Podcast Episode 108: Gerry Marzorati on Serena Williams and Tennis Coverage in the 21st Century

My latest episode features Gerry Marzorati, author of the new book Seeing Serena. You might also know him from the pages of The New York and Racquet magazine, as well as his earlier book, Late to the Ball.

The book follows Serena Williams throughout the 2019 season as she seeks her first grand slam title as a mother. We talk about the challenges and opportunities of getting to know players through press conferences, the role of print media when players can speak directly to their fans, and how Serena compares to other mega-icons. Gerry expands on his contention in the book that Williams is the most consequential player in tennis today–perhaps of all time–as someone that not only set records, but changed the way the game was played.

Gerry’s book is a rewarding read, a deep dive into one of the most important and fascinating figures in sports. Check it out.

Thanks for listening!

(Note: this week’s episode is about 58 minutes long; in some browsers the audio player may display a different length. Sorry about that!)

Click to listen, subscribe on iTunes, or use our feed to get updates on your favorite podcast software.

Music: Everyone Has Gone Home by texasradiofish (c) copyright 2020. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. Ft: spinningmerkaba

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Podcast Episode 107: Book Club: Sudden Death, by Alvaro Enrigue

Episode 107 of the Tennis Abstract Podcast, with Carl Bialik of the Thirty Love podcast, is our fourth book club episode, a discussion of Alvaro Enrigue’s novel, Sudden Death.

The book is set around the year 1600, and a central feature is a real tennis match between the Italian painter Caravaggio and the Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo. Enrigue is fascinated by the various ways tennis pops up in the documentary record of the era, a mix of high and low culture, cutting across continents and national borders.

The novel is digressive, so we follow suit and stray far afield from the contents of the book itself. Carl and I get into the advantages and difficulties of writing blow-by-blow descriptions of points, how many numbers is too many numbers, the various ways theatrical productions depict tennis, and why tennis fans seem so insecure.

Thanks for listening!

(Note: this episode is about 52 minutes long; in some browsers the audio player may display a different length. Sorry about that!)

Click to listen, subscribe on iTunes, or use our feed to get updates on your favorite podcast software.

Music: Everyone Has Gone Home by texasradiofish (c) copyright 2020. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. Ft: spinningmerkaba

Podcast Episode 106: Monte Carlo Simulations Aren’t As Good As the Real Thing

Episode 106 of the Tennis Abstract Podcast, with Carl Bialik of the Thirty Love podcast, is our recap of the Monte Carlo Masters, where Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal bowed out early, and Stefanos Tsitsipas showed us just how good a clay-courter he could be.

We have lots of questions, and offer at least a few potential answers. How much do we need to revise our assessments of Djokovic and Nadal after their early losses? Is Stefanos Tsitsipas now the biggest threat to Nadal at Roland Garros? Has Djokovic fallen back to the pack? Has Rafa lost a step? Is Dan Evans someone worth watching on clay now? Can a slice backhand ever be a weapon on a slow surface? What can flat hitters do to overcome their disadvantage on clay?

Thanks for listening!

(Note: this week’s episode is about 61 minutes long; in some browsers the audio player may display a different length. Sorry about that!)

Click to listen, subscribe on iTunes, or use our feed to get updates on your favorite podcast software.

Music: Everyone Has Gone Home by texasradiofish (c) copyright 2020. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. Ft: spinningmerkaba

Podcast housekeeping:

  • In case you haven’t heard, I’m 62 episodes into a short (~4 minute) daily podcast called Expected Points. Here’s today’s episode. I’m also doing a daily baseball podcast with the same format during the MLB season–check out The Opener.
  • The TAP book club continues next month with Álvaro Enrigue’s novel Sudden Death. We’ll chat about it in an episode next month, and you can read more about it here.

Book Club Selection #4: Sudden Death, by Álvaro Enrigue

The next pick for the Tennis Abstract book club is Álvaro Enrigue’s 2013 novel Sudden Death. Enrigue is Mexican, and he writes in Spanish. An English translation was published in 2017.

How could you not want to read this?

Sudden Death begins with a brutal tennis match that could decide the fate of the world. The bawdy Italian painter Caravaggio and the loutish Spanish poet Quevedo battle it out before a crowd that includes Galileo, Mary Magdalene, and a generation of popes who would throw Europe into the flames. In England, Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII behead Anne Boleyn, and her crafty executioner transforms her legendary locks into the most sought-after tennis balls of the time.

I hope you’ll read along with us! We’re tentatively aiming to discuss in late May, just before the French Open gets underway.

Comments are open, so if you have thoughts about the book you’d like to share, or topics you think we should put on the agenda for the podcast episode about the book, please leave them here.

Past book club selections / podcast episodes:

Podcast Episode 105: Book Club: Days of Grace, by Arthur Ashe

Episode 105 of the Tennis Abstract Podcast, with Carl Bialik of the Thirty Love podcast, takes on the third pick of our book club, Arthur Ashe’s 1993 memoir, Days of Grace.

The book gives us a chance to get inside the mind of one of the most important figures in tennis history. He was the first African American man to rise to the top of the tennis world, played a leading role in the professionalization of the sport, spoke out against apartheid South Africa, captained the U.S. Davis Cup team through the turbulent Connors-McEnroe era, and ultimately used his battle with AIDS as an opportunity to educate the public and raise money to fight the disease.

Carl and I consider whether he is sufficiently remembered in tennis today, whether his game was as mercurial as he claimed, how he compares to Billie Jean King, and whether we should chill out about the latest round of changes to the Davis Cup.

Next up in the book club is Alvaro Enrigue’s novel, Sudden Death. I’ll post a bit more about that later this week.

Thanks for listening!

(Note: this week’s episode is about 64 minutes long; in some browsers the audio player may display a different length. Sorry about that!)

Click to listen, subscribe on iTunes, or use our feed to get updates on your favorite podcast software.

Music: Everyone Has Gone Home by texasradiofish (c) copyright 2020. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. Ft: spinningmerkaba

Podcast Episode 104: The Present and Future of Jannik Sinner

Episode 104 of the Tennis Abstract Podcast, with Carl Bialik of the Thirty Love podcast, is our recap of the Miami Open, with a particular focus on the Italian teenager who reached the final there.

Jannik Sinner has a relatively weak first serve, but seems to do everything else right. We talk about how to balance what he is with what he could be, the importance of his evident emotional maturity, whether he’ll eventually win more first serve points, how well he’ll fare on clay this year, and just how much we can compare him with Rafael Nadal.

We also discuss the man who beat Sinner in the Miami final, Hubert Hurkacz. Is a 24-year-old without any obvious elite-level weapons still on the rise, or will the Masters 1000 title mark his career peak?

Thanks for listening!

(Note: this week’s episode is about 58 minutes long; in some browsers the audio player may display a different length. Sorry about that!)

Click to listen, subscribe on iTunes, or use our feed to get updates on your favorite podcast software.

Music: Everyone Has Gone Home by texasradiofish (c) copyright 2020. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. Ft: spinningmerkaba

Podcast housekeeping:

  • The TAP book club will resume next week with Arthur Ashe’s memoir, Days of Grace. I’ve posted a few notes about Ashe and the book here. If you have thoughts or questions for us to consider, please let me know.
  • In case you haven’t heard, I’m 52 episodes into a short (~4 minute) daily podcast called Expected Points. Here’s today’s episode. I’m also doing a daily baseball podcast with the same format during the MLB season–check out The Opener.

Podcast Episode 103: Katrina Adams on Role Models, Grassroots Development, and Tennis Governance

This week’s episode features Katrina Adams, author of the new book Own the Arena: Getting Ahead, Making a Difference, and Succeeding as the Only One.

As a former player, coach, and commentator, and as the first African American to serve as president of the USTA, Katrina has a unique perspective on the world of professional tennis. She talks about the importance of giving proper credit to Althea Gibson and other Black tennis pioneers, why tennis is one of the best sports to help youngsters succeed off the court, how players should think about life after retirement, what the USTA can teach other national federations in and out of tennis, the underrated brilliance of Lori McNeil, and what she likes about the Dutch.

Katrina’s book is a great look at what it takes to go from a gifted junior to a top-ten doubles player to an influential executive, and I hope you’ll check it out.

Thanks for listening!

(Note: this week’s episode is about 44 minutes long; in some browsers the audio player may display a different length. Sorry about that!)

Click to listen, subscribe on iTunes, or use our feed to get updates on your favorite podcast software.

Music: Everyone Has Gone Home by texasradiofish (c) copyright 2020. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. Ft: spinningmerkaba

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Podcast Episode 102: Erik Jonsson on the Rising Wave of Stars in Men’s Tennis

Episode 102 of the Tennis Abstract Podcast welcomes back Erik Jonsson (@erktennis), previously heard on Episode 77 of the show in November of 2019.

Erik is a longtime Challenger and prospect watcher, and he shares his thoughts on Lorenzo Musetti, Aslan Karatsev, Jannik Sinner, Carlos Alcaraz, Sebastian Korda, and more. We talk about how to identify future tour-level stars by watching Challenger matches, whether there is any hope of another top-tenner as short as Diego Schwartzman, why Sweden hasn’t produced a female tennis superstar, what constitutes a legit top-20 player, and much more.

Thanks for listening!

(Note: this week’s episode is about 64 minutes long; in some browsers the audio player may display a different length. Sorry about that!)

Click to listen, subscribe on iTunes, or use our feed to get updates on your favorite podcast software.

Music: Everyone Has Gone Home by texasradiofish (c) copyright 2020. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. Ft: spinningmerkaba

Podcast housekeeping:

  • The TAP book club is reading Arthur Ashe’s memoir, Days of Grace. I’ve posted a few notes about Ashe and the book here, and we’ll talk about it in a podcast episode next month.
  • I’m 43 episodes into a short (~4 minute) daily podcast called Expected Points. Here’s today’s episode. I’m doing a daily baseball show, too!

Podcast Episode 101: Author Larry Olmsted on the Benefits of Sports Fandom

This week’s guest is Larry Olmsted, author of the fascinating new book Fans: How Watching Sports Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Understanding. Larry is on Twitter as @TravelFoodGuy, and you can find out more about the book at his site. While there’s not much tennis in the book, the topic should be of interest to all sports fans. Plus, Roger Federer turns up in Larry’s USA Today op-ed published yesterday.

We talk about how sports are like religion… and also like the Grateful Dead, whether individual sports offer the same health and happiness benefits as team sports, how the in-person fan experience has changed, what we can learn from American Ninja Warrior, and why the world is so full of sports bars.

Thanks for listening!

(Note: this week’s episode is about 46 minutes long; in some browsers the audio player may display a different length. Sorry about that!)

Click to listen, subscribe on iTunes, or use our feed to get updates on your favorite podcast software.

Music: Everyone Has Gone Home by texasradiofish (c) copyright 2020. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. Ft: spinningmerkaba

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Podcast Episode 100: 100 Questions for Episode 100

Episode 100 of the Tennis Abstract Podcast, with Carl Bialik of the Thirty Love podcast, celebrates our milestone 100th episode with a lightning-round mega-mailbag through 100 questions, many of them submitted by our listeners.

The questions truly run the gamut of all things tennis, from our favorite players to watch, to the best umpires on tour, to problems with today’s game, to our predictions for results and trends decades into the future. I’ve posted the full list of questions here (scroll down or click “Continue Reading”), but you’ll need to listen in order to hear our answers.

Thanks for listening!

(Note: this week’s episode is about 79 minutes long; in some browsers the audio player may display a different length. Sorry about that!)

Click to listen, subscribe on iTunes, or use our feed to get updates on your favorite podcast software.

Music: Everyone Has Gone Home by texasradiofish (c) copyright 2020. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. Ft: spinningmerkaba

Podcast housekeeping:

  • The TAP book club soldiers on with Arthur Ashe’s memoir, Days of Grace. I’ve posted a few notes about Ashe and the book here, and we’ll talk about it in a podcast episode next month.
  • In case you haven’t heard, I’m 36 episodes into a short (~4 minute) daily podcast called Expected Points. Here’s today’s episode.
Continue reading Podcast Episode 100: 100 Questions for Episode 100