Thrill list: Tennis
A self-taught player, Gonzalez never lost his outsider sensibilities. McEnroe before McEnroe was hip, Gonzalez polarized fans and alienated most of his colleagues. But man, could he play. Even watching a grainy video from the '50s, it's hard not to marvel at his smooth athleticism and liquid strokes. It was
Agassi was a rock star while
He was blessed with both an artist's instinct and a preposterous amount of native talent. The source of sorcery is no mystery: During his prime years, tennis was banned in his native Iran; so he improvised, playing with implements like dustpans and Ping-Pong paddles. (If you can maneuver a ball with a dustpan, you can do it with a racket.) Monsieur Mansour escaped to France in the mid-'80s and, while his prime years were squandered, he's been thrilling fans at exhibitions and seniors' events ever since.
As a rule, we try not to conflate the two siblings, but we'll do it here. For as many times as we've heard the narrative, this remains the most amazing story in sports. Imagine if
The petite Belgian had one of the most complete games in the sport's history. Her zinging one-handed backhand inspired the drooling but it was a diversified portfolio of shots (and competitive fire) that enabled her to win seven major titles. A shame she's not still out there.
Like most geniuses, he marched (if that's even the right tense) to a beat that few others heard. But what a joy to watch Mac. The improvisation, the volleying, the lefty game -- and if it came with a tantrum, so much the better.
A stylist's stylist, he is capable of hitting every shot in the book -- and a good many that aren't in the annotated appendix. Everyone has a favorite Federer "wow" shot (
Though she played her last match in the 1930s, what fun she must have been. Every image depicts Lenglen floating in midair, elegantly brushing the ball, her skirt trailing behind her like a rudder as she won Olympic gold medals, Wimbledon titles and dozens of other tournaments. Nicknamed "La Divine" (The Divine) by the French press, Lenglen was a diva before it became all but an occupational requirement in women's tennis. (She gets bonus points for her habit of sipping cognac on changeovers.)
Agree or disagree with Wertheim's selections? Weigh in