tclakin

Making A Case For Tennis

In Uncategorized on September 3, 2009 at 12:04 am

So I’m sitting here with the US Tennis Open on and one thing keeps springing to mind:

This is really, really fun to watch.

I mean, I’m really enjoying watching tennis right now. I initially tuned in to watch Roger Federer but, other than a few clicks over to the Sox game, I haven’t been able to turn away since. Federer’s match ended a few hours ago yet I just keep right on watching.

Why, you ask?

I was wondering the same thing, to tell you the truth, and then all of a sudden it hit me:

I am a tennis fan.

This has been the decade of the Williams sisters

This has been the decade of the Williams sisters

That might sound stupid, but believe me – before tonight I had no idea just how much I liked tennis, devoted major-sport enthusiast that I am. I already commit an inordinate amount of my time to the following of at least five other sports, what with the four majors and golf, and it never crossed my mind to search for, let alone suddenly fall in love with, another. But tonight as I sat watching, sparks flew, emotions ran high, and I fell hard for tennis. So I’ve decided that from here on out, I officially number myself with the 24 other American tennis fans.

No, seriously though – tennis has a LOT going for it. Don’t believe me? Listen up:

First of all, professional tennis, like golf, revolves largely around four major tournaments – the US, Australian, and French Opens and Wimbledon – making it one of the easier, and least time-consuming, sports to follow. You don’t have to carve out three hours a night for a regular-season contest like you do with baseball. In tennis, if you show up four times a year, you’ll be present for all the important stuff.

Johnny Mac is one of tennis' legendary characters

Johnny Mac is one of tennis' legendary characters

Similarly, in tennis there isn’t a lengthy roster of players you need to be aware of in order to enjoy the sport. Frankly, there are really only six or seven men and women who maintain a consistent sway over the game. Some would point to this as a flaw, claiming that it renders the sport boring and predictable, with the same finals playing out year after year. But I see it another way. I think a limited number of dominant performers, especially in an individual sport like tennis, adds a touch of drama and mystique sorely lacking in a sport like, say, football. No matter how many Super Bowls Tom Brady wins, he’ll never tower over the game like a Roger Federer or a Pete Sampras. Tennis, with its smattering of stars, breeds legends in a way other sports cannot.

Tennis is also rife with history, offering a storybook chock full of icons such as Rod Laver, John McEnroe, Arthur Ashe, Chris Evert, Althea Gibson, Billie Jean King, Sampras, and more recently, Federer and the Williams sisters. Dating back as far as the mid-1800’s, tennis can claim an ingrained tradition rivaled only, perhaps, by golf.

The iconic Arthur Ashe

The iconic Arthur Ashe

Tennis, too, is a raceless sport, as much as one can be. Persons of all backgrounds have long succeeded at the game, and some of history’s biggest athlete-revolutionaries have risen from the storied court (see: Ashe, Arthur). Even today, two of the game’s biggest stars are a pair of African-American sisters who hail from the grizzled streets of Compton, of all places. For a sport steeped in country-club culture, the professional ranks of tennis are remarkably diverse.

But wait, we haven’t even gotten to the game itself!

The physical act of tennis is truly fascinating to watch. The movements are transfixing, beautiful even – a mesmerizing combination of speed and geometry. Tennis is almost like billiards with its precise angles, only if billiards was played with quick and slicing violence at speeds upwards of 100 miles per hour. Tennis is defined by strategy and style. It requires serious thought and lightning-fast reactions, demanding of its best players the ability to visualize two, three strokes ahead at any given time. It’s a game of pinpoint accuracy and vicious, overwhelming power. And yet it’s nearly silent, save for the occasional grunt and crisp thwack of racket hitting ball.

Roger Federer epitomizes the steely determination of today's tennis elite

Roger Federer epitomizes the steely determination of today's tennis elite

Finally, tennis is perfectly singular. It is, at its essence, an individual battle – two players, mano y mano, shouldering the ultimate responsibility for victory, or for loss. That’s an immense pressure we’re talking about, and it demands rigorous mental toughness. True tennis champions, like Roger Federer, are blessed with frigid veins and an inhuman capacity to not feel. Without a serious on-off switch, a player cannot help but succumb to the lonely death valley that is a professional tennis court.

Fortunately for me, I’m insulated from all that; protected as I am by the comfortable safety of my leather recliner, free to enjoy tennis in its ever-intricate glory without breaking a sweat. And I will continue to enjoy the game, watching and studying and learning, now that I’m an official tennis fan. I’m content to devote what little free time I have left to its cause because, as far as I’m concerned, tennis has earned those minutes. It’s earned them the same way any worthwhile pursuit earns one’s attention – by offering significant value over time. Tennis is consistently entertaining and it has been for years.

I just never realized it until now.

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  1. It seems that slowly but surely you are moving away from the stalwart America sports and beginning to see competitive sports from a world perspective. Soccer (football) and tennis now! Remember baseball is not a sport it is a game. So you really only follow three major sports, one game and a new, although older than most sports in the world, sport. Next on your list should be cricket. I think you will like it, although it too is a game. It is similar to baseball and filled with all of the pop and circumstance that we have come to love. There are tea breaks, lunch breaks, dress whites.

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