Well, Iím probably not going anywhere because Iíve looked, and this is the best place I could find to try to learn how to play tennis.
I donít know much about tennis, but I do know a lot about sport in general. I read the sports page first, when I walk into the library I read SI and Sporting News, ESPN.com is my home page and I worship at the altar of Bill Simmons The Sports Guy. You know, Iíd never heard that bit about the Williams sisters. But I wouldn't care about their origins anyway, I care about the competition, the drive to dominate and the imposition of oneís will on anotherís game (but more on that later). What I mean to say is that I am no casual sports fan and yet tennis Ė the game, the professional association, the players Ė is missing the boat in terms of development of the league and public awareness. I donít have a TV, so I have to be very picky about what I choose to watch, and I donít watch much tennis, so maybe the Williams are better profiled on air, a la the Olympics.
Tennis is like golf in that there are no teams, only individuals. As a football fan, Iím a Dallas Cowboys fan, and I suffered when Roger Staubach retired and Emmitt Smith left. Yet the team that I owe my allegiance to remains. Thatís not true in tennis. I became a Martina fan back in the mid 70s, when she was just a pudgy ice cream-eating wunderkind. I saw her play at Wimbledon. She grew up before my eyes as the pathbreaking attacking female tennis player. And now sheís gone (well, not really, but you get my point) and Iíve not had a favorite player since. As a tennis fan, thereís a loss when your favorite player is a Jim Courier or Pete Sampras. And yet (to bring this back to golf) golfers can golf forever. Nicklaus and Palmer golfed at last yearís Masters for crying out loud.
Yet tennis continues to market ďpersonalitiesĒ over the game which hurts fan continuity over the long haul. The January/February issue of Tennis magazine gives two particularly egregious examples of this. Tennis rag is ranking the top 40 players of the past 40 years, coinciding with the magazineís 40th year. #40 was Gabriela Sabatini. Certainly the most gorgeous creature to walk onto the court, but hardly worthy of being within two spots of Virginia Wade, a four time majors winner. And then in her editorial, Chris Evert recounts the great events of the past 40 years and comes up with the growth in parity between the menís and womenís games/tours and then when pressed to come up with a second development recounts, you guessed it, the outfits of the women. Thatís it? Thatís what Chris Evert, one of the most sublime competitors of the 20th Century wants to tell us about her sport?
See, tennis is a great game in that it pits two competitors in splendid isolation. When youíre playing, you are out there, mano y mano, with no one to help you. When youíre in the middle of a 0-6 set you are completely exposed and all you can do is pull yourself up and put that set out of your memory. Youíve got no coach, no teammates. Just yourself in a sport that has a very fine margin for error. This is the story that tennis ought to be telling. And it doesnít, at least not in print. Chris Evert chooses to talk about the ďdaring uniformsĒ. I just think the game deserves better.
There, I'm done. I won't say anymore about this.