“Few accessories evoke a life of leisure and luxury as quickly as a tennis racquet,” Ben Rothenberg writes in the introduction to “The Stylish Life: Tennis.”
And few books capture that sense of élan better than this handsome 176-page coffee-table book, part of a series from teNeues Publishing Group.
From the chewed-up green and white patchwork quilt of Wimbledon to the fiery terra-cotta of Roland Garros, from demure white Ted Tinling frocks to sleek, sherbet-colored Stella McCartney dresses, from an Ed Vebell painting of Don Budge in long pants to a shot of a male model in tennis-ball green and navy shorts and T, this volume illustrates how deeply elegance serves every aspect of the game.
Art and architecture lovers will thrill to the emerald and crimson palette of Franklin McMahon’s painting of tennis courts at the Hotel Del Coronado in California — perhaps reminded that Vincent van Gogh called red and green the colors of passion. Armchair tourists will lust for the jagged jewel of Il San Pietro di Positano resort or the bisque, blue and cream splendor of the Monte Carlo Country Club — two pristine playgrounds of the racket men and women. Fashionistas will marvel at the evolution of tennis wear from high-necked, mutton-sleeved blouses and long skirts to peekaboo outfits, while history buffs will pore over images of a determined Arthur Ashe — brow knitted, mouth set — at the Queen’s Club in London, 1970, or a smiling Billie Jean King feeling Bobby Riggs’ bicep before their 1973 “Battle of the Sexes.”
It’s the images of these people and others — the players who became stars, the stars who play — that will keep you coming back. There’s Rod Laver and his bride, Mary, walking under an arch of tennis rackets on their wedding day in 1966. There’s a pair of engaged Wimbledon winners who would never marry (Chris Evert and Jimmy Connors, 1974) and a pair of winners who later would (Steffi Graff and Andre Agassi, 1991).
There’s a fetching Ava Gardner perched atop a courtside bench (1948), a smiling Jacqueline Kennedy by the net at the Kennedys’ Cape Code home (1953) and a desperate Farley Granger returning serve — and hoping to save himself from a bogus murder rap — in a still from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 thriller “Strangers on a Train.”
But our favorite images are juxtaposed on two pages. On page 74, a tuxedoed Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic — perhaps tennis’ best rivalry — head for the Monte Carlo Casino in 2008. Rafa appears pensive while Nole gazes off at something we can’t glimpse.
Perhaps he’s looking at page 75, which shows Condé Nast creative director and Vogue editor Anna Wintour beaming at her fave, Roger Federer, at Moët & Chandon’s 270th anniversary party in 2013.
When it comes to the stylish game of tennis, it’s love all.