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Courts of Babylon: Tales of Greed and Glory in The Harsh New World of Professional Tennis Hardcover – June 5, 1995

4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tennis was the last major sport to abandon the British ideal of the gentleman amateur, which it did with the advent of so-called open tennis in 1968. The results of that seismic change are detailed in this chronicle by reporter-analyst Bodo, who has covered the sport for two decades for Tennis magazine. The first result in the U.S. was that the amateur game was all but abandoned, with outstanding players often turning pro at the age of 14 or 15, especially girls. The second was the erosion of sportsmanship and its replacement by what Bodo calls the puppy-eat-puppy world of cutthroat young players, the extreme cases being Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. Bodo considers all the factors involved, including parents, coaches, the controlling associations, television, even the born-again Christian movement. But his greatest strength lies in discussing the players, all of whom he likes enough to see the individual beneath the media image. He may veer at times into pop psychoanalysis, but he adduces enough personal data from his in-depth interviews that his portraits have the ring of truth.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (June 5, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684812967
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684812960
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,289,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the best book on this subject. The depth of the sociological analysis of the Open era is unprecedented. The strength of this book is due to Bodo's back and forth dual approach. In one chapter, he will paint a broad and often scathing analytical brush on one aspect of the Open era. He may even focus on the change in character of one Gran Slam tournament (Wimbledon, U.S. Open). But, the very next chapter he will likely focus on one single star and essentially write a biography about them based on his multitude of interviews he had with most of them.

Prior to the Open era, Bodo explains how tennis stood for sportsmanship, ethics, and educated well-rounded personalities catering to a sophisticated public. As a case in point, he mentions the many members of the Australian dynasty in the 50s, 60s, and early 70s who were all models of sportsmanship, and humility. They also did well in their tennis after life. These included legendary names like Laver, Rosewall, Emerson, and Newcomb among many others. On the American side, you had a series of college-educated players with mature personalities, including Dennis Ralston, Arthur Ashe, Charlie Pasarell, Stan Smith, and Bob Lutz. Some of them crossed over the Open era. But, they came from an old guard when tennis and its stars stood for something different than after the Open era.

The Open era officially started in 1968. But, per Bodo it kicked into gear in 1976 with the advent of Bjorn Borg, and Connors. All of a sudden, the game became corrupted by relentless commercialization. The money got so huge that it killed sportsmanship, humility, education, and well roundedness. The college game disappeared. If you are good enough for the pros at 18, forget college.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is like re-living the 1980's end of the amateur & beginning of the professional tennis eras in technicolor, the heroes, the villains and everyday life. Not a bit dated. Especially interesting is the saga of the struggle of players & officials to move tennis from a fusty amateur sport to a professional sport & entertainment vehicle. Very balanced & perceptive views of key players & background figures. I wish the author would write an update!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Bodo wrote this book a long time ago which I missed during the purchase decision. So, no contemporary players are mentioned. However, paired with Jimmy Connors new book, it provides a great perspective contrast to the way Connors describes the same time period.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It is hard to remember just what a freak show professional tennis was in the 1970's and into the 80's. The original bad boy of tennis - Ilie Nastase would spit at his opponents. A former man wanted to play as a woman. Jimmy Conners firing tennis balls next to lines people he disagreed with.

And this book documents it all - all the major players and many of the ones who had their moment in the sun and slipped away into relative obscurity. The train wreck that Martina Navratilova put herself through with all her different partners. The real humanity beneath the Ice Queen media image of Chris Evert. The money train that Bjorn Borg simply walked away from after finally losing Wimbledon.

I certainly enjoyed going back over so much of this history that has faded into the mists of time as today's tennis tour presents it's very professional and controlled stars today.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book has a lot on keen insights. You just have to be patient or just skip over some sections that go off on tangents such as discussing people who where peripherally related to the history of the sport. Yes, it is dated because, having read about half the book, there's no mention of Federer or Murray. There is an explanation of why Britain has trouble producing top tennis players.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book because it had excellent ratings and it does justice to its reputation. Bodo does a fantastic job of fleshing out the personality of each superstar, and the article on Religion in tennis is very different, to say the least....
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Format: Hardcover
This book was so easy to read- the reader is swept into the intrigue invovlved in the women's professional tennis tour. Peter Bodo is not afraid to ask important questions: should players forgo high school and college to attempt to cash in? What sacrifices are called for to produce a champion? Who controls the money in the women's game?

More importantly, Bodo interviews his subjects and lets the reader understand something of their personalities as well as their approach to tennis.

An exciting, fun book that makes you think.
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By A Customer on February 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Bodo's look at the Open Era of tennis (1968-present) is the best in existence. This book is detailed, probing, funny, and has a historical perspective usually missing from books in this genre. I particularly like his psychological analysis of several famous players. Oh, and Bodo knows his tennis, too, and has interesting things to say about the strengths and weaknesses of many of the game's stars. This is really a cut above almost every other book written about the sport.
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