Friday, 14 July 2017 11:38 AM BST
Tales from the Library: Robert's reading pile

In celebration of the Kenneth Ritchie Wimbledon Library’s status in charting not only the history of The Championships but the history of lawn tennis, Librarian Robert McNicol has assembled a 13-day guide showcasing the stellar sources available. Here he explains which titles he has selected for Day 11.

W. C. Wingfield

As the Librarian at the Kenneth Ritchie Wimbledon Library, I spend a lot of time searching for books, acquiring them and cataloguing them. What I don’t have is as much time as I’d like to read them! I have thousands of books to choose from but which ones am I most keen to get around to reading?

The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy GallweyDescribed by Billie Jean King as her "tennis bible", this multi-million bestseller has never gone out of print since it was first published in 1972. The book is based on Gallwey’s theory that we all have a "self 1", capable of playing great tennis, and a "self 2" full of hang-ups and self-doubt, which gets in the way of "self 1" producing its best. Gallwey’s revolutionary approach attempts to teach the reader how to improve concentration and break bad habits in order to reach their full potential. I must read this book before my next tennis match!

Winning Ugly by Brad Gilbert with Steve JamisonBrad Gilbert was a master of the "inner game". Despite not having the natural talent of many of his peers, he nevertheless won 20 singles titles and reached a high of No.4 in the world rankings. He achieved this through a mixture of hard work, tactical acumen and gamesmanship. He was an expert at psyching out his opponents.These qualities enabled Gilbert to enjoy a career as a top coach after he retired as a player, his most notable success coming with Andre Agassi. The phrase "winning ugly" has passed into common use as a way of describing a victory achieved through guts and mental toughness rather than great play.

Wingfield: Edwardian Gentleman by George E. AlexanderMajor Walter Clopton Wingfield is widely credited with giving the game of tennis to the world. In 1874 he patented a "Portable Court for Playing Tennis". Patent secured, he began producing boxed sets containing everything required to play lawn tennis. These sets were snapped up by the great and the good of British society and the game subsequently spread to America and the rest of the world. But who was Walter Wingfield? There was more to him than tennis. He was a member of the British aristocracy, a soldier who served in India and China, and also an entrepreneur who invented a new form of bicycle. This book tells the personal story of the man, without whom, the game of tennis might be very different from the game we know today.

Forbes and Segal reached the final of the French Championships and semi-finals of Wimbledon in 1963 but this book is less about the tennis and more about capturing the spirit of the era

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A Handful of Summers by Gordon ForbesRegarded by many as the best tennis autobiography ever written, A Handful of Summers tells the story of Gordon Forbes and his fellow South African, Abe Segal, as they made their way around the tennis tour in the 1960s. Although tennis was still amateur at that time, and Forbes and Segal didn’t become rich by playing tennis, they certainly enjoyed a taste of the high life as they toured the world’s top tournaments. Forbes and Segal reached the final of the French Championships and semi-finals of Wimbledon in 1963 but this book is less about the tennis and more about capturing the spirit of the era.

Tennis – A Cultural History by Heiner GillmeisterA retired scholar from the University of Bonn and a world authority on the history of ball games, Heiner Gillmeister's highly-acclaimed Tennis – A Cultural History was first published in 1999 and an updated second edition was released earlier this year. From early ball games in 12th century Paris, through the Middle Ages and up to the first Championships at Wimbledon in 1877, this book charts in detail the evolution of lawn tennis and the games it grew out of. It’s a highly academic work and, at nearly 600 pages, slightly daunting for the casual reader. But for any budding tennis historian it’s required reading.

The Library, founded in 1976 by Alan Little, holds one of the largest and most diverse collections of tennis literature in the world. Dating from the birth of Lawn Tennis in the 1870s to the present day, the collection holds books, magazines, yearbooks, annuals, programmes and newspaper cuttings from more than 80 countries and continues to grow all the time. 

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