GettyImages-594887588.jpg
NEW HAVEN, CT - AUGUST 24: Andrea Petkovic of Germany looks on during a luncheon held by Toni Harp, the Mayor of New Haven, Connecticut, on day 4 of the Connecticut Open at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale on August 24, 2016 in New Haven, Connecticut. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Joel Drucker: Author, Author - Andrea Petkovic Sizes Up Four Greats

A professional tennis player once won a tournament two years in a row. Just think, said one of the champion’s friends, you can now use your trophies as bookends. The newly crowned victor countered that he would have no books to put in between them.

That’s far from the case with Andrea Petkovic. “Some people escape with drugs and alcohol,” said Petkovic shortly after winning her first round match at the Volvo Car Open in Charleston. “For me, it’s literature.”

Rarely will one encounter an athlete as engaged by ideas – art, literature, philosophy, politics – as the 29-year-old German. Petkovic is nothing less than the book-toting person you might have met in college who hung out in the quad debating the merits of various thinkers, writers and painters.

Still, the saying remains: once a player, always a player. So naturally, we had to ask Petkovic how some of her favorite authors might fare were a racquet placed in their hands. Meet just four of Andrea’s icons:

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)

The Skinny

Burst on the scene with innovative, terse, staccato-like style. Coined the term “grace under pressure” in tales of bullfighting, hunting and other manly pursuits. Would likely have admired matador-like Rafael Nadal; and like Nadal with Roger Federer, had a major rival in F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Tennis-hinting quote

“A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

Petkovic analysis

“He plays short points – really likes to go to net. Definitely would chip-charge. He’s tall, handsome – much like Patrick Rafter.”

Saul Bellow (1915-2005)

The Skinny

Chicago-bred novelist who blended Jewish street smarts with a Western Civ sensibility – concerned with big ideas related to destiny, fate, and society. Bellow was very much his own man inside the lines, but like many player, frequently cited the role of his family in helping him reach the top.

Tennis-hinting quote

“Things were too complex, but they might be reduced to simplicity again. Recovery was possible.”

Petkovic analysis

“He hits big, powerful shots – like Alexander Zverev. He’s a spectacular, hard-hitting player who loves the big sentence and brings lots of philosophical insight.”


Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

The Skinny

Tortured German philosopher who proclaimed, “God is dead” and is often credited with foreseeing humanity’s existential angst of the 20th century and beyond. Precocious: earned a chair in philosophy at the University of Basel (Federer’s hometown) at the age of 24. Short career: health problems surfaced at 35 and lost his mind by age 44.

Tennis-hinting quote

“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

Petkovic analysis

“He’s like Ivan Lendl. He’ll grind it out. He likes to suffer.”

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)

The Skinny

Iconic Russian novelist who wrote such epic tales as “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina.” Took on everything – history, family, romance, fate and more. Beyond metaphor: Started to play tennis late in life and even had a court in his backyard.

Tennis-hinting quote

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”

Petkovic analysis

“A percentage player. He always plays the right shot – a baseliner, sort of like Caroline Wozniacki. Just a terrific all-around player.”

Coming next: part two -- Petkovic compares tennis players to writers.

Read more articles by Joel Drucker

Share This Story