The Best Stories About the U.S. Open

Longform.org's guide to the greatest long articles ever written.
Aug. 31 2013 7:15 AM

Roger, Serena, and Billie Jean King

The Longform guide to the U.S. Open.

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Evonne Goolagong Cawley, the first Australian aborigine ever to play serious competitive tennis, had just won Wimbledon when this story was published and was a favorite at the Open. Between 1973 and 1976, Goolagong would reach four U.S. Open finals. She never won.

“Jake Kramer believes she will rule women’s tennis for most of the seventies, and Frank Sedgman sees her as potentially greater than Althea Gibson, Maureen Connolly and Maria Bueno. Certainly she will make more money than any of her predecessors. As a ‘registered’ player, she can take the cash openly. Her prize money from this year’s tour, which she started as virtually an unknown player, will total $29,000, and soon it is expected to go to more than $85,000 a year. A firm of London business agents is handling transactions which will put the musical aboriginal name that means ‘nose of kangaroo’ on rackets, balls, socks and carry bags. For the right to interview her for publication they are demanding fees from £100 to £150— “depending on circulation.” The experts say that Evonne Goolagong will have $100,000 in the bank by the time she is 21—and that she’ll follow Rod Laver as a tennis millionaire by the time she is 30. Not a cent of her earnings goes to Edwards. He already runs Australia’s largest tennis school, and the publicity Evonne wins assures him that it will grow larger still. He pays his own fares to accompany Evonne, and has already invested a chunk of her earnings for her in real estate.

The Third Man
Lauren Collins • The New Yorker • August 2013

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A profile of Novak Djokovic.

 “It was true that Djokovic’s parents could be mildly obnoxious. (‘The king is dead, long live the king,’ Dijana said, in 2008, after Djokovic beat Federer, predicting that her son would soon be No. 1.) His entourage did not exude dignity. (To celebrate his 2011 victory at the Madrid Open, they draped the Serbian flag over a Lexus. While Djokovic cheered, Marián Vajda, his forty-six-year-old coach, climbed on top of the car and began humping the hood.) He could be annoying, with his bluster and his cheesy pranks. (He once pretended to show a reporter his vibration dampener and then hit him in the crotch, gasping, ‘That’s a basic joke of tennis! Sorry,’ as he doubled over in hysterics.) His sensibility recalled the soccer stadium rather than the country club. He seemed the type of person who, at a magic show, would die to be picked for audience participation. ‘He was like the guy who’s a bit uncomfortable at the cocktail party and had to do something different to try to be at ease,’ Thomas Ross, a longtime agent, told me. If Federer was the foxtrot, Djokovic was the Harlem Shake.

Ripped. (Or Torn Up?)
Cynthia Gorney • New York Times Magazine • June 2009

What Rafael Nadal’s brutal style means for his body.

“Nadal lost the French Open three weeks ago, yes. He lost shockingly, unexpectedly, before even reaching the quarterfinals. The knees might or might not have been a factor; Nadal refused to make any injury excuses for his defeat, but in any case, it was the first match he ever lost at the French Open, which he had won four times in a row. Because he left early, before he and Federer could face each other, there will always be an unanswered question attached to Federer’s championship: the French was the only one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, the majors, that Federer had never been able to win. He was beaten there by Nadal four years in a row. In last year’s final, in fact, Nadal obliterated him so completely that people either stared in fascination or averted their eyes, as though witnessing a dreadful car wreck. For a few days, when I was at the French Open, Nadal’s defeat made for richer drama than anybody else’s victory, and I would not really have understood why that was had I not also been at Indian Wells in the middle of the night in March and watched Nadal’s face during that second set against Nalbandian, especially when Nadal began moving faster and faster, coiling, springing, powering the ball into back corners, missing, driving again. After a time, I realized a new sound was coming from Nadal in between the hitting grunts, an even more guttural sound that was low, feral and drawn out between intakes of breath. He was growling.”

Have a favorite piece that we missed? Leave the link in the comments or tweet it to @longform. One caveat: if any of John McPhee’s wonderful tennis writing was available online, it would have been on the list. For more great writing, check out Longform’s complete archive.

Max Linsky is a founding editor of Longform.org.