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Sunday, 24 June 2012

"You cannot be serious"... but we are! Tennis themed fiction set, well, in lots of places

Tennis themed novels that capture the feel, amongst others, of
 Moldova, England, London, New York, Florida, California

The big tennis tournaments come around again and again, in a blink of an eye. But the tennis public remains constant. So, to keep interest between tournaments, we decided to research tennis-themed books set in wonderful locations around the world. Enjoy, get your eye in, grab one of our suggested titles and settle back with a good read (when you are not watching or playing tennis, that is).

If you know of any other fiction that is plotted around tennis and brings a location to life, then please drop a note in the Comments Box - it would be great to have a definitive list of tennis-themed novels and you can help!

Playing the Moldovans at Tennis by Tony Hawks has been a Sunday Times bestseller. Naturally it is set in Moldova.

"I’d originally made the bet in a London pub during a televised World Cup qualifying match between England v Moldova and as a result I’d headed off to track down the entire Moldovan football team, and to challenge them individually to a game of tennis, and beat them all. However, along the way I discovered that I’d bitten off more than I could chew. In Europe’s poorest country, which was enduring daily power shortages, gun-toting gangsters, and even an illegal and lawless breakaway republic, I found that it wasn’t that easy to coax footballers onto a tennis court." Tony Hawks

Proceeds from the film of this book will go the children’s care centre in Chisinau Moldova – for kids with chronic conditions who are living in socially vulnerable families.

And now for something a bit different... this book is set in England in a country pile ("mansion" for anyone  unfamiliar with British-speak!)The Tennis Party by Madeleine Wickham aka Sophie Kinsella.
Patrick has the perfect setting - the White House, (bought out of his bonuses as an investment banker) for a tennis party. He hasn't actually told Caroline, his brash and beautiful wife, what the real reason for the party is. She is glad to welcome Stephen and Annie, their impoverished former neighbours, less glad to see newly wealthy Charles and his aristocratic wife Cressida, and barely able to tolerate the deadly competitive Don and Valerie......

Double Fault by Lionel Shriver is a realistic, detailed and thought-provoking analysis of the deterioration of a marriage set against a tennis background. Set in the States, Willie is married to Eric who starts off ranked well below her on the tennis circuit but ends up in the US Open. The passages about tennis mirror the increasingly competitive and jealous nature of the two people in a close relationship.

Backhand by Liza Cody features Anna Lee, on the tennis court, where she is asked to investigate a missing person. The investigation becomes increasingly complex, taking Anna from London to Sarasota, Florida, where she is drawn into the underworld of high finance, violence, and murder.

Doubles by Nic Brown
Slow Smith is in a slump. He's a professional tennis player stuck in his hometown, serving to an empty court. His wife is in a coma and he's afraid he's to blame. One afternoon his old coach Manny appears and persuades Slow to return to Forest Hills with him - the site of a six-year winning streak. Here they reunite with old friends who call up long-buried desires and reveal a secret that threatens to destroy Slow's marriage. At once hilarious and heartbreaking, Doubles serves up a tale of melancholy and redemption--both on the court and off.

In Crooked Little Heart by Ann Lamott Rosie Ferguson, in the first bloom of young womanhood, is obsessed with tournament tennis. Her mother is a recovering alcoholic still grieving the death of her first husband; her stepfather, a struggling writer, is wrestling with his own demons. And now Rosie finds that her athletic gifts, once a source of triumph and escape, place her in peril, as a shadowy man who stalks her from the bleachers seems to be developing an obsession of his own...set in Marin County, California

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace is set in the near future with a light sci-fi angle. The residents of Ennet House, a Boston halfway house for recovering addicts, and students at the nearby Enfield Tennis Academy are ensnared in the search for the master copy of INFINITE JEST, a movie said to be so dangerously entertaining its viewers become entranced and expire in a state of catatonic bliss ...

And last but not least The Total Zone a novel by the one and only Martina Navritilova set in New York, London and Florida, a tad difficult to get hold of but there are lots of secondhand copies out there

"A tennis thriller, against great tennis backdrops" 

FloridaThe Academy is the hottest international sports school for teen athletes. There are only two ways in: money – and lots of it – or enough talent to earn a scholarship.
Young tennis star Maya’s dreams have finally come true! She’s got the scholarship. She’s got the drive. She’s on her way from small town to pro career . . . But when Maya starts boarding at the sports training school, her fantasy of the Academy doesn’t quite match the reality – because where there are beautiful, talented teens, there’s plenty of drama.

When Abraham Verghese, a physician whose marriage is unravelling, relocates to Texas, he hopes to make a fresh start as a staff member at a county hospital. There he meets David Smith, a medical student recovering from a drug addiction, and the two men begin a tennis ritual that allows them to shed their inhibitions and find security, in the sport they love and in each other. But when the dark beast that is David's addiction emerges once again, almost everything Verghese has come to trust and believe in is threatened.

If you are looking for more tennis-themed novels, then click here for a further selection compiled by @gilbyroberts 


  1. If you like chick lit/romance type books, I've got a list on my blog of ones with a strong element of tennis.

    1. The list is now at