Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Tennis and Philosophy

Tennis and Philosophy: What the Racket is All About

Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 294
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Tennis and Philosophy
    Book Description:

    Tennis smashed onto the worldwide athletic scene soon after its modern rules and equipment were introduced in nineteenth-century England. Exciting, competitive, and uniquely accessible to people of all ages and talent levels, tennis continues to enjoy popularity, both as a recreational activity and a spectator sport.

    Life imitates sport in Tennis and Philosophy. Editor David Baggett approaches tennis not only as a game but also as a surprisingly rich resource for philosophical analysis. He assembles a team of champion scholars, including David Foster Wallace, Robert R. Clewis, David Detmer, Mark Huston, Tommy Valentini, Neil Delaney, and Kevin Kinghorn, to consider numerous philosophical issues within the sport. Profiles of tennis greats such as John McEnroe, Roger Federer, the Williams sisters, and Arthur Ashe are paired with pertinent topics, from the ethics of rage to the role of rivalry. Whether entertaining metaphysical arguments or examining the nature of beauty, these essays promise insightful discussion of one of the world's most popular sports.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5021-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: The Love of Wisdom
    (pp. 1-5)
    David Baggett

    From the Red Wings to the Tigers, Michigan is an ideal place for a kid to enjoy sports. It was there that I fell in love with tennis one summer, after my parents had given me and my siblings tennis rackets the Christmas before. I soon played with whomever I could find, usually a hapless neighbor or friend, though one particular friend and I got to enjoy imagining ourselves as Björn Borg and Vitas Gerulaitis, respectively, envisioning throngs of admiring spectators relishing every moment of our little matches.

    Something about the game captured my attention right from the start, and...

    (pp. 6-25)
    David Foster Wallace

    Almost anyone who loves tennis and follows the men’s tour on television has, over the last few years, had what might be termed Federer Moments. These are times, as you watch the young Swiss play, when the jaw drops and eyes protrude and sounds are made that bring spouses in from other rooms to see if you’re O.K.

    The Moments are more intense if you’ve played enough tennis to understand the impossibility of what you just saw him do. We’ve all got our examples. Here is one. It’s the finals of the 2005 U.S. Open, Federer serving to Andre Agassi...

    (pp. 26-53)
    David Baggett

    InThe Simpsons Movie,Bart at one point sadly pronounces, “This is the worst day of my life,” to which Homer, manifesting the full resplendence of his wisdom, soberly offers a needed correction: “The worst day of your lifeso far.

    The question of the all-time best (men’s) tennis player requires such qualification.² Let’s suppose for a moment that the answer is indeed Roger Federer. That would mean that Federer is the all-time best so far, which suggests that, before Federer, the title could have been held by another, maybe Borg or Sampras, perhaps Laver or Emerson before them. And...

    (pp. 54-72)
    Mark R. Huston

    The American Film Institute (AFI) recently presented its list of America’s ten greatest films in ten classic genres.¹ The movies that made it into the top ten of each genre were based on the votes of a jury that contained over fifteen hundred members pulled from the film world (from critics to directors). The members voted from a list of fifty nominated movies for each of the ten listed genres. Not only is there no tennis movie on the list of the fifty nominated films, there is only one film that even has tennis in it at all.² In fact,...

  8. EXCUSES, EXCUSES: Inside the Mind of a Complainer
    (pp. 73-89)
    Kevin Kinghorn

    As rational creatures, humans have the unique ability to reflect on their personal successes, and they can identify with gratitude the reasons for them. Unfortunately, humans have the corresponding ability to complain and offer excuses when things don’t go their way. But why do people do it? More specifically, why would a tennis player—who already faces the mental demands of concentrating on shot after shot in a competitive match—take the time and energy to complain about a line call? Or why would a frustrated amateur feel the need to make excuses as to why he’s not in the...

  9. AUTHORITARIAN TENNIS PARENTS: Are Their Children Really Any Worse Off?
    (pp. 90-106)
    Kevin Kinghorn

    The latest story to make headlines about a tennis child prodigy is almost unbelievable. To be sure, there have been a long line of players labeled as the “next great champion” before they entered puberty. The accuracy of these predictions has, of course, been mixed. Tracy Austin did become a lasting champion. Andrea Jaeger (and countless others you’ve never heard of) did not. Child prodigies, by definition, are identified at an early age. But the case of Jan Silva has even Tracy Austin shaking her head in disbelief.

    Jan was born in November 2001. He showed such aptitude as a...

  10. “YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!” The Ethics of Rage in Tennis
    (pp. 107-124)
    David Detmer

    Few would disagree with the claim that it is impolite for a tennis player to interrupt a match by throwing a temper tantrum. But when a player—let’s call him, to pick a name utterly at random, “Johnny Mac”—flies into a rage, verbally abuses the umpires or his opponent, and causes play to grind to a halt until he has finished his screaming and sulking fit, is this more than a mere transgression of etiquette?¹ Has he also done something immoral?

    In attempting to answer this question, let’s turn to two of the leading ethical theories from the history...

  11. LOVE–LOVE: A Fresh Start at Finding Value and Virtue in Tennis
    (pp. 125-141)
    Tommy Valentini

    In the quest to find deeper meaning in sport than wins and losses, I often ask my students on the tennis court and in the classroom whether they believe that winning lies within their control. A fair percentage of them do. I usually then ask why they do not always make the choice to win if winning does, in fact, lie within their control. I explain that I have tried to win every tennis match in which I have been involved, yet I have had my fair share of losses. Clearly, if I could make the choice to win, I...

    (pp. 142-163)
    Robert R. Clewis

    This short court conversation is a philosophical dialogue among Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), an accomplished singles player, the player’s coach, and a tennis fan.

    Kant,an updated version of the eighteenth-century philosopher

    Kevin,a ranked player

    Coach Tim,Kevin’s coach

    Joanna,a tennis enthusiast

    JOANNA and KANT are at a tennis tournament.

    Joanna: Great tournament, isn’t it?

    Kant: It is. Kevin played with excellence earlier today. He dismantled his opponent, making the diffi cult appear easy, although I am sure it is not. Do you follow tennis closely, too?

    Joanna: Oh, yeah. I come here every year. I...

  13. STABBING SELES: Fans and Fair Play
    (pp. 164-181)
    Mark W. Foreman

    It was chilly. That day in late April 1993 had started off clear and crisp—good weather for playing tennis. But the match had gotten a late start—after 5:00— and now she was feeling chilly as she sat down during a changeover. Nineteen-year-old Monica Seles of Yugoslavia was up against Magdalena Maleeva of Bulgaria in the quarterfinals of the Citizens Cup in Hamburg, Germany. Seles believed entering the tournament would help prepare her for the French Open in June. She had performed well coming into the quarterfinals, but the first set against Maleeva had been tough. Monica fought hard...

    (pp. 182-199)
    Helen Ditouras

    Women and tennis, especially at the highest levels of competition, make for awkward dance partners on occasion. Tennis—“boxing without bloodshed,” as Bud Collins once put it—makes one sweat, profusely, and today’s conditioning regimens result in muscles, big ones. Professional sports, including tennis, sometimes have made women feel a tension between athleticism and femininity. Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf both lamented the perception of their bodies as muscular, and Chris Evert, early in her career, admitted that she “never felt like an athlete. I was just someone who played tennis matches. I still thought of women athletes as freaks,...

    (pp. 200-219)
    Mark R. Huston

    In his bookWinning Ugly,Brad Gilbert tells a story of playing McEnroe in the Masters at Madison Square Garden. Upon losing the match, McEnroe announced in a press conference that he was “retiring.” His professed reason: “When I start losing to players like him . . . I’ve got to reconsider what I’m doing even playing this game.”¹ Apparently it was theuglinessof Gilbert’s game that drove McEnroe to such an extreme pronouncement. Gilbert, however, was pleased as punch, wearing the “ ugliness” of his win as a badge of honor.

    The way I see it, if one...

  16. ARTHUR ASHE: Philosopher in Motion
    (pp. 220-241)
    Jeanine Weekes Schroer

    “Negroes are getting more confidence. They are asking for more and more, and they are getting more and more. They are looser. They’re liberal. In a way ‘liberal’ is a synonym for loose. And that’s exactly the way Arthur plays.”¹ Clark Graebner made these comments while discussing his 1968 U.S. Open semifinal match against Arthur Ashe; he goes on to further characterize the “looseness” in Ashe’s style of play, a style that Graebner believed would allow him to defeat Ashe. It didn’t. Nonetheless, his comments have a strange resonance; they have the ring of truth—not so much about black...

    (pp. 242-254)
    Maureen Linker

    Various lists of the twentieth century’s most significant sports moments as well as the century’s most important athletes invariably include “The Battle of the Sexes” and Billie Jean King. TheSporting Newsin a 1999 list of the five most important sporting events of the twentieth century places the Billie Jean King– Bobby Riggs tennis match second only to Jackie Robinson’s entrée into major league baseball. These roundups of the previous hundred years in sports also include Jesse Owens’s famous victories at the Munich Olympics and the Joe Louis rematch against Max Schmeling in 1938. What all of these legendary...

    (pp. 255-274)
    David Baggett and Neil Delaney Jr.

    Friendship today is a concept that has undergone a fair bit of degradation. It used to be a highly exalted notion. It was thought by many ancients to represent the highest form of love. It was touted as a school of virtue, and as something relatively rare. More recently, casual acquaintances are liable to call each other friends, or even online acquaintances in the form of a plethora of Facebook “friends” and the like. So friendship is well worth exploring, and doing so in the content of discussing tennis affords the extra advantage of identifying some of the challenges posed...

    (pp. 275-278)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 279-283)