September 03, 2003

Is Tennis going down for the count?: Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News thinks so. On the one hand, this year's US Open has been a wash, in more ways than one. The weather delays really hurt the weekend schedule, and with neither Williams sister competing, the woman's side seems like a tournament to determine who's #3 (regardless of the actual rankings). It's really a shame, because the US Open is by far the most prestigious tounament played on a surface that doesn't overly favor one style of game over another.

posted by panther to tennis at 12:28 PM - 13 comments

Registration to read the news? Who do they think they are, The New York Times? Oh, wait a minute. Anyway, you know the US Open is in trouble when people start writing about the new gentlemen of the sport. I like the topic and all, but wow, this is what we're going to be looking forward to for the next five years, at least. They may have flashier hairstyles and clothes, but today's players' games are B-O-R-I-N-G. I think I'd rather watch more Masters Tennis on the telly. They should have a shadow Grand Slam for Goldies. Best of three format, wooden rackets. Co-ed matches! Bring back Becker! Come, come, Connors! Mosey back, Mac! Emerge from retirement, Edberg! 'nock off the newbies, Navratilova! Come back to Center Court, Chrissy! Glide back, Graf!

posted by worldcup2002 at 12:47 PM on September 03, 2003

Woops, here's that gentlemen of the sport article.

posted by worldcup2002 at 12:49 PM on September 03, 2003

What about Lendl?

posted by lilnemo at 12:50 PM on September 03, 2003

I've been enjoying the men's draw this year. I rarely watch the women's, williamses or not.

posted by corpse at 12:54 PM on September 03, 2003

The Blake/Federer match was great. Probably one of the best sets I've ever had the pleasure of watching (set 2). For all the moaning about how boring the game has gotten, I like rooting for underdogs and unranked players, especially in the good tourneys. But that may be one of men's Tennis' biggest problems: No real hero for the masses. The women's draw I never watch until at least semis (depending on who's paired up they're often better matches than the finals, though the same can be said for men). This year will be no exception. Tennis overall may be moving closer to a niche sport for a fanbase, like soccer in the states. But I really am enjoying the more competitve nature of the men's side. The matches are becoming closer without the sloppy play. Just my $0.02.

posted by Ufez Jones at 01:03 PM on September 03, 2003

Since I'm already registered with the DMN, which has one of the most tedious registration policies, I'll summarize the article for you:

what would it be like if the Tiger Woods of tennis retired? Well, you don't have to imagine because it just happened. And I'm not sure it even qualified as the story of the day. Although he had not played all year, Pete Sampras made his weepy exit from tennis official last week. This came at a U.S. Open where Michael Chang also announced his retirement, where neither Williams sister is playing and where Anna Kournikova now makes all the news as an entertainment reporter. Tennis may not officially be dead, but some guy who looks like Mills Lane is standing over the game, and he already has counted to eight. Sampras lacked the storyline, which is where tennis seems to be right now. Lacking in stories in a way it never has. Actually, the stories are there, but they're just not being heard. People like to argue about what makes for the greatest day in sports Final Four Saturday, NFC and AFC championship Sunday, back nine at the Masters, a great heavyweight fight. For me, for many years, any top five had to include the final Saturday of the U.S. Open a men's semifinal starting at 11 a.m., the women's final in the middle, another men's semi capping the day under the lights. Borg vs. Lendl. Chrissie vs. Martina. McEnroe vs. Connors. Not many better ways to avoid yardwork than that. Pat Summerall called 28 U.S. Opens during his career at CBS. For him, those Saturdays were long but always special. "I'd look forward to those days because the tennis was so refined at that point in the tournament, and the matchups were so good," said Summerall, who maintains an arm's length interest in the sport. "It's just diminished tremendously now. I read The New York Times today and the Open wasn't even the major story in the sports. Here and in other parts of the country, it's almost incidental." Some contend that it's time for Andy Roddick to save the sport. Summerall says it will take more than that. "You need two great American players. You need a rivalry to make it work," he said. "The men's singles used to have such great depth that just doesn't exist now." The women's game, which for years has outclassed the men's game, suffers, too, with or without the Williams sisters. With them in the field, the all-Williams finals, now dominated by Serena, have grown redundant. Without them in this week's Open, there will be an unwritten asterisk next to the Grand Slam winner's name. "There's no question they play in a class by themselves," Summerall said. "Frankly, they're too dominant and they get bored." And that's happened to too many of the rest of us, as the ratings will reflect. Andre Agassi is older than Sampras. His exit isn't far off, and then the men's marquee names will be down to none. Then it will be up to the Roddicks and the Srichaphans to convince us that they are this generation's Connors and Borg. I think the count just reached nine.
I left out the majority of the Tiger Woods/Pete Sampras comparison b/c it had little to do with the subject at hand.

posted by Ufez Jones at 01:11 PM on September 03, 2003

Nice summary Ufez.
OT, I love the sport of tennis. But I can't help but wonder if it might be more popular if the chair ump wouldn't keep demanding silence. Are there any other sports like tennis and golf where the officials demand silence of the crowd? Doesn't it feel silly? I know these are supposed to be more "civilized" sports, but doesn't the silence become a barrier to the average ("Kick his Ass Andre!) fan?

posted by lilnemo at 01:36 PM on September 03, 2003

Sorry, I forgot the Morning News was a registration site. Great point, Ufez: The women's draw I never watch until at least semis (depending on who's paired up they're often better matches than the finals, though the same can be said for men). This year will be no exception. The women's game has always been incredibly top-heavy. For as long as I can remember (about twenty years), going into every Grand Slam there would be only two or three ladies that had any realistic shot of winning it. And the first five rounds would consist of a lot of 6-0, 6-1 matches that lasted forty minutes. One question I have: Why on earth does tennis have such a funny seeding system (i.e. #1 vs #3, #2 vs #4)?

posted by panther at 01:41 PM on September 03, 2003

panther: The women's game has always been incredibly top-heavy. Oh, the sweet, sweet (unintended) metaphor ...

posted by worldcup2002 at 01:47 PM on September 03, 2003

words right out of my mouth, wc2k2

posted by garfield at 01:54 PM on September 03, 2003

I only assume it was unintended. Either way, it was a beautiful language moment. Almost poetic. *snort*

posted by worldcup2002 at 01:59 PM on September 03, 2003

Nice summary Ufez Thanks, but I used the wrong word. It was just excerpted text (copyright original author guy). Just covering my ass, you know. The women's game has always been incredibly top-heavy Which is currently one of it's biggest strengths but at times in the past and likely in the future, it can be a liability. Rivalries are good while they're new and fresh. They can hold an audience for maybe two, three years max. After that, the players start getting older, the matches begin to get repetitive, and the fair-weather fans leave to watch something else. I think if the umps allowed a bit more banter from the crowd, nemo, it would polarise tennis' main audience. Probably about a third would love it, a third would hate it, and a third could go either way/not really notice. But that would really only impact the live game, which most tennis fans don't attend (I would think. I've never been to anything higher than a college-level match). I'm not really sure how I'd feel about it. Likely I'd fall in the go either way/not pay much attention third.

posted by Ufez Jones at 02:11 PM on September 03, 2003

Personally, I think there are two things that have caused tennis to suffer a little bit (especially among the men). One, too many of the stars (speaking for the Yanks, here) skip the Davis Cup, which is an event I would certainly follow closer if our big guns were there, and second is the lack of a compelling rivalry like Navratalova vs. Evert Lloyd or Lendl vs. McEnroe. For sure Agassi and Sampras had good matches but their rivalry never attained high drama. And other good men who looked like they might have contended for a period of time always turned out to be flashes in the pan (Moya is the big one that comes to mind.) Tennis isn't dead, it's just going through a down cycle, and like any sport in a down cycle it is just three personalities away from being in an up cycle.

posted by vito90 at 02:55 PM on September 03, 2003

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