Tennis is a global sport with a long history. With both fans and players of all ages, there are dozens of great tennis books available. You can find books for tennis players that help with strategy or the mental side of the game. For fans, you can find autobiographies and biographies of some of the greatest tennis players of all time.
Below, I’ll show you some of the best tennis books available today for both tennis players and fans of the game. These books also make great tennis gifts.
Quick Overview of the 7 Best Tennis Books
Depending on the type of tennis book you’re looking for, you may need one book over another.
Below are the top tennis books, who each book is best for, and why I personally chose it on my list. More detailed reviews can be found below.
|Book||Best For…||Why I Love It|
|On Tennis |
by David Foster Wallace
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|Tennis fans & players who want an enjoyable read by one of the great writers of our time.||One of few books I simply can’t put down. In this collection of tennis stories, DFW articulates what it feels like to play tennis in a tornado and watch Federer in astonishing detail.|
|The Inner Game of Tennis|
by W. Timothy Gallwey
Buy on Amazon
|Tennis players who want to improve their game. Required reading for tennis coaches as well.||Professional athletes from every sport turn to this book to improve their performance. This is my Tennis Bible for developing my game and competing.|
by Andre Agassi
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|Tennis fans who want an inside look into the career of an all-time great player.||Agassi’s story is one of a kind. You get a detailed account of the mind and behind-the-scenes goings-on of a professional athlete and global tennis icon.|
by Brad Gilbert
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|Tennis players who need an intro to strategy and competing.||Brad simplifies the game so that even a beginner can understand how to develop a game plan on the court. I don’t agree with everything in the book but it’s a great start for players of any skill level.|
|A Handful of Summers by Gordon Forbes|
Buy on Amazon
|Tennis players and fans of all kinds because it is a fun read that doesn’t require much tennis knowledge.||Gordon recounts his years playing pro tennis and traveling around the globe. This memoir tells stories from one of the great eras in tennis history during the 1960s. The accounts are often funny, entertaining, and insightful.|
|But Seriously by John McEnroe|
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|Tennis enthusiasts who want to learn more about McEnroe’s life after his playing days, and his personal life.||McEnroe shares behind-the-scenes stories from his personal life in his signature brutally honest, entertaining style that makes for a great read for tennis fans of all generations.|
Reviews of the Top 7 Tennis Books
Below is our list of the top 7 tennis books. I will review each book in more detail.
#1 – String Theory, On Tennis by David Foster Wallace
On Tennis is a collection of five tennis essays by the great writer, David Foster Wallace. He describes in detail what it’s like to compete by yourself on the tennis court, in a way that only competitive tennis players will understand.
There were several times throughout the book when I got goosebumps because of the way he articulates the feelings of competition. This one makes a great tennis gift as well.
The chapter on Federer, Roger Federer as Religious Experience (NYT), is must-read material for any tennis player and fan. Other chapters include David’s own story of playing competitive junior tennis in the windy, stormy midwest, his hilarious critique of Tracy Austin’s memoir, and an analysis of former pro player and coach Michael Joyce.
#2 – The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey
Along with String Theory above, this is the only other book that I would consider required reading for tennis players and coaches.
Professional athletes from the NBA, to soccer, to the NFL use this book as a guide to better mental and physical performance in the arena. Coaching greats, Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors) and Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks) credit the book for much of their success.
Tennis players will get a bit more out of it since Timothy uses tennis as the medium for teaching competitors how to find that right mental state and improve.
This book will teach you how to:
- Play better tennis under pressure.
- Practice tennis more effectively so you develop your strokes faster.
- Stay focused on the court so you play your best tennis.
Coaches will learn the best methods for teaching and learning tennis as well. I don’t think I would trust a tennis coach who hasn’t read this book.
#3 – Open by Andre Agassi
This book is simply an amazing tennis story by one of the best tennis players of all time. Andre Agassi had a rough childhood with a lot of pressure. It’s no wonder he turned to drugs and rebellion as a way of keeping some control over his life.
In this autobiography, you’ll learn how the combination of a tough father, insane talent, and early fame created an unhappy tennis star. Agassi bravely shares behind-the-scenes stories from his personal life that makes for a great book for tennis fans of all generations.
#4 – Winning Ugly by Brad Gilbert
This tennis book is a great introduction to strategy and competition for beginner tennis players. Higher-level players will still get a lot out of this book as well, but don’t feel like you have to follow all of Brad’s rules.
Brad Gilbert played professional tennis in the 80s and early 90s, reaching number four in the world at one point. He also coached Andre Agassi through the late 90s and is undoubtedly one of the top minds in our game.
Brad does a great job of explaining how to analyze an opponent’s tennis game and use that knowledge to your strategic advantage. His pre-match routines outlined in the book will help you play your best right from the start of the match as well. He lists out exactly what you should have in your tennis bag, how you should warm up, eat, and more.
His tough, gritty approach isn’t for everyone, and he does have some questionable strategic advice, like choosing to receive rather than serve first after winning the toss. Overall, however, this is still a great read. Use your own judgment to decide which of Brad’s advice works best for you.
#5 – Essential Tennis by Ian Westermann
This is a newer book in the tennis world. After reading it, I’d consider it one of the top books for club-level tennis players who want to improve. It reads like a modern-day Inner Game of Tennis.
Ian has helped 10,000s of people improve their tennis game through his online videos, courses, and lessons. He’s taken the most important information he’s learned to create this book. He starts with the process of improvement, then moves on to the importance of video, before diving into stroke technique and strategy.
I was able to improve my backhand after reading the first several chapters. You’ll find several chapters or paragraphs that resonate most with you and can unlock your potential to get to the next level.
For a preview, listen to my interview with Ian Westermann.
#6 – A Handful of Summers by Gordon Forbes
At the end of each doubles podcast interview, I ask the guest for their favorite tennis book. A Handful of Summers might be the most popular choice.
In the book, Gordon Forbes recounts his years playing pro tennis and traveling around the globe. This memoir tells stories from one of the great eras in tennis history during the 1960s. The accounts are often funny, entertaining, and insightful.
This book is great for both tennis players and fans because it is a fun read that doesn’t require much tennis knowledge.
Not available on Audible
#7 – But Seriously by John McEnroe
This book provides a ton of insight into one of the best, most controversial tennis players of all time. John McEnroe is often remembered for his antics, but what happened after his years on tour is just as intriguing.
How does someone seen as immature by some and only a tennis player by others reinvent himself as a father, broadcaster, and author?
In this autobiography, you’ll learn how McEnroe confronted his demons to become the respected businessman and analyst he is today. He shares behind-the-scenes stories from his personal life in his signature brutally honest, entertaining style that makes for a great read for tennis fans of all generations.
Honorable Mentions: Other Great Tennis Books to Consider
Aside from the more popular tennis books mentioned above, below are 10 other books on tennis that are certainly worth reading.
- Look at All that Room Above the Net: Wit and Wisdom from a Lifetime in Tennis by Tracy Townsend
- A book filled to the brim with timeless tennis wisdom.
- Levels of the Game by John McPhee
- A detailed analysis of every single point of a match between Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner. McPhee’s writing makes the mundane seem extraordinary.
- A Champion’s Mind: Lessons from a Life in Tennis by Pete Sampras
- A trip into the mind of one of the most talented people to ever grace a tennis court.
- Racquet: The Book by David Shaftel & Caitlin Thompson
- A compilation of great stories from the iconic magazine.
- Nick Bollettieri’s Tennis Handbook by Nick Bollettieri
- A comprehensive guide to learning and teaching tennis from a legendary coach.
- Think to Win: The Strategic Dimension of Tennis by Allen Fox
- A deep-dive into strategy and the mental side of tennis.
- The Master: The Long Run and Beautiful Game of Roger Federer by Christopher Clarey
- An ode to the man who makes tennis look easy.
- Mine! by Uros Budimac
- A must-read for all doubles players. Listen to my interview with Uros Budimac where we cover tactics from his book.
- Rafa by Rafael Nadal
- What does it take to be Rafael Nadal?
- The Outsider: A Memoir by Jimmy Connors
- An uncensored account of the life of the original bad boy of tennis.
Have other tennis book recommendations? Leave a comment below!