Courts of Babylon as Graf deals with glory and grief

John Roberts on a new book on the women's world No 1 and other intriguing fare served up in the world of tennis
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The Independent Online
One title - Steffi: Public Power, Private Pain (Virgin Publishing, pounds 12.99) - has become even more apposite since it was published in June.

At the time, the German authorities were preparing to raid Steffi Graf's home, as a result of which her father/manager, Peter, was imprisoned, accused of evading millions of marks in taxes on his daughter's earnings. In spite of that, and a chronic back injury which had caused Graf to miss the Australian Open in January, her public persona was resolute, and she triumphed at the French Open, Wimbledon and the United States Open.

The biography, by Sue Heady, a freelance writer, is a reasonable attempt, bearing in mind the subject's lack of co-operation, to give an impression of a great champion who craves privacy as much as she loves playing tennis. No doubt the author met with far less resistance when researching previous publications drawing the attention of tourists to the attractions of Mauritius, the Seychelles and the Hong Kong Country Club.

Peter Graf is given due recognition for his contribution to both the public power, having shown Steffi how she could dominate the sport with her athleticism and ferocious forehand, and the private pain.

Coping with injuries and illnesses is one thing, but her father's highly publicised affair with a German model in 1990 was particularly difficult to deal with.

An example of the splendid side of Steffi Graf's life is highlighted in The Official Wimbledon Annual (Hazleton Publishing, pounds 18.99). Her victory against Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, in a final which turned on a game of 32 points contested over 20 minutes, was one for the record books and the memory bank.

The annual, with text by John Parsons and photographs by Clive Brunskill, Gary M Prior and Clive Mason, of Allsport, is a fine souvenir of the fortnight's dramas.

To complement the annual, The Wimbledon Compendium 1995, by Alan Little, provides details of almost everything one could wish to know concerning the world's most prestigious championships. It can be obtained from the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, London SW19 5AE, at pounds 6.50 plus 98p postage.

The sport at large is covered in ITF World of Tennis 1995, edited by John Barrett (Collins Willow, pounds 9.99).

An American publication which is worthy of attention is The Courts of Babylon, a critical review of the professional game and its personalities written with mixed emotions by Peter Bodo. Published by Scribner (part of Simon and Schuster), it can be purchased for pounds 28 from the Tennis Book Shop, Ringwood, Hants, BH24 3NF.