Nonfiction: A Poet Who Loves Tennis Follows the Grand Tour, in Prose

An award-winning poet and translator, Phillips reveals his love of tennis on every page. There is a generosity of spirit toward the reader as he explains the tournament calendar, how the A.T.P. ranking system works and how important seedings are in Grand Slam draws. He even includes a comprehensive glossary of tennis terms. A passionate player himself, Phillips views the game as something to share, an organizing principle in his life, as important to him as literature and writing. “Tennis is a game I inherited from my parents,” he writes. During the European clay court season, he watches matches with his young daughters before they go off to school, teaching them about “time zones, geography and the changing surfaces of the tennis year.”


But a dark undercurrent runs through the book, as Phillips grapples with the dispiriting historical moment of January 2017: The Trump inauguration nears and the world feels disordered and frightening. In a brief section titled “The Idea of Order at the Australian Open” (a tip of the hat to Wallace Stevens), Phillips speaks directly to the reader, suggesting that tennis can help one maintain sanity in difficult times: “January…

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