3 Â½ hours of continuous play, four different surfaces, and a 120 mile-an-hour piece of rubber felt whizzing across seventy-eight feet of court. Unmatched numbers by any other sport in the world, and yet tennis remains only the fourteenth most popular in America. Some sports enthusiasts claim tennis is boring in comparison to the more popular – baseball, football, and basketball.
Truth be told, tennis requires more athleticism and focus than any of those top 3 sports; hell, it requires a minimum of seventy-two points just to win a match. You cannot tell me that such requirements do not involve physical strength, mental devotion, and a drive to crush the opponent. Donâ€™t get me wrong, I have a great deal of respect for every (well, almost every) professional baseball, football, and basketball player. I just wish the same respect was given by all sport fans to professional tennis players as well.
Though there is no physical contact between adversaries and the live crowd is expected to be mute during each point, the skill and strategy between the two players creates a chilling intensity that radiates to each and every viewer watching. With each stroke of the racquet the excitement cultivates, and when that final hit turns into a winner, that intensity explodes with the uproar of the crowd equaling that of a home run at a ball park or a touchdown on a football field.
August 29th marked the beginning of the 43rd annual United States Open. Sixty-four of the most talented tennis athletes from all around the world arrived in Flushing, New York, with their game faces on, in hopes of winning a shiny silver trophy worth 1.8 million.
Among them was a Swiss legend looking for his seventeenth Grand Slam victory, a Spaniard looking to steal that title, and an American hoping to demolish the both of them with his record-breaking 155 MPH serve.
On the womenâ€™s side, there were sibling rivalries, a Russian ranked fourth trying to regain her title as number one in the world, and a twenty-one year old Dane trying to keep that world title. And yet, the majority of ESPN watchers in America could care less. The only reasons they watch are to see how short Maria Sharapovaâ€™s dress is or what outrageous outfits (or should I say costumes?) Serena and Venus decide to wear.
It is fourteen days of the most nerve-wracking, mentally challenging, and physically draining tennis being played, and yet most Americans change the channel because the game is â€œuneventful.â€
After four years of competitive play and three years of instructing others in the game, I feel confident in saying tennis is anything but â€œuneventful.â€ Â You try covering 1,053 square feet of playing surface all by yourself and then tell me â€œanyone can do it.â€ In order to fully understand the game you must pick up a racquet, step on that court, and try it for yourself. I guarantee you will have a
new respect for the game.
After playing, I then challenge you to sit and watch a match. Think about the strategy and vigor that goes in to each swing of the racquet; the number of swings, hours, and gallons of sweat put into the practice and play every time a tennis professional steps onto that court. Where was the ball hit? How much speed and spin was put on the ball? What grip was used? Was it a forehand or backhand? Where did he run to after he hit the ball? Was it a defensive or offensive shot? All of these questions and so many more are what make this sport so compelling.
So why then are so many people still tuned out of the tennis world? Is it because of the status associated with the sport? Or the lack of teamwork?Â How about the complexity of the scoring? Let us face it; each and every sport has its own unique and interesting quirks that make it entertaining. Football has rowdy physical contact, Hockey has fights that result in time in the penalty box, and basketball has 360 degree slam dunks while sailing over opponents.
So what does tennis have? Tennis has individuality and the ability to move back and forth between number one in the world and second best all within one match. It has prestige and class. Tennis is the one of the few sports where all the pressure falls on one player and hot streaks and cold streaks within a match can fluctuate five, six, seven, or even eight times, creating an unpredictably exciting match. There is just something about tennis that is so uncommon and unlike any other professional sport that makes it so riveting to watch. I only wish you could take the time to see it.
The next grand slam tournament is the Australian Open in January. Will you be watching?