Break Point: The Secret Diary of a Pro Tennis Player
by Vince Spadea with Dan Markowitz
Published July 2006 – Hardcover – 277 pages – $24.95
Here we are in the peaceful lull after the US Open, when everything seems to wind down for the American tennis fan, and we dread the sounds of indoor tennis domes being inflated around the northern part of the country. It’s a good time to catch up on your reading, and I recently finished reading Vince Spadea’s book, Break Point. You might recall that I was given a copy of this book while I was blogging at Legg Mason, so I’ve been feeling semi-obligated to pony up my impressions.
Quite a bit has been made of Spadea’s so-called ‘tell-all,’ due in part to James Blake, who wasn’t at all amused about Spadea’s remarks about him. It’s true that Spadea takes a few swings at Blake, with a story about gamesmanship and parceling out random lines throughout like, “I got so much press attention I felt like James Blake.” The truth is that Spadea smack talks a lot of players in this book, but he heaps out some praise too. The sad fact is that so much of the time reading this book is spent drawing conclusions based on half-stories that it’s hard to keep up.
While Break Point is neither thought-provoking nor ground-breaking, it does provide a very small glimpse from inside the tight-lipped tennis world. It touches on issues like the role that parents have on the tour, the relationships with agents, coaches, sponsorships, endorsements, and the media; the constant travel, the importance of a healthy diet, some of the training and discipline that goes into becoming a great player, as well as some of the mental aspects of the game. Spadea writes not only about his wins, but his inferiorities about losses.
Unfortunately, more has been made about this book for the locker room talk than anything else. If you’re looking for the Jose Conseco book on tennis, rest assured that this isn’t it. This notion begs the obvious question for readers: If you’re looking for a good tell-all about the tour, do you think that Spadea is the guy to tell it? Granted he’s been around for a long time, but is he the “inside man”? Let’s face facts: Vince Spadea has a few idiosyncrasies. He’s proficient at creating crappy rap lyrics and wearing his own gear adorned with a sparkly ‘S.’ He doesn’t have the whole portfolio or the persona to be the Dennis Rodman of tennis, and being a self-proclaimed loner puts him out of the running. As any lawyer will tell you, he’s just not a witness with veracity. Here’s what Vince had to say about why he wrote it:
I’m starting to hear a few comments from the other players concerning what I’m writing. I’m not worried about what they think. I’m just a squirrel trying to get a nut and I’ve got a book deal. Hey, more power to my publisher for buying a book that is going to provide a true representation of who I am and what the pro tennis tour is all about. I believe in being moral and telling the truth, so the idea that I shouldn’t write honestly about what I hear, see, and think about the other players and the game is nonsense. We all have an opinion, and this is the land of the free and the home of the brave. But unless I start winning again, no one’s going to care what I write about anyway.
Somewhere between truth and opinion is perception. This book is unfortunately riddled with so many inaccuracies and so many inconsistencies that you have to wonder if the venerable ECW Press employs any editors.* Hats off to Dan Markowitz who presumably took on the formidable task of deciphering Spadea’s stream of consciousness, no doubt written on the back of draw sheets and cocktail napkins worldwide. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be much of an improvement.
It’s safe to say that if you’re reading this, you love the game of tennis. There were no grand revelations or insights in this book that you couldn’t glean out of a decent tennis periodical, or even a great news site like Tennis-X. Instead what you’ll find is a poorly written book that probably once had great promise.
Much like its protagonist.
* I’d also like to thank the publisher for the great index, without which I never could have written this review. (Oh wait, there is no index. Nevermind.)
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