Keeping The Advantage
As a participation sport tennis has always offered a lot of advantages to the common player. You can play tennis at almost any level, the equipment is not expensive, and you don’t need costly fees or appointments to get on a court.
However, while tennis may be popular with the common person, professional tennis televised and sponsored is quickly losing ground as a sport to be watched and enjoyed in a world where we have over 360 channels and still complain there’s nothing to watch. The classic grace and style of tennis finds many audiences lacking interest. While it’s fun to participate on the court, watching tennis poses significant problems for a fast-paced video age. There are three things that cause tennis to be losing its status as a primary sport and challenge tennis to admit and overcome these issues.
The world of professional tennis has certainly seen its colorful characters, from Bjorn Borg’s on court fits to Jimmy Connors celebrating and running around the court inspiring audiences to cheer for him. Men’s tennis was at one time a lively and unpredictable sport. However, the focus in tennis has shifted from personalities to professionalism and from antics to athletes. Professional tennis players such as Pete Sampras and Roger Federer are not only known for their amazing feats of skill with the racket, but for their overall dull demeanor. Focused, practiced and trained the athletes of tennis bring little individuality or characterization to the game. In a controversial move a tournament in Spain hired models to work as ball girls during one of the main tennis events, admitting that men’s tennis has become dull and unattractive. The founders of the event thought the ball models would add delight and even a little wanted distraction from the game in hand.
While many small individual tournaments can be played over a weekend, few people but tennis enthusiasts get very involved in them. If you asked somebody outside of the tennis elite where the Virginia Slims competition is, they probably could not tell you where it’s located or what times it occurs. You find populist fans most often at the grand slams: Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Unfortunately following any of these grand slams takes a consistent amount of time and availability because they take over two weeks to play out. Depending on where they are in the world, games occur at various times at night and are often rebroadcast during prime time. It’s only when you get towards the semifinals and playoffs that the major audience picks up. Media executives and tennis officials have been working for years on the problem of creating a sustainable interest in grand slam events and drawing attention to a tennis premier event.
Favors tradition over innovation
Unlike NASCAR, which unveiled its "car of tomorrow" and provides innovations in every season or the NBA, who provides new stars with the new controversies almost every week, new things don’t really happen in tennis. It takes a long time for an entering player to climb up to the professional level where they can receive attention, and the basic equipment of the game: the racket, the ball, and the court have been the same for decades. Minor changes in rules, spacing and traditions have occurred. But other than women adopting the Western grip or the controversy involving Monica Seles’ very loud volley returns, nothing new has happened in this sport in some time. While there is something of a gentle beauty and grace about the traditions of tennis, a sport known for its strategy over its ruthlessness, the lack of innovation has led to a pall in its overall popularity.
Tennis has something to offer anyone who wants to play or watch, but they must overcome these challenges to keep the game alive.