Best Tennis Books

Open: An Autobiography (Andre Agassi)

From page one in the book to the last, Agassi tells readers that he hated tennis.  His hatred for the game of tennis started when he was young.  His disciplinarian and sometimes crazy dad made him hit thousands of balls every day. Agassi struggled in school and never graduated high school.  His teenage years were spent at the Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida playing tennis.  As he accumulated fame and fortune, he was motivated to play tennis.  But as he reminds throughout the book, he always hated tennis.

Agassi is very candid about his divorce with Brooke Shields.  He says she didn’t care much for his tennis career and that he was immature at the time. He talks fondly of his wife Stefanie (Steffi Graf) and her contribution to his success.

Though the book covers of Agassi’s rivalry with Pete Sampras, it’s clear that Agassi does not respect Sampras.  He considers Sampras boring and uninspiring.

The book details how Agassi got away after testing positive for crystal meth by merely writing a letter.  Perhaps, the most interesting part of the book is how a guy who never finished school developed an interest in philanthropy and education and would come to be known as much for his off-court philanthropy work than his tennis career.

The book is co-authored by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist J.R. Moehringer, who manages to tell the Agassi story in an easy to read tone.  Agassi offered to put Moehringer’s name on the book, but he declined.

Rafa (Rafael Nadal)

This fascinating book from Rafael Nadal gives a remarkable first-hand glimpse into the man that Nadal is – ruthless player on the tennis court and a humble, hardworking but imperfect and sensitive person off the court with challenges like everyone else.

The book provides a closer look at Nadal’s childhood and the importance of the family to his success.  His Uncle and coach Toni Nadal shaped Nadal’s career by keeping Nadal on a strict practice schedule and keeping him humble with his advice.

Nadal offers his take into two special matches in his career – Wimbledon 2008 v. Federer and US Open 2010 v. Djokovic.  The 2008 Wimbledon final against Federer has been called the greatest tennis match ever played by many analysts. The book reveals Nadal’s mindset and helps the reader understand how Nadal has been able to overcome numerous injuries, setbacks and still succeed in the Federer-Nadal era.

Nadal’s approach to the game and his life shows how he has been to stay on top for a long time. This book is a must-read for anyone pursuing excellence in any field.

Serve to Win (Novak Djokovic)

Until 2010, Novak Djokovic didn’t have the kind of success he thought he was capable of.  In this fascinating book, Djokovic describes how his switch to a gluten-free diet, adding stretching and yoga to his routine led to a remarkable 2011 season where he dominated tennis in a way that even Roger Federer didn’t. The book also reveals the humble beginnings of Djokovic in war-ravaged Serbia and the challenges he had to overcome to become a tennis player.

In the book, Djokovic tells readers about being diagnosed with gluten intolerance in 2010. Upon finding out that he was sensitive to tomatoes, wheat ,and dairy, he switched to a gluten-free diet. This led to remarkable results on the tennis court. In the book, Djokovic provides a seven days sample of his diet and recipes developed by Chef Candice Kumai.

Djokovic walks readers through his dynamic stretching routine before his matches. He stresses the importance of off-court fitness work and flexibility as keys to his performance. Djokovic advocates foam rolling to loosen up tight muscle areas. Another key factor in Djokovic’s transformation was his mindfulness and meditation practice. His ability to stay in the present, and not worry about the past or future helped him bring out his best on the court.

This book provides insights into Djokovic’s philosophy of life. It provides a template for anyone looking to make fitness and lifestyle changes to take them to the next step.

Stroke of Genius (Jon Wertheim)

This book from Jon Wertheim is a compelling narrative on the classic 2008 Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. The book includes well-researched and interesting stories of Federer and Nadal – their upbringing, playing style, rackets they use, their contrasting lifestyles and their approach to the media.

In the book, Jon describes their contrasting playing styles – brute force vs grace and deconstructs their game for tennis and non-tennis readers. Though the book is not a point by point description of the match, it takes the reader through the captivating match that Nadal ended up winning in 5 sets and dethroning Federer on Center Court.

This is a tennis match people will remember forever. This book captures their epic match with both players in their prime and is well worth your time. It celebrates the greatness of tennis and is a must-read for up and coming tennis players, and sports fans.

A Champions Mind: Lessons from Life in Tennis (Pete Sampras)

Pete Sampras held the record for most grand slams won when he retired.  In this biography, Pete sticks to discussing his tennis career.  Sampras has always been a private person, so it’s not surprising his book does not contain a lot of personal stories.

Sampras talks about the sacrifices he had to make and the discipline he had to cultivate over the years to become the best player of his generation.  He talks about his competitors, Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Andre Agassi, and others.  He spends a lot of pages talking about his matches. What separated Sampras from his peers was his mental strength, and his ability to stay calm and focused when was under pressure.

Though he gives credit to his coaches Pete Fisher, Tim Gullickson, and Paul Annacone, Sampras notes that ultimately an athlete’s success depends on the athlete himself.

Sampras talks about being hurt by the image created by the media and fellow players that characterized him as boring and unemotional.

The book has no scandals, affairs, drugs, etc. that is so common with sports biographies, which was refreshing. The book offers a great look at what made Sampras one of the best tennis players of all time.

Winning Ugly: Mental Warfare in Tennis–Lessons from a Master (Brad Gilbert)

Brad Gilbert coached grand slam champions like Andy Roddick and Andy Murray. Though Gilbert did not win a grand slam, he did manage to reach a top 5 in the ATP rankings despite not being as gifted as other of his era. He won ugly and, in this book, he shares insights that will benefit casual tennis players as well as professionals.

Brad notes that the mental aspect of the game is key to winning and yet players don’t give it the attention it deserves. Brad offers ideas on preparation, focus, scouting opponents and execution. He shares his battles on the court against some of the best players of his generation. He also analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of star players today.

His tips on how to change up the game when behind, staying focused under distraction and playing tie breaks will help players at all levels.