Poor television coverage remains biggest issue facing pro tennis
• We can gripe about the imperfect ranking system, tennis' answer to the tedious BCS debate. We can spend hours talking about the lousy Davis Cup format, the relentless injuries, and the abundance of fiefdoms putting their own interests before the good of the sport. But I've become convinced that the abysmal television coverage is THE biggest issue confronting the sport right now. And while I realize that picture is different in different markets (pardon the pun), a) I've heard from enough of you from around the globe that this is a persistent problem in many countries and b) there needs to be an acknowledgement that not all markets are created equal, and that the U.S. -- much as some of you hate to admit it -- is still a bellwether for the sport.
As it stands now, matches are televised erratically. Or, in the case of Shanghai, not at all. The U.S. Open men's final was distributed like that unwanted Christmas fruitcake, and very nearly televised on three different networks. (As it was, the trophy presentation was but cut short to accommodate better-rated programming.) Late-round Wimbledon matches are shown on tape delay. The Indian Wells and Key Biscayne events -- once the province of ESPN -- are covered horrendously. The Tennis Channel is great, but there are still significant distribution issues.
When networks abuse tennis and treat the fans shabbily, the fallback is, inevitably, numbers: Until the sport draws bigger ratings, improved treatment can't be justified. Yet it's hard to see how the sport will improve its viewership, so long as TV sabotages its growth. I think I've written this before but it's like saying, "Until you show that you can lose weight, we're going to keep feeding you French fries and beer." It seems to me that the real challenge of the WTA and ATP -- and to a lesser extent, the Slams -- is solving this riddle and extricating tennis from this vicious cycle. Until then, brace yourself for those 12-year-olds from Walla Walla.
• Someone else wrote a similar email a few weeks ago. I'm not sure what I wrote -- or didn't write -- to give you that impression but nothing could be further from the truth. Several years ago, I wrote a piece for
• Amen to that. You operate at your own peril when you a) question an athlete's injury and b) question an athlete's decision to retire. But I still don't quite get why fans are so eager to push certain athletes off the stage. The glee and
• In other words, rig-a-Toni? (Sorry.) There was talk of doing
• No, but there are comers from Sierra Leone.
• We eagerly await a response from the Tours. At some level, especially in these dire economic times, you take sponsorships where you can get them. And individual tournaments have some level of autonomy. But your point is a good one: At an absolute minimum does it not undercut your anti-corruption goals when betting companies prominently sponsor events?
• I think it's pretty much the same discussion. (Add
• Especially as I grow older, I'd never disparage anyone's desire to wring every last ounce from their sports career. But the men's game is so physical I would be shocked if he had much success. Date Krumm get herself into peak physical shape and win matches with patience, defense and consistency. Those virtues don't go nearly as far on the ATP Tour.
• Roger Federer, it's on.
• Thanks, Bobby. Great backstory. And, we hasten to add, this was before Conan made "Coco" hip.
• Symptomatic of the tragicomedy of capitalism? Oy. It's not an oppression contest. A kidney stone is not cancer, but it can still hurt like hell. Is losing your job tantamount to a death camp in Kosovo? No. But that mean it comes without great pain. And you lost me with your logic: If the U.S. is the most self-indulgent nation on earth, wouldn't THAT be the place where job loss would be felt least acutely? I'm always happy for different perspectives, but you lost me, Gina.
• As the days grow longer and the Kindles become cheaper, let's do another round of "tennis book" recommendations:
In no particular order:
"String Theory," an essay by
• Quick story: For years, I've tried (gently) to introduce my son to the subtle charms of tennis. Not much luck. Boys of a certain age like power. Control? Not so much. When we jumped a tennis court, he took far more pleasure from hitting a Pujolsian blast over the fence than from guiding it within the parameters of the court. Nadal was all well and good; but he was no David Wright. As some of you know, I'm teaching at Princeton this fall and when we moved down here I enrolled the little guy in some low-grade tennis lessons at the local club. "You son will love Al," I was told. Okay.
As promised, "Coach Al" managed to do in about 15 minutes what I couldn't do in several years. He convinced my son that tennis can be great fun, even if you don't get rewarded for home runs. That an individual sport can be singularly challenging. That the element of strategy can complement physical pursuits. After two lessons my son had given up the baseball pitchback in the yard in favor of bounce-ups and bouncedowns. When I would offer a gentle pointer -- maybe you want to try a new racket? -- the response was immediate: "Let me ask Coach Al first."
Last Friday, an hour or so after giving a lesson,
• Look for a big "reciprocity exhibition" announcement later this week.
• Mark Flannery of Fullerton, Calif., sends this link:
• The Mighty
• Though he still might be recovering from the New York Marathon, Justin Gimelstob is hosting his annual benefit Thursday, December 2 at Centercourt Athletic Club in Chatham, New Jersey.
• The WTA named
• Another tip for
• Djokovic voted
• Southern California readers
• Fran of Menlo Park, Calif., has long lost sibilings: