Originally Posted by Tennis Fool
Nothing against Roddick...he is more evocative of an industry that in recent years has tried to endear itself to disenfranchised youth with jazzy promotions, with a pumped-up volume of power tennis. Net effect: more and more graying baby boomers who think, "I'm too old for this,'' before packing the golf clubs into the car.
You've cut to the core of the problem with tennis today. As more and more of those baby boomers pack the golf clubs in the car, fewer and fewer tickets to local tennis tournaments get sold.
Ultimately what keeps selling those season box seats at tournaments like Indian Wells and Key Biscayne is the sense of awe that comes from a player whose play seems to border on the impossible.
Women's tennis used to have such a player. Her name was Steffi Graf. Coincidentally or not, her biggest shot was also the forehand. I never thought twice about spending 7 to 8 thousand dollars on box seats just to see her play. I cancelled those subscriptions a couple of years after Steffi retired. The brute force of Serena, Venus & Co. just never sparked my imagination.
Recently, however, I've thought of getting season box seats again. Federer has captured my imagination just like Steffi did decades ago. I want to see this Federer guy play. He produces his own hype.
On the question of hype. All of the buzz around players like Roddick and Serena may mean big TV ratings. But often, and the experience of attending many tennis tournaments tells me this, there is a disconnect between high TV ratings and high attendance at local tournaments. A lot of people, in the US at least, seem to tune in to watch the Williams' sisters on TV, but for one reason or another they don't buy tickets to see them play. I've been at large tournaments (e.g., Key Biscayne and Indian Wells) where their matches are often poorly attended. Given that a significant fraction of tickets for these tournaments are purchased by retirees, particularly at Indian Wells, this is not surprising at all. This is an audience that hasn't warmed up to Roddick, Serena, Venus et al., because they play a kind of tennis that lacks variety, that lacks virtuosity, and that hearkens back to an era when many of these people first discovered tennis. You've also got to figure that many of these people still play tennis recreationally. And, that for them, there is something more evocative about a brilliant drop shot or slice backhand, shots that they can probably hit, albeit not as well.
Of all the players in the last 5 years, Federer has the most potential to renew these people's interest in the sport. If he succeeds, he will secure the financial future of many local tournaments. It is those tournaments that are the backbone of the sport.