Quotable Quotes: Beat that, David Foster Wallace.

This has got to be one of the weirder tennis tie-ins out there.

David Foster Wallace might’ve written one of the greatest gems of journalism with his ‘Roger Federer as Religious Experience‘ not too many years ago, but le Fed seems to have another closet fan in the literary world.

The 2009 Roland Garros final between Federer and Soderling sets the scene in John le Carré‘s latest book, ‘Our Kind of Traitor’, where Perry and Gail, an Oxford academic and his girlfriend, head to Paris to watch Federer play.

To give you a flavour of the Federer worship:

The stadium is erupting.

First Robin Soderling, then Roger Federer looking as becomingly modest and self-assured as only God can. Perry is craning forward, lips pressed tensely together. He’s in the presence.

Soderling is going for the French Open. Federer is going for history and Perry is going with him. Federer has won the first set 6-1. It took him just under half an hour.

After the Jimmy Jumper episode:

God does not sweat. Federer’s pale blue shirt is unstained except for a single skid-mark between the shoulder blades. His movements seem a trifle less fluid, but whether that’s the rain or the clotting clay or the nervous impact of the flagman is anybody’s guess. The sun has gone in, umbrellas are opening around the court, somehow it’s 3-4 in the second set, Soderling is rallying and Federer looks a bit depressed.

He just wants to make history and go home to his beloved Switzerland. And, oh dear, it’s a tiebreak – except it hardly is, because Federer’s first serves are flying in one after the other, the way Perry’s do sometimes, but twice as fast. It’s the third set and Federer has broken Soderling’s serve, he’s back in perfect rhythm and the flagman has lost after all. Is Federer weeping even before he’s won? Never mind. He’s won now. It’s as simple and uneventful as that.

Federer has won and he can weep his heart out, and Perry, too, is blinking away a manly tear. His idol has made the history that he came to make and the crowd is on its feet for the history-maker, and Niki the baby-faced bodyguard is edging his way towards them along the row of happy people; the handclapping has become a coordinated drumbeat.

Extract Source: Telegraph

I’d be shocked and flabbergasted if Mr le Carré isn’t ‘one of us’.

xx doots

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23 responses to “Quotable Quotes: Beat that, David Foster Wallace.”

  1. FortuneCookie says :

    Like…whatt?!I’m so confused as to how this match ended up in a novel,bizarre!In terms of novelists and tennis,of course there’s always Martin Amis too and his famous ‘characters’ comment 😛

    • dootsiez says :


      • FortuneCookie says :

        Martin Amis wrote an essay aaaages ago (like back in the 90s) about tennis and the personalities in it,and the standout quote was that the term character in tennis is synonymous with arsehole or something to that effect…

        • FortuneCookie says :

          Or maybe it was personality is synonymous with arsehole,it’s been a while since I read it!

      • GrüeziMitenand says :

        If it’s ok with FortuneCookies, I’ll answer your question – apologies if I’m unknowingly breaking any netiquette by doing so – I’ve just come out of my years-long Fed-closet (i wished it were his closet 😉

        I believe FortuneCookies is talking about the humour column that Amis published on the New Yorker under the title of “Tennis Personalities.” It was a stinging critique of the cult of “personality” in professional tennis and the whole fashion & celebrity show that surrounds it.

        In a nutshell, Amis was appalled by players like John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Andre Agassi, whom he all defined as “assholes”. Instead, he claimed that less extrovert and exemplary tennis players such as Rod Laver and Arthur Ashe “didn’t need personality because they had character”.

        Overall it is quite an enjoyable article, even though IMHO Martin Amis does not even remotely compare to DFW as a writer. If you want to read it all you can still find it in the New Yorker archive, here: (subscription required)

        If, instead, you want to read a summary of the original Amis’ article (and related tennis-personality theory applied to Fed) here’s a good one by Ian Crouch:

        I totally agree with Crouch when he writes that “The great assholes of tennis may catch our eye—but it’s the steady, poised players who earn a more lasting esteem, something that edges close to adoration…”

        • marcoiac says :

          amis is a tennis aficionado. there are many tennis-related scenes in his fiction books, especially the first and third of his london trilogy, MONEY and THE INFORMATION (not sure about this title, actually). agree with you that wallace is a better writer. amis much more famous though….

          amis also wrote a piece called TENNIS: THE WOMEN’S GAME, arguing that women’s tennis is much more entertaining than men’s game. i think this can be a popular argument in this blog….

        • marcoiac says :

          i think this quote from the article describes well many readers of this blog (and its writer, for sure):

          “Some people are so enthralled by the way Roger Federer plays tennis that they can hardly bear to see him lose”

  2. PJ says :

    Wow, epicness! Reality with fiction and Feddy worship. Checked out the book on Google and it seems like a spy thriller. May want to pop into Borders one weekend and have myself some Federer fawning amidst Russian money launderers, with a few coffees. ❤

  3. evie says :

    Thanks for the tip, I’ll look for it. Wonder if that crazy interloper makes an appearance.

  4. Mia says :

    Am not surprised. Hey, Fed, gets me to remember am Catholic, especially around the slams. Gets me to throw up a prayer or even pop into a chapel where normally no priest can. So am living proof of “Federer as Religious Experience”, no?

  5. breadstix says :

    Hahaha, that is excellent.

  6. LJ says :

    ahahaha, Love Le Carre the man, love his stories but I’m not very enamoured of his writing style

    2 things made me LOL considerably

    “He just wants to make history and go home to his beloved Switzerland.” – suisse = mirka no?

    “Federer has won and he can weep his heart out, and Perry, too, is blinking away a manly tear. ” – this sentence is just sooooo full of loltastic awkwardness.

  7. pban says :

    That is as LJ said epic LOLworthy,Feddy fans come in all genres but they are without fail quite crazy

  8. Matt Zemek says :

    Mr. Le Carre needs one of his fictional characters – Roger – to take out a tall, ball-crushing Swedish assassin Wednesday.

    Frazzle Dazzle us. Such a massive confrontation larded with pressure.

    And I’m not optimistic.

  9. oracle86 says :

    David Foster Wallace can’t beat that because he’s dead. 😦
    IMHO, his article should be officially declared as the Federer Bible. 🙂

  10. marcoiac says :

    btw, i assume you guys know that david foster wallace used to be a pretty good tennis player (not as good as the writer though…) and that he wrote a beautiful piece on tennis that was first published in ESQUIRE and featured sharapova’s coach joyce (at that time he was still playing and was ranked between 50 and 100; and sharapova was probably still in siberia). that essay was also published in a book collection, probably the one title A SUPPOSEDLY FUN THIN I WILL NEVER DO AGAIN. i can’t remember the title of the essay but it’s really a great piece. actually, if someone out there remembers the damn title, can you please post it here? i’d like to find it and read it again

    p.s. sadly, DFW killed himself not too long ago….

    • GrüeziMitenand says :

      Indeed, thanks for bringing that up. He also wrote an essay about his competitive-tennis playing in youth. You can still read it on the DFW page of the Esquire, here:
      It’s the one called “Tennis, Trigonometry, Tornadoes: A Midwestern boyhood” (even if it was later renamed ““Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley”)

      As for his “String Theory”, it’s also available on Esquire, here:

      They are both quite interesting and very beautifully written essays, but to me nothing compares to his “F. as Religious Experience”, which made me almost reconsider my atheist position :)))

      • marcoiac says :

        and let’s not forget that DFW fiction masterpiece, INIFINITE JEST, has many chapters describing life in a tennis academy. both funny and compelling. INFINITE JEST isn’t an easy book (quite sad, actually), but it’s worth reading for tennis aficionados because of the tennis academy parts (which are also quite funny…)

  11. marcoiac says :

    found the ref (i haven’t found the thing itself though…). here it is:

    “The String Theory”. Esquire Vol. 126, No. 1; July 1996; p. 56. [NOTES: Collected in ASFT as “Tennis Player Michael Joyce’s Prfoessional Artistry as a Paradigm of Certain Stuff about Choice, Freedom, Discipline, Joy, Grotesquerie, and Human Completeness”.]

  12. Dippy says :

    Roger Federer has universal appeal – girls wants to get him, men wants to be like him, even writer wants a piece of him in their books. I need to buy some Lindt Choc later

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