Back in 1979 -- during its heyday -- two major motion pictures about tennis were released, and they were bad enough to virtually shut the genre down. First came Ali MacGraw and Dean Paul Martin in the incredibly slow romance "Players" (and wasn't that Vijay Amritraj, Guillermo Vilas and John McEnroe in there?!). Dino sure was easy on the eyes (I believe he actually won a Golden Globe for this bomb!), but the young jock falling for an older kept woman story was tired, and even the best attempts at making Martin look like a pro were fruitless at best.
"Breaking at love means never having to say you're sorry."
As if that weren't enough, it was followed by an even more improbable Bert Convy as the gigolo tennis pro Tommy Everett in "Racquet" (if he can just service enough women at the club he can get one of them to give him $200,000 so he can open his own club -- oh, but what about his lovable on-again, off-again girlfriend Lynda Day George?) And who could forget the supporting help from Bobby Riggs and Bjorn Borg?
It would 25 more years before Hollywood would take another shot at it, and the Paul Bettany-Kirsten Dunst dud "Wimbledon" proved that not a lot had changed in all those years (and yep, John McEnroe couldn't turn down a role in this one either).
So I was tickled when I saw this article (below) in The Ticket, a U.S. Open insiders' guide, about some of tennis' finer moment on the silver screen, captured in -- of course -- nontennis films. My favorite, of course, was last year's "Squid and the Whale." With all its Fila clothes, indoor courts and Donnay rackets, it certainly took me back in time and made me smile. (Oh, and that family that was not entirely unlike mine helped, too.)
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By Jeff LabrecqueWhen attempting to depict tennis in the movies, Hollywood has served more double faults than Elena Dementieva in a tiebreaker. But there have been some great rallies in nontennis films, where romance, family dysfunction and mental breakdowns all take place on the court. Advantage, DVD.