attends two tournaments in person—Indian Wells in March and the U.S. Open in September—he obsessively watches nearly every tournament of the 2017 season on TV. The author describes how 2017 was a unique year in the sport as the old masters, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, reasserted themselves as two of the best players in the world. Rowan points out that professional tennis finds its practitioners laboring from January through November on various surfaces and constantly changing conditions. While Phillips focuses on these main players, it's his attention to those lesser-known, such as David Goffin, that marks this work as something special; he shows how the difference between good and great players is tragically minute.
VERDICT Like the lure of the Siren's song, this captivating work willingly draws any tennis acolyte toward its story with enthusiastic abandon. [See Prepub Alert, 6/21/18.]

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