Louis MacNeice once wrote that if you want to know what chasing the Grail is like, ask Lancelot not Galahad. Because failure helps you see — the successful types are too busy succeeding. Two recent books on tennis put this theory to the test. The Master, by Christopher Clarey, long-time tennis correspondent for the NY Times, is about Roger Federer’s greatness. Clarey played for Williams College, where he ‘struggled and choked enough to understand just how difficult it can be to hit the shots that virtuosos like Federer make look routine’. Billie Jean King’s most recent autobiography, All In, is the second. She tells the story from Galahad’s point of view.
King’s is harder to sum up: part coming-out memoir, part tennis journal and part polemic.