Described by Robert Lipsyte as 'the high point of American sports journalism', John McPhee's Levels of the Game, nominally about a tennis match between two of the greats of tennis history, redefined what it meant to be a sports writer.
Written by four-times finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction, Levels of the Game is the best tennis book ever written, dealing with human behaviour, race, politics and the divisions of the country, all told through a single game of tennis.
Levels of the Game is a narrative of a tennis match played by Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner at Forest Hills in 1968, beginning with the ball rising into the air for the initial serve and ending with the final point. In between, McPhee provides a brilliant, stroke-by-stroke description, while examining the backgrounds and attitudes which have molded the players' games.
Arthur Ashe thinks that Clark Graebner, a middle-class white conservative dentist's son from Cleveland, plays stiff and compact Republican tennis. Graebner acknowledges that this is true, and for his part thinks that, because Ashe is black and from Richmond, Ashe's tennis game is bold, loose, liberal, flat-out Democratic, When physical assets are about equal, psychology is paramount to any game.