Stylistic changes have alienated fans as much as marketing woes
• Interesting point. I was recently speaking to a group at a tennis club and kept hearing the same refrain: "I used to be a huge fan of the pro game but then the sport kind of lost me." Sure, much of this surely traces to the absence of Americans. Here in the U.S., we're a long way from the
There are a whole host of reasons -- not least the diminishing number of American tournaments -- but I suspect that the stylistic differences has a lot do with it. Edberg hardly played the same sport as, say, Agassi. Sanchez was nothing like Graf. It was easier to form bonds and allegiances when there was such variety. Players' styles reflected their personalities. They had signature shots. There were clashes of styles. Today it's obviously tougher.
The question then becomes: What can be done? The answer, very little. It's largely up to change our standards. The same way fans who root only by country will invariably be disappointed, fans who keep waiting for the second coming of Edberg or
As fans, I think the better play is to admire players' fitness levels, their play under pressure, their personalities, even their attire. I fear that holding out for the next
• In a sense you're right.
• A lot of lay opinions on Djokovic's breathing issues. First, I'm a bit ambivalent on this as an ethical/bioethical issue. None of us has examined the guy and medical issues are personal. On the other hand, he's an athlete in the public domain whose performance is clearly hindered, so it's relevant to performance. The same way we can speculate about
• This is the trend in all sports. Keep adding bells and whistles so the fans feel closer than ever. Apart from being able to discern/confirm which coaches skirt the rules and shout instructions, I'm skeptical of the value. What are we going to hear? Mirka texting? Uncle Toni muttering, "Vamos Rafa."
• Djokovic, of course, had that tremendous week in Canada three years back, beating Roddick, Nadal and Federer in succession.
• I enjoyed
This gives me an opportunity to plug
The real question: After Agassi elevated the sports biography, how can another athlete -- tennis player in particular -- write self-serving pablum? Read a literary and candid book like that and how do you stomach: "I knew I was going to have to serve well to beat Bjorkman, a dangerous Swede, in the Round of 16"? (Speaking of
• Berdych beats Federer soundly at Wimbledon. Then Federer beats Berdych 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(5) in Toronto. And it nullifies the Wimbledon result? Not sure I get that.
• Nah. Murray has been to more major finals, played better against the top guns, been healthier, and, frankly, is a better player.
• When Tennis Channel wants an original program, there's a killer idea. Surely there's a cost-benefit analysis here and producing original programming -- even a reality show -- is more expensive than re-airing the Memphis semifinals. But isn't this the way an upstart expands its footprint? I barely knew I received AMC until
• How are those "green shoots" working out for you? Do I think Murray is
• Fair enough. But starting in the juniors, scheduling conflicts are, almost necessarily, part of playing in a tennis tournament. Go ahead and complain. Go ahead and campaign for a more accommodating start time. But when you're Tomas Berdych -- who, for all his talents, ain't exactly making the turnstiles click -- and you announce you're boycotting the event in the future after you don't get your way, you demean yourself.
• "Nice match, Radwanska! Well played. You really had it today! Relax, take your argyle socks off! Can I fix you a dry martini! No? Maybe a cordial? Oh, one thing -- and this is a bit indelicate, so forgive me -- but at 3-4 in the third set, you inadvertently touched your left shoulder while receiving a toss from a ballkid of Armenian extraction, a violation of Rule 6.3(J)XI(a)(iii)(super-subset beta). Sorry but we're going to have to invalidate everything you've done since February. Now if you'll just hand the trophy back to member Davenport. What's that? It had no material effect on the outcome? Doesn't matter. Sorry, what's that? You were unaware of the infraction? Well, we handed out a supplemental rule book on Tuesday. Should have been slipped under your door. Better luck next time!"
• Though I suppose I shouldn't be, I'm surprised by how much play this continues to get. I agree that the context was odd -- this question was posed maybe an hour after Nadal had won Wimbledon. But, again, I think it's completely legit to ask a public figure something to the effect of: "What role, if any, does faith play in your life?" It's equally legit for them to respond, "That's personal. Next question." I disagree with your premise, too. Since when is being spiritual a) pejorative and b) at odds with being stately?
Long as you brought it up, Federer doesn't need his team to do his bidding for him. A friend of mine noted this exchange last week in Canada: "In the news conference, a reporter wondered where Federer would rank this quarterfinal victory in the Rogers Cup. Federer, long a master of these situations, looked amused. His goal has always been Grand Slams, and the United States Open looms later in the month. That goal did not change with birthday No. 29, or ranking No. 3.
"Look, I've played 800 matches," he said. "It's sort of hard to put a number on it."
After the laughter subsided, he continued, "Definitely in the top 100. But don't forget, I've played some amazing matches throughout my career."
• Yeah, you should find some players practicing. Junior, doubles players, wheelchair players (whom I urge you to support), the legends, and, as you note, likely the night sessions principals.
• A prize to the first person who can state with certainty whether
• This is a
• ESPN will be carrying the U.S. Open draw show live. Check local listings.
• Who wants
• Tennis Canada has announced a C$13M upgrade to the National Training Centre and Uniprix Stadium, which will feature four indoor clay courts.
• Keep an eye on
Have a great week, everyone!