Esquire Article a Must for Fans of the Sport

By Young, Josh | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 20, 1996 | Go to article overview

Esquire Article a Must for Fans of the Sport


Young, Josh, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


With the Wimbledon pairings set and the tournament beginning Monday, the ATP Tour's annual stop in D.C. coming July 15-21, and people already wondering whether they can get tickets for the U.S. Open over Labor Day weekend, we are right in the hotbed of the tennis season.

Interested in getting an education about the men's side of the sport before the summer season passes by? Then you must read "The String Theory," an

article in the July issue of Esquire, written by the loquacious novelist David Foster Wallace.

Hands down, it's the best article on tennis I've read in five years, and I read them all. Finally, someone has captured the psychology, the arcanum, the physics and metaphysics of men's tennis.

The story, accompanied by detailed footnotes, is loaded with acute observations. It is detailed, penetrating, accurate, sharply written, wildly funny, and it will change how you see men's tennis. To compare (for those who read about tennis), it has the wit of Curry Kirkpatrick, the intelligence of John McPhee and the reporting of Frank Deford.

Now, a disclosure. I too write for Esquire, but I had not heard a word about this story until it arrived in the mail. I started reading with trepidation, as I do evey tennis article because I am jaded, but I was won over immediately.

Wallace uses journeyman pro Michael Joyce to tell the story of men's tennis. He observed Joyce battling through the qualifying at the Canadian Open last summer, the week after Joyce lost 6-2, 6-2 to Andre Agassi in Washington.

Here is Wallace's observation on day one of the qualies: There are very few paying customers on the grounds on Saturday, but there are close to a hundred world-class players: big spidery French guys with gelled hair, American kids with peeling noses, and Pac-10 sweats, lugubrious Germans, bored-looking Italians. There are blank-eyed Swedes and pockmarked Colombians and cyberpunkish Brits. Malevolent Slavs with scary haircuts."

Wallace delves into the infinite variables that go into every shot and captures them perfectly. He writes, "The calculus of a shot in tennis would be rather like establishing a running compound-interest expansion in a case in which not only is the rate of interest variable and not only is the amount of time during which the determinants influence the interest rate variable, but the principal itself is variable. …

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