A Terrible Splendor: Three Extraordinary Men, a World Poised for War, and the Greatest Tennis Match Ever Played

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Before Federer versus Nadal, before Borg versus McEnroe, the greatest tennis match ever played pitted the dominant Don Budge against the seductively handsome Baron Gottfried von Cramm. This deciding 1937 Davis Cup match, played on the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon, was a battle of titans: the world's number one tennis player against the number two; America against Germany; democracy against fascism. For five superhuman sets, the duo’s brilliant shotmaking kept the Centre Court crowd–and the world–spellbound.

But the match’s significance extended well beyond the immaculate grass courts of Wimbledon. Against the backdrop of the Great Depression and the brink of World War II, one man played for the pride of his country while the other played for his life. Budge, the humble hard-working American who would soon become the first man to win all four Grand Slam titles in the same year, vied to keep the Davis Cup out of the hands of the Nazi regime. On the other side of the net, the immensely popular and elegant von Cramm fought Budge point for point knowing that a loss might precipitate his descent into the living hell being constructed behind barbed wire back home.

Born into an aristocratic family, von Cramm was admired for his devastating good looks as well as his unparalleled sportsmanship. But he harbored a dark secret, one that put him under increasing Gestapo surveillance. And his situation was made even more perilous by his refusal to join the Nazi Party or defend Hitler. Desperately relying on his athletic achievements and the global spotlight to keep him out of the Gestapo’s clutches, his strategy was to keep traveling and keep winning. A Davis Cup victory would make him the toast of Germany. A loss might be catastrophic.

Watching the mesmerizingly intense match from the stands was von Cramm’s mentor and all-time tennis superstar Bill Tilden–a consummate showman whose double life would run in ironic counterpoint to that of his German pupil.

Set at a time when sports and politics were inextricably linked, A Terrible Splendor gives readers a courtside seat on that fateful day, moving gracefully between the tennis match for the ages and the dramatic events leading Germany, Britain, and America into global war. A book like no other in its weaving of social significance and athletic spectacle, this soul-stirring account is ultimately a tribute to the strength of the human spirit.
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About the author

MARSHALL JON FISHER’s work has appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s, and other magazines. His essay "Memoria ex Machina" was featured in Best American Essays 2003. He has written several books with his father, David E. Fisher, including Tube: The Invention of Television. Marshall lives in the Berkshires with his wife
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Additional information

Publisher
Broadway Books
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Published on
Apr 14, 2009
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9780307452146
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Sports
History / Military / World War II
Sports & Recreation / Tennis
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Bobby Jones, and Bill Tilden were the legendary quartet of the “Golden Age of Sports” in the 1920s. They transformed their respective athletic disciplines and captured the imagination of a nation. The indisputable force behind the emergence of professional tennis as a popular and lucrative sport, Tilden’s on-court accomplishments are nothing short of staggering. The first American‐born player to win Wimbledon and a seven‐time winner of the U.S. singles championship, he was the number 1 ranked player for ten straight years.

A tall, flamboyant player with a striking appearance, Tilden didn’t just play; he performed with a singular style that separated him from other top athletes. Tilden was a showman off the court as well. He appeared in numerous comedies and dramas on both stage and screen and was a Renaissance man who wrote more than two dozen fiction and nonfiction books, including several successful tennis instructions books.

But Tilden had a secret—one he didn’t fully understand himself. After he left competitive tennis in the late 1940s, he faced a lurid fall from grace when he was arrested after an incident involving an underage boy in his car. Tilden served seven months in prison and later attempted to explain his questionable behavior to the public, only to be ostracized from the tennis circuit. Despite his glorious career in tennis, his final years were much constrained and lived amid considerable public shunning.

Tilden’s athletic accomplishments remain, as he is arguably the best American player ever. American Colossus is a thorough account of his life, bringing a much-needed look back at one of the world’s greatest athletes and a person whose story is as relevant as ever.

 
At the age of sixteen, Monica Seles crashed on to the world tennis scene by becoming the youngest winner in French Open History. For three years, she dominated the tennis circuit, racking up eight Grand Slam titles, winning three back-to-back French Open titles. At post-match conferences she charmed the media with her trademark giggle.

In January 1993, Seles defeated Steffi Graf in the Australian WomenÕ s Open and in April of that year, while playing a quarter-final in Hamburg, a boning knife was plunged between her shoulder blades by a Graff fan. Everything changed. The incident shocked the tennis world. SelesÕ injuries healed, but Seles did not. Now, in this compelling book she tells us in her own words what followed - years of seclusion, the fog of despair, binge eating, dealing with criticism about her weight from a brutal press, losing her fatherÐ coach to cancer and never regaining her dominance on court despite getting in to the top 10. After years battling to regain fitness and tennis glory, an excruciating injury forced Monica to take time off from tennis in 2003 and she embarked on her own journey. She abandoned the arduous workouts and punitive diets, and slowly uncovered the painful emotions behind years of tumultuous feelings. This is a human and inspiring story of determination, amazing talent and touching vulnerability, that Seles hopes will motivate and inspire others to find happiness in their own lives.

Monica Seles is a former No 1 professional tennis player who became the youngest-ever champion at the French Open in 1990 and went on to win nine Grand Slam singles titles. In 2007, she was appointed goodwill ambassador for the UNÕ s Global Sports for Peace and Development Initiative.
Pete Sampras is arguably the greatest tennis player ever, a man whose hard-nosed work ethic led to an unprecedented number one world ranking for 286 weeks, and whose prodigious talent made possible a record-setting fourteen Grand Slam titles. While his more vocal rivals sometimes grabbed the headlines, Pete always preferred to let his racket do the talking.

Until now.

In A Champion’s Mind, the tennis great who so often exhibited visible discomfort with letting people “inside his head” finally opens up. An athletic prodigy, Pete resolved from his earliest playing days never to let anything get in the way of his love for the game. But while this single-minded determination led to tennis domination, success didn’t come without a price. The constant pressure of competing on the world’s biggest stage—in the unblinking eye of a media machine hungry for more than mere athletic greatness—took its toll.

Here for the first time Pete speaks freely about what it was like to possess what he calls “the Gift.” He writes about the personal trials he faced—including the death of a longtime coach and confidant—and the struggles he gutted his way through while being seemingly on top of the world. Among the book’s most riveting scenes are an early devastating loss to Stefan Edberg that led Pete to make a monastic commitment to delivering on his natural talent; a grueling, four-hour-plus match against Alex Corretja during which Pete became seriously ill; fierce on-court battles with rival and friend Andre Agassi; and the triumphant last match of Pete’s career at the finals of the 2002 U.S. Open.

In A Champion’s Mind, one of the most revered, successful, and intensely private players in the history of tennis offers an intimate look at the life of an elite athlete.
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