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Sylvester Stallone raises his glove as he films a scene for "Rocky Balboa," the next installlment in the "Rocky" series, before the Jermain Taylor-Bernard Hopkins undisputed world middleweight championship bout, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2005, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

Joel Drucker: Lights, Camera, Tennis: What Movies Say About Our Games

A while ago this column asked recreational tennis players to identify a song that best described their playing style. Taking pop culture to new territory, I recently requested another connection: What movie or even scene from a movie matches the tennis game?

But this I know: Most people live lives that combine family and friends, work and tennis. I too seek that balance, but somehow manage to squeeze in 12-14 hours a day of time to think about tennis. So while for me this subject was the result of years of reflection, for others, answering this question was hardly a near-at-hand topic.

There were the attempts at levity: Animal House, Dumb and Dumber and Death Wish were cited. Fascinating – subversive college life (league tennis gone awry?), paired idiocy (doubles duos like none other) and vigilante justice (give this guy a bad call at your own peril).

There was emotional introspection. A nationally-ranked age group player who often gets off to slow starts but can turn it around mentioned The Great Escape – World War II life, set in a POW camp. Vivid imagery, eh? Another mentioned Eddie Murphy’s bar scene in 48 Hours, calling himself “a total bluff” (though this man is in fact is in fact an excellent tennis player).

Then came those who cast their tennis life in heroic terms. Top Gun was the choice for a player I know who has worked hard on his game and built a wide array of weapons. Braveheart drew praise from another fine player who was keen to shoot thunderbolts ala Mel Gibson but likely scorns the drop shot. Tennis’ natural comparison to boxing surfaced with kudos for Rocky 3 – like Rafael Nadal recently at Roland Garros, this film features a southpaw champ, tenaciously showing the “Eye of the Tiger” as he sought to reclaim his crown. Then came Gone with the Wind, praised not as an ode to the lob, but by a woman finding deep affinity with her fellow daughter of Atlanta, Scarlett O’Hara, and declaring that, “As God as my witness… I’ll be a good volleyer.”

My own choice makes an effort to embrace all three categories: humor, heart, mind. It comes from Alfred Hitchock’s The Birds and applies the pet (sic) principle that has long governed my approach to competition: cumulative annoyance. The clip below gives the idea in just under 100 seconds.

But enough of my chirping.

Read more articles by Joel Drucker

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