Learning the game of tennis tends to happen on the court, at least when developing your skills that is.
But have you ever stopped and wondered how reading tennis books can help with your game and your overall knowledge of the sport?
It’s something that players don’t often ponder, but in my opinion, there are many books out there that can make you a more rounded player, fan, and tennis advocate overall.
Even if you’re not a big reader, you may want to explore the books I’m about to talk about!
Within this short piece, I’d like to share with you a handful of tennis books that I’ve read over the years.
Some have made me appreciate the game more, some have helped me change the way I think about tennis, and some have made me realize just how miraculous the achievements of certain players have been.
While each book has had its own impact on my tennis life, they’ve all been great fun to read.
I sincerely hope that the best tennis books out there today can do the same for you, so do read on.
My top reads - the best tennis books
There are hundreds of tennis-related books on sale these days, but of course, the quality of these books can be vastly different.
However, I’m not interested in showing you books that are of poor quality or will have zero impact on your tennis views.
Instead, I’ve narrowed things down to talk about the top five tennis books that I have personally read over the years. These books are all classics in their own way, so let’s get going with book number one:
#1 Winning Ugly - Brad Gilbert
I first read this one as a teenager, and even today, I still love to come back to the lessons that this book taught me.
As you’ve probably guessed, the book is all about what it takes to actually win in tennis. And no, it’s not about hitting amazing forehands, having an incredible serve, or having masses of money to travel the world and compete each week.
Instead, it takes an incredibly intricate look into how you can actually become a winner in this sport, regardless of what talents you’ve been blessed with.
I love that it’s directly from Brad Gilbert’s brain too, and since he has worked with the likes of Andy Murray and Andre Agassi as a coach - I’m inclined to think that he knows what he’s talking about.
Gilbert takes you beyond the glitz and glamour of being a top player, and he gets down and dirty to show you what it takes to win on the court, off the court, and in the mind.
It’s one of my top all-around tennis books in terms of the focus, and he’s even done a podcast episode where he gets into all things coaching. You can listen to it here.
#2 Serve to Win - Novak Djokovic
As upsetting as this is since I’m a huge Roger Federer fan, Novak Djokovic is now undoubtedly the GOAT.
To be honest, what this man has accomplished over the course of his career is nothing short of remarkable.
From a war-torn childhood to being on top of the world with 20 Grand Slams at the time of writing, Djokovic is in a different league to everyone right now.
For a bit of fun, you can check out his Grand Slam journey here with all of the winning points documented:
However, did you know that all of this success almost didn’t happen, purely because he was being hampered by his diet?
That’s right - in 2010 he discovered that he was gluten intolerant, on the off-chance that a Serbian doctor was watching him suffer on the court during a Grand Slam match.
The reason this book is one of my favorites is that it focuses purely on diet, and what impact it can have on your game, as well as your health as a whole.
#3 The Inner Game of Tennis - W. Timothy Gallwey
This book was first published back in 1972, well before I was even born! However, old but gold is a phrase that definitely fits the bill for this one.
Even the likes of Billie Jean King have referred to this book as a ‘tennis bible’ - which is quite a big claim I know. But if it’s good enough for a legend like Billie Jean King, you know it’s got something special about it.
And for me, what makes it special is the focus on the mental side of tennis, which is incredibly important, let me tell you now!
I’ve had enough experience in this sport to know that oftentimes, it’s the player that can win in the mind who ultimately wins on the court.
Even Djokovic credits mental toughness to much of his success. And this book truly reinforces that opinion, by addressing common aspects such as anxiety, self-doubt, and even a lack of trust in oneself to do the right things and become a success. It’s an incredible and truly fascinating read.
#4 Open - Andre Agassi
Andre Agassi was one of the most talented players there has ever been, in my opinion.
He had a phenomenal return of serve, which was arguably the best of all time before Djokovic came along. He also had incredible groundstrokes, with some of the best timing of the ball I have ever seen.
But besides his on-court abilities, I found it amazing that the guy didn’t even want to be a tennis player through his book, Open.
When watching him play, you’d have thought that tennis ran in his blood, but things weren’t always that way.
For me, this book is the very best at showing the troublesome and challenging journey of becoming a professional tennis player.
It’s one of the top ‘behind the curtains’ looks there has ever been, especially since it’s an autobiography that specifically focuses on his rise to tennis stardom.
#5 String Theory - David Wallace
I just couldn’t wrap up my top reads without including a book that actually does focus on the game of tennis, on court that is.
For a man that didn’t manage to reach the top of the game, his insights on what makes a great player really are remarkable.
The book is put together through a series of essays and articles that focus on game-changing players, Federer included, and it looks into great detail on what makes the players so good.
Wallace looks at everything from how to hit a ball, to footwork, to on-court mental practices, and much more.
It’s a great read if you are a bit of a tennis buff, and after it, you’ll certainly feel like a more rounded player.
You may even want to go and try what you learn here on the court the next day - don’t say I didn’t warn you!
My favorite tennis book - Winning Ugly by Brad Gilbet
The game of tennis is incredibly lonely. When competing as a junior, you miss out on many things that create a ‘normal’ childhood.
And when climbing to the top, you have to make sacrifices, train harder than everyone else, and above all - figure out how to be a winner.
These are the things that tennis players can find tough, but the material that Gilbert supplies in this book is just priceless surrounding these concepts. In fact, it’s priceless when talking about most concepts in tennis.
For me, it’s one of the best all-around tennis books there is, and you should definitely pick up a copy when you can.
Have any other books to add? I’d love to hear about books you’ve read that have changed your tennis game and mindset for the better! Let us all know in the comments.