Trophy Son by Douglas Brunt

Trophy Son
Douglas Brunt

St. Martin’s Press 2017 (hardback)

Douglas Brunt’s crisply written novel, “Trophy Son,” details the lonely and painful journey of a young tennis player to the top of the professional ranks.

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“. . . a sympathetic story around a boy who has no control over his own life . . . .”

Anton’s father, a former Olympic swimmer who subsequently earned millions as a hedge fund manager, had the money and time to focus on his son’s training. On an average day “Dad” blasted tennis balls from a machine for seven hours, and the rest of the day was spent weight training and talking tennis strategies.  By age 14, Anton could serve a ball a hundred miles per hour with perfect form.  

When Anton is about to enter the eighth grade, Dad intensifies his training and pulls him out of school. Lonely, Anton falls into depression so his father hires a sports psychologist to supply mental exercises to help him focus on winning. But at age 18, when it came to meeting girls, “he had the social experience of a four-year-old.”

As Anton moves up the rankings, playing at Wimbledon at 19, his body is suffering. Prompted by Dad, Anton’s trainers start giving him steroids, then a more sophisticated cocktail of performance-enhancing drugs.  A familiar story unfolds: Anton couldn’t win without drugs, but he justifies them by claiming everyone else is “doping.’

Brunt weaves a sympathetic story around a boy who has no control over his own life, his destiny driven and controlled by his father. Brunt clearly also knows his tennis, so the story offers informative insight into the game for readers unfamiliar with the behind-the-scene dramatics, and the elite athlete who must be willing to endure “thresholds of physical pain.” 

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Review by Kate Padilla