Beginning with Harold Solomon’s foreword, the “The Greatest Jewish Tennis Players Of All Time” reminded me that the pro tennis circuit has predominantly been, in Harold’s elegant words, “color blind and religiously accepting”. As a long, blonde-haired teenage player from Harold’s era, I often experienced impressions of being different and I remember that same feeling of acceptance when I first walked onto a tennis court. It was “all about that game” – no matter who was on the other side of the net.
I picked up this publication because I wanted to read about some of the Jewish players who were at the top of the game during my early days as an aspiring player. Many of those players are covered in this book and I was pleasantly surprised as I thumbed through the pages – influenced by all of them, the gamestyles and personalities of Tom Okker, Brian Gottfried, Brian Teacher, and Harold Solomon came to mind when I first saw the title.
As a lover of history, I was impressed by the author’s use of genealogy in the weaving of the players’ accounts – in Umberto De Morpurgo’s chronicle, dating all the way back to 1390. I was particularly drawn in by Daniel Prenn’s story . Daniel was the #1 ranked player in 1932 but was denied, beginning in 1933, the right to play Davis Cup for Germany because he was of Jewish origin. He was needed but not wanted. Ironically in 1938, the Nazis, not knowing Ladislav Hecht was Jewish, tried to recruit the Czech Davis Cupper to play for Germany. “Not surprisingly, he passed on their offer,” Harwitt writes.
I could easily share a little something from all the wonderful stories in this book, but that’s the author’s job. As promised in her introduction, Sandra Harwitt truely does highlight and blend the best of very different Jewish players in an informative and entertaing way. Transported in time, I so enjoyed the read.
Steven R. White
Author, Certified Tennis Instructor (Professional Tennis Registry)