GUERRIERI DI LUCE – Tennis as Religious Experience

Beauty is not the goal of competitive sports, but high-level sports are a prime venue for the expression of human beauty. The relation is roughly that of courage to war. The human beauty we’re talking about here is beauty of a particular type; it might be called kinetic beauty. Its power and appeal are universal. It has nothing to do with sex or cultural norms. What it seems to have to do with, really, is human beings’ reconciliation with the fact of having a body.”

Roger Federer as Religious Experience

By David Foster Wallace
Aug. 20, 2006

“Throughout this journey we call life, in which we believe in the everyday warriors facing daily challenges, it is essential to take a moment for reflection.
During the Nitto ATP FINALS 2023, I continued my project ‘Guerrieri di Luce’ with a chapter titled ‘Tennis as a Religious Experience,’ following the eight strongest tennis players of the year and envisioning what David Foster Wallace would have written about them. This endeavor celebrated their unique stories of those ten days and delved into the spiritual depths of the sport, likening it to a sacred experience. The core idea is that the significance of allowing oneself time for introspection should not be underestimated even in moments of peak performance. Citationism and perspective.” – Luce Martini

“Nel corso di questo viaggio che chiamiamo vita, in cui crediamo nei guerrieri di tutti i giorni che affrontano sfide quotidiane, è essenziale concedersi una pausa per la riflessione.
Durante le Nitto ATP FINALS 2023, ho proseguito con il mio progetto “Guerrieri di Luce” presentando un capitolo intitolato “Il Tennis come Esperienza Religiosa”, seguendo gli otto tennisti più forti dell’anno e immaginando cosa avrebbe scritto su di loro David Foster Wallace. Questa impresa ha celebrato le loro storie uniche di quei dieci giorni ed esplorato le profondità spirituali dello sport, accostandolo a un’esperienza sacra. L’idea centrale è che l’importanza di concedersi del tempo per l’introspezione non debba essere sottovalutata nemmeno nei momenti di massima performance. Citazionismo e sguardo.”


Girone Verde:
Jannik Sinner
Novak Djokovic
Stefanos Tsitsipas
Holger Rune
Bonus Track: Martín de la Puente
Girone Rosso:
Carlos Alcaraz
Andrey Rublev
Alexander Zverev
Daniil Medvedev

Jannik Sinner

And then also, again, still, what are those boundaries, if they’re not baselines, that contain and direct its infinite expansion inward, that make tennis like chess on the run, beautiful and infinitely dense? The true opponent, the enfolding boundary, is the player himself. Always and only the self out there, on court, to be met, fought, brought to the table to hammer out terms.”
– David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest


Well, I think everything is part of a journey, right? The first time, when each of us, for the first time, makes pasta with tomato sauce, at first maybe it’s so-so, you eat it and then you say, “Uh-oh it’s missing some salt.” The next time you put salt in. Then you say, “Well, now let’s take it a step further, let’s put fresh tomatoes too,” and then you put basil: that is, slowly, you learn things. Until the dish becomes good, in the end that’s what I do.”

Jannik Sinner

Dad is a cook, Mom a waitress. When I hear Sinner is a predestinate, well yes in one sense I am, but in the other I am a predestinate to work…”

Jannik Sinner

Novak Đoković

It’s better for us not to know the kinds of sacrifices the professional-grade athlete has made to get so very good at one particular thing. Oh, we’ll invoke lush clichés about the lonely heroism of Olympic athletes, the pain and analgesia of football, the early rising and hours of practice and restricted diets, the preflight celibacy, et cetera. But the actual facts of the sacrifices repel us when we see them: basketball geniuses who cannot read, sprinters who dope themselves, defensive tackles who shoot up with bovine hormones until they collapse or explode.”
David Foster Wallace’s “The String Theory,” published in Esquire in July 1996

When they play me, I want them to feel that it’s going to require the best tennis from them in order to win against me, that’s what I want my opponents to feel, no doubt, because that helps mentally coming into the match.
I think the more I win on the biggest stage, the more this kind of aura grows, and I’m glad for it, no doubt. Of course, that’s not going to win you the match, but it might give you the little percentage, the little edge.”

Novak Đoković

Stefanos Tsitsipas

The individual’s right to pursue his own vision of the best ration of pleasure to pain: utterly sacrosanct.
– David Foster Wallace. Consider the Lobster and Other Essays

Look, the tour is very demanding, and we get to play a lot of matches during the year at a very high level and intensity. There’s not a single match during the season that is easy, considered easy. There are maybe very few occasions that I would storm through a match, two and three or two and one. These matches don’t quite happen that often on the tour. I do believe it’s because of the maybe lack of rest, lack of getting my body to rest sometimes, and properly prepare for big events. I’m hunting a lot. I’m trying to get as much as possible regarding points, regarding the rankings, so I really push myself to the limits. I do believe it’s maybe a combination of rest and not that good of a preparation or overload as well, could be that as well.
It’s very unfortunate. I’ve had two editions here in Trin where I had to withdraw from the tournament, never happened to me before that I had to withdraw a very, very few occasions that I can recall on that matter. It definitely hurts me a lot because this is the tournament that means the most to me, including the grand slams, and I’m not able to compete the way I want to compete. That’s about it”

Stefanos Tsitsipas

Holger Vitus Nødskov Rune

“Of course, in men’s sports no one ever talks about beauty, or grace, or the body. Men may profess their “love” of sports, but that love must always be cast and enacted in the symbology of war: elimination vs. advance, hierarchy of rank and standing, obsessive stats and technical analysis, tribal and/or nationalist fervor, uniforms, mass noise, banners, chest-thumping, face-painting, etc.”
― David Foster Wallace, On Tennis: Five Essays

Martín de la Puente

Tennis’s beauty’s infinite roots are self-competitive. You compete with your own limits to transcend the self in imagination and execution.

David Foster Wallace – Infinite Jest

“Credo che il tennis in questo momento sia quasi tutto nella mia vita, mi ha dato una serie di di gioie che non mi aspettavo, mi ha reso mi ha dato fiducia, mi ha dato quella sensazione di essere di nuovo una persona, dopo tante operazioni di tanti tanti tanti tanti dubbi, tante paure tanta, tanta, tanta tristezza perché mi ha aiutato a fare un resoconto a strappare la pagina e a dire: “Bene, allora sto per iniziare un nuovo libro, ora inizia un nuovo libro, un nuovo libro, un nuovo capitolo della mia vita” , penso che mi abbia aiutato soprattutto a darmi ad apprezzare le piccole cose quelle piccole cose e lì sentire una persona si sente già uno sportivo professionista”

Martín de la Puente | Audaces | El País Semanal

Andrej Andreevič Rublëv

But then is battling and vanquishing the self the same as destroying yourself? Is that like saying life is pro-death? … And then but so what’s the difference between tennis and suicide, life and death, the game and its own end?”

― David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

“Kids have always been the most importang thing that we have. To have healthy kids that receive the right education so they can be better than us, to educate them in the right way, it is the most important thing. When there are kids, the energy of each child is completely pure, it is honest… The most important thing is to try to save this purity as long as possible. So, it’s about this and about helping them because there are many kids who are not able to have normal lives.”

Andrej Rublëv

Aleksandr Aleksandrovič “Sascha” Zverev

“Life is like tennis. Those who serve best usually win.”
David Foster Wallace “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men”

Daniil Sergeevič Medvedev

“Everything takes time. Bees have to move very fast to stay still.”
David Foster Wallace ,”Brief Interviews with Hideous Men”

“I generally believe if he plays like this, like he played last weeks, all the time, he’s going to have Slams, No. 1. Then it comes to how many weeks, how many Slams, stuff like this.”

Daniil Medvedev

Carlos Alcaraz Garfia

“There is about world-class athletes carving out exemptions from physical laws a transcendent beauty that makes manifest God in man.”
String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis

Voglio dire che questa superficie è la più veloce dell’anno, questo è sicuro.
Non so perché hanno messo questo tipo di superficie alla fine dell’anno, perché tutti i tornei che abbiamo giocato sul duro sono stati così lenti e poi siamo venuti qui al Masters e hanno messo questa superficie così veloce, non so perché: non sto dicendo che dovrebbero fare il torneo all’aperto o al coperto, ma non capisco la velocità della superficie perché non abbiamo mai giocato su una superficie come questa durante l’anno.

Carlos Alcaraz

Only one regret: pity not to have shot Federer who is “a creature whose body is both flesh and, somehow, light” (as D.F. Wallace says of him, in “Both Flesh and Not”), but Stefano Meloccaro I’m sure would remind me that “comparing champions from distant eras is not wrong, it’s pointless” (from his “Colpi di Genio”) and Federer is the History of the Game.

Luce Martini

“A heartfelt thank you to my colleagues Federico Surace and Gianluca Fratta for their patience, to Stefano Meloccaro for the inspiration, to the Sky Sport team at the Nitto ATP Finals 2023 for their kindness, and a special thanks to Federico Ferri for making this wonderful experience possible.” – Luce

Working with [D]imago

“Produced by immersing myself in the splendid work of Sky Sport: thanks to Giuseppe Marzo, Mirko Camarda, Sergio Velli and all the staff.”

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