Saturday 21 September 2019

Informative and enthralling look at bygone tennis era

The book, Ashe vs Connors
The book, Ashe vs Connors

Dean Goodison: Book Review

A first perusal of Peter Bodo's book, Ashe vs Connors, Wimbledon 1975: Tennis that went beyond Centre Court, leaves you wondering just how it's possible for a publication of over 250 pages to focus on one clash and keep it interesting.

Maybe it's interviews with the players, which in Ashe's case would mean rehashed ones since he passed away from Aids-related pneumonia back in 1993, or maybe it's the accounts of nearest and dearest, of journalists and of fans that were there on SW19's hallowed turf that day?

Nope, it's none of those. Indeed, while the tie that gives the book its name is key to the publication reaching its crescendo, less than a fifth of the offering is even about the Wimbledon Championships of 1975, which will come as a surprise for those hoping for a blow-by-blow account of one of the big upsets of the open era.

You are left wondering through the first 50 or so pages just when Bodo will get to the focal point of the book.

However, that feeling soon evaporates as each page goes by and the author takes you into the contrasting early years of both players.

If the above is a complaint about the title of the publication being a little misleading it's the only one.

Ashe vs Connors is a journey from a bygone era of 'rock star' behaviour and simpler times and is brought to life with precision by Bodo.

With almost a decade separating the two players in age, there is very little overlap in their careers until the last couple of seasons, and therefore the final few chapters.

The author takes the prudent option and flip-flops between the stars in the early chapters, focusing on one or the other and not both at the same time.

Bodo starts with their interesting family history, including Connors' Irish heritage, and moves all the way through their formative years, into their teenage times and touches on what turned them into champions, the sacrifices they made and the personalities that either helped that development or hindered it.

The publication shows that times may be different - both when it comes to the college-first structure but also to the prize money, there is little to compare then and now.

Yet, like fashion, situations that were relevant back in the mid-seventies can be brought back into the public psyche 40 years later.

Take Connors' mother Gloria; she was painted by the tabloids as the overbearing mother, pushing her son too hard, turning a blind eye to his 'idiosyncrasies' and was very much 'in your face'.

Fast forward four decades and hello Judy Murray.

Some might feel that the ending is cut a little short. It's not the longest book at about a six-seven hour read and that's helped by their lives post-1975 Wimbledon final being wrapped up in under nine pages.

However, the epilogue does tie up the loose ends in such a way that the reader doesn't feel the need to spend hours on google to satisfy that need to know a little bit more.

Worth a buy? Well, the tennis fan is sure to enjoy this publication with it's tales from two of the all-time great American players.

Club players of a certain era will revel in these tales of an easier time while younger fans can get an understanding of a different era of the game.

There is more than enough meat on the bone for the average sports fan too.

Anything as informative and enthralling as this can only add to the sporting knowledge of an afficionado and Ashe vs Connors certainly does just that.

Visit The Book Centre on Wexford's Main Street for the very best selection of sports books.

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