String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis

David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace wrote about tennis like no one else. His appreciation for the physical and mental aspects of the sport is a product of playing juniors at a high-level, before being found out by seriously good players. In String Theory, he describes his own game in terms that fully resonate with me:

My own game as a junior was a particular type of the classic defensive style, a strategy Martin Amis once described as "craven retrieval." I didn't hit the ball all that hard, but I rarely made unforced errors, and I was fast, and my general approach was simply to keep hitting the ball back to my opponent until my opponent fucked up and either made an unforced error or hit a ball so short and juicy that even I could hit a winner off it. 

Beyond that, these essays by DFW buzz with humor and razor-sharp insight. He explores fundamental questions about athletic achievement: the agony of being exceptionally good when others are great, the sacrifices required to become a great athlete and our demands on athletes to articulate that greatness, the joy of witnessing a transcendent athletic moment. The collection is well worth a read for fans of tennis, of sport, and of good writing.