It perhaps says something of tennis’s slightly misshapen role in the national consciousness that a grown-up book documenting the sport’s entire history doesn’t seem quite so ridiculous.
It’s hard to imagine a publisher going for a social history of football such is the wealth of knowledge already out there.
But tennis, as Elizabeth Wilson explains in Love Game, has always been seen as a slightly effete cousin among British sports.
One which envelops the country for a fortnight, but barely makes a dent for 50 weeks of the year.
So it’s reasonable, you suppose, that you could capture much of the history of it in just over 300 pages.
Of course, you can’t. Not really. For those that know their McEnroes and Murrays but not their Lenglens and Lacostes, she weaves a well-drawn line straight through the game.
Which is handy, but frankly, there are whole books to be read or written on tennis’s Riviera era from the 1870s to the war; on the sport’s uneasy, but in many ways pioneering relationship with gay players; on Roger and Rafa; on Gottfried von Cramm and the Nazis.
Wilson addresses all here, of course, and, to be fair, often in depth.
She’s particularly good on the early days of the game, when vicars promoted the sport, through to its widespread adoption by the turn-of- the-century moneyed classes.
But the human stories – many forgotten to non-tennis buffs – are what give this history some bite.
Yes, we get chunks on Connors/McEnroe/Borg but most fascinating are the stories of gay players like serial US Open winner Bill Tilden, who was shunned by the tennis world because of his relations with young boys, and died penniless, and Von Cramm, who survived being gay under the Nazis on account of his fame.