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Rowan Ricardo Phillips
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The Circuit: A Tennis Odyssey

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  170 ratings  ·  34 reviews
Winner of the 2019 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing

“The Circuit is the best sports book I've read in years, maybe ever.” —Rich Cohen, author of The Chicago Cubs and Monsters

“As sports writing goes, The Circuit is unusual in the very best way. Rowan Ricardo Phillips writes with such fluidity, and packs the book with bursts of brilliance. This is a compulsively
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ebook, 256 pages
Published November 20th 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Average rating 3.68  · 
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Vishal Katariya
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tennis, sport
It takes a Poet to do justice to the 2017 men's tennis tour, because it was the year in this past decade of the most unlikely change of guard, a schooling of the new-and-upcoming stars by the experienced statesmen of old. And in this book we have Phillips, a poet, resting from rupturing his Achilles tendon, who's watched every single men's tournament of the year, either in person or digitally. He knows the game and describes individual critical points of important matches well, but his skill ...more
Jeff
Dec 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tennis
How to write about tennis? Heaven knows there's no one way, but The Circuit misnames what Phillips reports on, who doesn't go on the circuit, rather he attends two 2017 tournaments (BNP Paribas and Flushing Meadow) while watching others with much help from his DVR. Andre Agassi's Open opened Phillips to the idea for his own book, and I'm guessing Phillips' tennis fan-editor, Jonathan Galassi, nurtured it further. Agassi's book offers the endless pleasure of the recalcitrant pro nursing his ...more
Swathi Chandrasekaran
I put off writing this review since nothing I write would comprehensively describe how awestruck I was at every sentence stitched and perfected by Rowan Phillips. Calling this just another tennis book is an insult to the epic work of poetry that it is, but that was all I'd known about the book when I picked it up. There are some words, lines and entire pages I will forever carry with me for the melody of the words with the tennis ball bouncing in a corner to give us the rhythm. If you're a lover ...more
Patrick
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Found this book in the staff picks of Type Books in Toronto -- awesome place btw -- and was immediately intrigued. The subject itself sounded great, and I thought right away that if there was ever a sport where a poet writing it was the perfect fit, it was tennis. I haven't read any of Rowan Ricardo Phillips poetry, so I couldn't speak to that, but it really just felt like a great fit.

That was borne out brilliantly in this book. The way Phillips writes tennis is just so wonderful. He doesn't
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Aaron Strouse
Title: The Circuit.

When I saw this book at the library, I expected it to be about the grind of the Tennis year, the lifestyle of players and insight into tourneys.

Well, the book is an overview of the 2017 season which i thought would fulfill my hopes of an overview of the yearly tennis circuit.

My hopes were half met. The book describes the preeminent majors and other popular tournaments that’s may have played a significant tale in the season. Moreover, the book talks about Federer and Nadal
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Lance
I found this book much more interesting than I thought it would be. While the author does as he stated in the beginning and concentrated on only a few star players and the Grand Slam tournaments, the reader will learn much about the sport and some of the other lesser-known players and tourneys. Having said that, this book will be enjoyed much more by hard-core tennis fans than casual fans. Overall an enjoyable read.
Jack Tomascak
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stylistically on-point and totally captivating. Phillips' analysis of Nick Kyrgios is likely my favorite piece of sports-writing I've read in quite some time.
Larry
Dec 25, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A serious fan's chronicle of the 2017 men's professional tennis tour. Appropriate for a true fan of tennis (me), but I'm not sure I can recommend it even to a true fan.
Jeremy Bagai
Sure, it's great fun to read. If you're a tennis fan you know the 2017 season was bonkers, and if you're a Fed or Nadal fan you know the 2017 season was transcendentally bonkers.

So going over all the important matches of that year from an insider's perspective should be a walk in the park, and it is. It's great fun. It's also a pretty strange read.

Phillips seems to take perverse joy in draining the suspense out of the naturally suspenseful. I mean, I went in knowing the outcome of nearly every
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td
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Whoa after the glossary it lost all coherence, a bloated stream of consciousness a wandering narrative of run on sentences...wasn't the informative insight into the ATP that I was expecting
H
May 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recently, I had a fever dream from which I awoke and transcribed a poem almost fully formed. It had ideas and images beyond my waking grasp, and though it was markedly amateurish it transcended my prior oeuvre in both quality and composition speed. Just as how in sports—basketball, or yes, tennis—commentators will note a star playing “lights out” as though their performance is without conscious thought, The Circuit gives the impression that it was written “lights out.”

This sense arises first
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Margarita
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Heard good things about this book, just around the time of the latest US Open, and it is truly a poetic retelling of the annual men's tennis circuit that only a poet and a tennis fanatic could achieve. I am not a sports fan in any kind of traditional sense, I only watch and follow tennis, which I grew up with and lately reconnected with, and have made it part of my own fitness routine. The detailed descriptions of tennis matches and player feelings as displayed on their faces and in their ...more
Kelsey
Apr 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was really excited about this one, but I feel a bit let down. I really don't like a stream of consciousness style of writing, which is what Phillips seemed to be going for here. I think his attempts to contextualize the tour with his personal experiences were more successful than when he used global current events to do so. Phillips writes beautifully about the game of tennis on a court-level, but sometimes things got a little convoluted when he wrote about the game's history and when he gave ...more
Donald
Jan 07, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading the great review in the New York Times, I had high hopes for this title. It really is written for the ultimate tennis fan for who else would revel in such minutiae. The only problem with that is that such a tennis fan is also very critical when inaccuracies abound. The author goes into great detail about tennis terms and seedings, but then makes an "unforced error" on page 53 where he states that the number one seed always faces the number four seed in the semifinals and the number ...more
Audrey H.
As someone who doesn't know much about tennis I was excited to read this. In the end I learned a lot and it made me eager to learn more. I found myself looking up and watching many of the matches mentioned.

However, I found the book uneven. I think the 2017 season is too broad a topic to tackle without some sort of organizing principle. It delivered a little bit of everything: backstory on certain players, history of clay courts, a smattering of the author's own experience as a fan, rankings,
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Suju
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't think I've ever read a sports book before this one, but I love tennis and Phillips is a poet who covers sports for the Paris Review so I'm guessing this isn't your typical sports book. I loved it. It covers a year on the men's tour - 2017 - when expectations of who would dominate the game evolved. He digresses to interesting tales of the origins of clay courts, an intrusive umpire who screws up one player's season - at least for the moment, as he comes back strong at the end of the year ...more
Josh Keller
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is a passage toward the middle of this book that says very few things in tennis are perfect, except David Goffin's backhand. Very few commentaries on tennis are perfect, except this book.
To Rowan Ricardo Phillips, ATP players are not merely names on a box score, and are so much more than the tired narratives already written about them. Phillips sees Federer, Nadal, and the rest of the tour as characters on a journey, some redemptive and some tragic. This book is a beautiful reminder that
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Bob
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was disappointed in this book. I found the writing cliche in places and the editing a bit lax in others. A description of Nick Kyrgios lasts nearly two pages before his name is revealed. The summary of a Del Potro comeback against Thiem in the US Open runs on into that of his next match against Federer. These moments distract from the brilliant writing in other places: Federer down 2-3 in the fifth against Nadal in the Melbourne final, Federer serving to Tiafoe in the fifth set of the opening ...more
Margie
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this account of the 2017 Men’s Tour. The author does a nice job of highlighting what was in the news (Murray’s late withdrawal, player injuries and how they affected the draw, etc.) while also covering lesser known tournaments and players. The writing got a little too poetic for me at times (the description of a particular player’s shot is poetic, but the ghost in the clay was a bit much) but overall I’d recommend this to tennis fans. The author beautifully describes what tennis ...more
Julie
If you are a tennis fan, this is a must-read book. Rowan Ricardo Phillips focused on the 2017 ATP (men's tennis) season and covered it from beginning to end, highlighting the ups and downs, tournaments large and small, and the various personalities in the game. Phillips is a poet as well as a tennis fan, and it shows in his often lyrical prose style.

Overall, a very entertaining read, and a solid three-and-a-half star book.
Steve Schwartz
As a tennis player myself I am biased to want to like this book. As the book summary indicates, there are Bursts of brilliance at describing the ballet of tennis action and the chess of point by point strategy. In between too much recounting of the details of the winners and losers of the season that is hard to follow unless you are obsessed with who is who in tennis.
Ben G
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a poetry writer who also loves tennis, happy to see Phillips get the opportunity to write this book. It’s great, with fun, soaring descriptions of both the major (Federer and Nadal) and the quirky (loved his description of Alexander Dogopolov’s game). It’s unsurprising stuff for a year-round tennis fan, making it perfect for vacation reading.
Gustavo Sénéchal
Well-written and engaging. A must read to tennis enthusiasts and poetry lovers alike. How often do we find a poet who writes about this poetic sport? I’m just not sure whether the book is of interest to someone who didn’t actually followed the 2017 tennis season.
Trip Vodenicker
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very readable. I can't remember who recommended this book to me, but I really enjoyed it. The stories told will make watching the players it talked about more enjoyable. Like Sports Illustrated used to do - good long form journalism.
Yuliya
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You have to like tennis for this. I like tennis. This was great. But I think I liked it a lot because I love Fed and it covered the year of his resurgence so... a lot of biases involved in this review.
Brooks
For how good this book is, I felt disappointed it wasn't better.
Ann Repetto
His style can be irritating but it's an interesting way of looking at a tennis season.
Christopher Caruso
See my upcoming review on Feb. 15th on my website unsungartistsmusic.com.
Dipra Lahiri
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sport, 2018
A review of the entire year of ATP tennis in 2017, marked by the astonishing resurgence of Nadal and Federer. Fluent writing much like the Federer backhand.
Michael
Fun at times and contains a few new insights, but not as deep as I would have liked.
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Rowan Ricardo Phillips is the author of Heaven (2015) and The Ground( 2012). He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, the GLCA New Writers Award for Poetry, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He lives in New York City.