Bounce, by Matthew Syed; Open, by Andre Agassi
Sunday 21 November 2010
Four of the six books on the shortlist for this year's William Hill Sports Book of the Year award, to be announced on 30 November, have already been reviewed here – Blood Knots, Beware of the Dog, Trautmann's Journey and A Last English Summer.
Of the two which complete the set, Bounce (Fourth Estate, £12.99) is an ambitious attempt to try to discover what factors need to coincide to produce a sporting world-beater. Syed, a former Olympic competitor himself, has done his homework, drawing together research in sports science, neuroscience, psychology and economics in a book that fizzes and bubbles with ideas.
Some conclusions seem obvious – the harder you work, the better you get – while others are startling, such as the crucial importance of the time of year you were born.
Syed also looks at the reasons behind choking, explains how three sisters became the best female chess players in the world, and answers the question as to whether black athletes have genetic advantages that make them superior in some sports. Fascinating stuff.
Andre Agassi gets a mention in Bounce for his obsessive practising, so it's a surprise to read him claim in Open (Harper, £8.99) that throughout his career he hated tennis.
And that was not his only problem: he had the archetypal tennis father from hell, his hair fell out, his marriage to Brooke Shields went phut, he took drugs, he suffered from depression... Taking everything into account, it's amazing that he managed to look so pleased with himself all those years on court.
Just when you wonder if he will ever stop whingeing, he finds happiness with Steffi Graf. It couldn't come too soon for him, or me.
Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Malaysia issues arrest warrant for Gordon Brown’s sister-in-law after she publishes stories on leader Najib Razak's financial affairs
- 2 Porn block in India: hundreds of sexual websites banned, internet outraged
- 3 Natalia Molchanova: World's most successful free-diver missing and feared dead after disappearing in Mediterranean
- 4 Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
- 5 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
The Great British Bake Off, series 6, preview: The most popular show on television is back
National Geographic Traveller Photo Contest 2015 winners in pictures
US bookshop offers Go Set A Watchman refunds over false marketing as 'nice summer novel'
Sherlock season 4: Benedict Cumberbatch will be 'a lot less brattish' in Victorian special
Bollywood stars Salman Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Akshay Kumar enter Forbes' highest paid actors list for first time
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Jeremy Corbyn: Tony Blair could face war crimes trial over 'illegal Iraq invasion'
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'