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Article: Is tennis less fun than it use to be?

Tennis Fool
09-15-2005, 09:08 PM
THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING


BACKTALK
Is tennis really less fun than it used to be?
By Leland de la Durantaye | September 11, 2005

IN THE 11 YEARS since Sports Illustrated ran a cover story asking the ominous question, ''Is Tennis Dying?" not a few fans have found themselves answering ''yes." But the ecstatic play at this year's US Open--epitomized by Andre Agassi's defeat of a resurgent James Blake in a fifth-set tie-breaker in the wee hours last Wednesday--is making many change their minds.

Tennis has always been a game of drastic pronouncements. Most credit its invention to medieval French monks, who would bellow tenez (''get ready") at opponents across hallowed halls and sacred arcades. By the 13th century, the game's popularity had hit such a dangerously fevered pitch that both the Pope and King Louis IV tried to ban it.

Wimbledon may have the tradition and Roland Garros the rich red clay, but the most electrifying event of the tennis year is the one ending tonight in Flushing Meadows. The fastest and loudest tournament in the world got its start, appropriately enough, in a casino (the first US Open was held at the Newport Casino in 1881). Over the years, the tournament has been through changes of venue, status (professionalization came in 1968), demographics (in 1968 Arthur Ashe became the first African-American man to win a Grand Slam event), and rules (the tie-breaker was introduced in 1970 after F.D. Robbins needed a numbing 100 games to defeat Dick Dell), but it remains the most truly ecstatic of tournaments.

Many look back to the Open of the 1970s as the heyday of tennis ecstasy. After besting Ashe in a dramatic five-set final in 1972, Ilie ''Nasty" Nastase was literally mobbed by supporters. Bjorn Borg, with his uncannily elegant play, flowing hair, and legendarily tight Fila shorts, dominated the tour, but he could never master the Open. In 1976 and '78 Borg lost the final to a brash player with a bowl cut, a Playboy Playmate wife, and the weirdest racket ever made, Wilson's steel T2000. ''New Yorkers love it when you spill your guts out there," burbled the victorious Jimmy Connors. ''Spill your guts at Wimbledon and they make you stop and clean it up."

The next year McEnroe took over the gut-spilling, winning three finals in a row--two against Borg and a third against Vitus Gerulaitis, a fellow New Yorker with a modish mullet, a name that would do well on a recreational drug for aging Europeans, and an affection for all-night partying at places like Andy Warhol's Factory, where he and Nastase came to be as welcome as Bianca Jagger.

By the '80s, however, the fun seemed to have vanished. Some blame the rise of Ivan Lendl, the dour, machine-like Czech who played in eight consecutive finals and paved the way for a legion of big servers with bland personalities. McEnroe (who won his last Open in 1984) has suggested that the culprit was technology, pointing the finger at new developments in racket construction made for a game which privileged power over finesse.

Nastase, for his part, blamed the declining interest in the men's game on the baggy shorts and baseball caps that he felt limited how much female fans could appreciate the men's draw. More to the point, he criticized the isolation in which players lived. Not only did US Open seeds cease partying together; they stopped going anywhere together, including the doubles draw. A bell jar of dieticians, psychologists, personal trainers, coaches, managers, agents, and the like seemed to be coming down on them, creating the conditions under which players could say things such as Venus Williams' recent remark when asked about her feelings concerning Katrina's devastation, ''I don't really watch the news."

And yet, no better sign of tennis's life can be offered than this year's US Open and its wealth of old and new talent playing their guts out, from Blake and Agassi duking it out to 23-year-old Elena Dementieva's defeat of veteran Lindsay Davenport in a final-set tie-breaker the same evening. In the years to come, shorts may grow still longer and more baggy (traditionalists should remember that Rafael Nadal's knickers are now really only a few inches away from returning to the flannel length Henri Lacoste wore), and racket producers will continue to come up with new tricks. Ill-mannered mega-entourage players like No. 2 in the world Hewitt have always been around. But on the other side of the scales, Agassi has a single coach (a childhood friend), and Roger Federer, the most rounded and technically brilliant tennis player one could imagine (as well as an unfaltering gentleman), doesn't have a coach at all.

Tonight, one player will taste the agony of defeat. But the ecstasy that has defined tennis from the time of 13th-century French monks hiking up their soutanes and romping about cloister gardens to the era of fans doing the wave around Arthur Ashe stadium is in no danger of decline.

Leland de la Durantaye is an assistant professor of English and American literature and language at Harvard University.



© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Tennis Fool
09-15-2005, 09:08 PM
What do you think caused the "death of tennis" in America?

LuckyAC
09-15-2005, 09:19 PM
Tennis is still strong as a participatory sport, just there is no fan interest. It hasn't been well promoted and Americans aren't used to such a diffuse tour - most of their leagues have much clearer goals with single championship. Still, it is inexplicably bad for fan interest to be so low with so many players and such an interesting game.

Lee
09-15-2005, 09:40 PM
What do you think caused the "death of tennis" in America?


Because of people talked this topic to death?

lunahielo
09-15-2005, 10:14 PM
No.
It's much more fun than it used to be! :)

Sjengster
09-15-2005, 11:03 PM
I find it strange how so many journalists think that "improving" tennis is synonymous with "making it exactly like it was in the 70s and 80s". For those of us unlucky enough to have missed out on the vast entertainment of short shorts, wooden racquets and players dining at restaurants together, there is nothing less fun at all about the modern game. It's bizarre to hear someone like McEnroe claiming on one hand that tennis needs to evolve with the times to compete with other sports, and on the other complaining about every aspect of the game that has been brought about by that self-same evolution.

Tennis Fool
09-15-2005, 11:50 PM
I find it strange how so many journalists think that "improving" tennis is synonymous with "making it exactly like it was in the 70s and 80s". For those of us unlucky enough to have missed out on the vast entertainment of short shorts, wooden racquets and players dining at restaurants together, there is nothing less fun at all about the modern game. It's bizarre to hear someone like McEnroe claiming on one hand that tennis needs to evolve with the times to compete with other sports, and on the other complaining about every aspect of the game that has been brought about by that self-same evolution.
I think JMac is still upset that he was beaten by the first "big server" at Wimbledon in 1985; also if granite weren't introduced in the late '80s, maybe he could have won more Slams. This is the reason I think he moans about the loss of wood rackets.

However, I think the American media and the fans missed those "Playboy" days and the slower game. I think Roger would be more appreciated if he attended the Playboy mansion and was photographed with a girl jumping out of a big cake. In fact, who knows, those things may eventually happen :p

AgassiFan
09-16-2005, 12:21 AM
Nothing is as fun as it used to be, and tennis is no exception. The human civilization has hit its apex a while back, and is in the glacial state of deterioration. I don't envy 5-10 generations down the line.

Rafa = Fed Killa
09-16-2005, 01:10 AM
The craziness and fun of sports as a whole is on a decline.
Teams and players have become businesses which turns off a lot of the public.

drf716
09-16-2005, 01:58 AM
i have a question: golf doesn't seem to have a lot of people watching them right on the field unlike in tennis but how come it's considered a more popular sport?

wcr
09-16-2005, 02:21 AM
Does anyone around here read the news?


US Open Shatters Tournament Records

All-Time Attendance Record Set

Television Ratings, Website Visits up Significantly

FLUSHING, N.Y., September 12, 2005 – The USTA today announced that the 2005 US Open set several records in attendance and website traffic and generated significant television ratings growth over last year:

Attendance:

An all-time attendance record was set at 659,538 fans, breaking the previous record set in 2001, by over 20,000 fans.

The US Open remains the highest attended annual event in sports.

The daily total attendance record was set at 58,589 on Saturday, September 3, and again the following day with 58,817 on Sunday, September 4.

Television:

The national overnight rating for the Men’s Final on CBS Sports was 6.2, doubling the 2004 rating.

Total viewership for the Saturday Night primetime Women’s Final was up 28% vs. 2004. Viewership of Super Saturday (both men’s semifinals and the women’s final) on CBS Sports increased by 56% vs. 2004.

Total ratings of the US Open on CBS Sports were up 18% vs. 2004.

USA Network’s total viewership for the key 18-49 demographic increased 24% vs. 2004. Total viewership on USA Network was up 8%.

Website:

Traffic on USOpen.org, the official tournament website set an all-time record of 27.0 million visitors vs. 15.4 million last year, up 75%.

The average visitor spent a record 81 minutes on the site. USOpen.org remains a top-five most-trafficked sports website.

http://www.usta.com/news/fullstory.sps?inewsid=236673

wcr
09-16-2005, 02:26 AM
Tennis is less fun for whom?

September 15, 2005
ATP Attendance Levels at Record-Breaking Pace

Crowds up more than 180,000 at same stage last year

Worldwide attendance at ATP and Grand Slam tournaments has topped 5 million fans, putting it on track for a record-breaking season exceeding 6 million. Through last week’s US Open 5,214,859 fans had attended ATP and Grand Slam tournaments in 2005, an increase of 183,000 on the same period last year.

The ATP Masters Series continues to lead the way, with six of the seven events in the marquee series of ATP tournaments showing attendance growth. This summer, the Rogers Masters in Montreal enjoyed a record attendance of 172,686, up from 157,388 when the tournament was last held in Montreal in 2003. (Last year’s edition of the tournament, which rotates between Montreal and Toronto, drew 165,508 fans.) The Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati attracted 157,354 fans, up from 150,455 in 2004.

Interest in the ATP Masters Series has been intense in 2005, with World No. 1 Roger Federer and World No. 2 Rafael Nadal sharing all seven titles so far this season. In total, attendance at ATP Masters Series in 2005 has reached 1,157,083, with two events remaining: the Madrid Masters (Oct. 17-23) and the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris-Bercy (Oct. 31-Nov. 6).

Crowds at the 64 ATP tournaments in 31 countries and the four Grand Slams are on track to top 6 million for the second consecutive year and to register the fourth consecutive year of crowd growth. In 2004, attendance levels hit 6,004,648.

Attendance isn’t the only measure of tennis’ growing popularity. TV ratings for this summer’s US Open Series and US Open were up while ATPtennis.com has increased unique visitors this year by 61.8 percent. During the second week of the US Open, ATPtennis.com attracted 436,000 Unique Visitors and 4.9 million page impressions, its best-ever traffic numbers during a Grand Slam. During the week of Cincinnati ATPtennis.com welcomed a record 504,000 unique visitors who logged on for 1.38 million user sessions. Geographically, the United States leads ATPtennis.com traffic with 21.2% of visitors, followed by Argentina (11.9%), Chile (5.6%), Italy (5.1%) and Spain/United Kingdom (5%).

http://www.atptennis.com/en/newsandscores/news/2005/attendance.asp

Tennis Fool
09-16-2005, 02:45 AM
Wcr: You ask a good question. Do we actually know if the popularity of tennis is recovering from a wane? Are there any attendance and tv ratings stats that can compare the audience from the 1970s and 1980s to now? Anyone know?

DRF, I'd read in the WSJ in the late 1990s an article that said golf was not as popular as would appear from its overcoverage on tv. Basically those events are aired because tv execs make deals on the green.

G O
09-16-2005, 03:29 AM
What do you think caused the "death of tennis" in America?


The death of American culture and the decline of western civilization.

tangerine_dream
09-16-2005, 03:31 AM
Tennis is less fun for whom?

September 15, 2005
ATP Attendance Levels at Record-Breaking Pace

Crowds up more than 180,000 at same stage last year

Worldwide attendance at ATP and Grand Slam tournaments has topped 5 million fans, putting it on track for a record-breaking season exceeding 6 million. Through last week’s US Open 5,214,859 fans had attended ATP and Grand Slam tournaments in 2005, an increase of 183,000 on the same period last year.

The ATP Masters Series continues to lead the way, with six of the seven events in the marquee series of ATP tournaments showing attendance growth. This summer, the Rogers Masters in Montreal enjoyed a record attendance of 172,686, up from 157,388 when the tournament was last held in Montreal in 2003. (Last year’s edition of the tournament, which rotates between Montreal and Toronto, drew 165,508 fans.) The Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati attracted 157,354 fans, up from 150,455 in 2004.

Interest in the ATP Masters Series has been intense in 2005, with World No. 1 Roger Federer and World No. 2 Rafael Nadal sharing all seven titles so far this season. In total, attendance at ATP Masters Series in 2005 has reached 1,157,083, with two events remaining: the Madrid Masters (Oct. 17-23) and the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris-Bercy (Oct. 31-Nov. 6).

Crowds at the 64 ATP tournaments in 31 countries and the four Grand Slams are on track to top 6 million for the second consecutive year and to register the fourth consecutive year of crowd growth. In 2004, attendance levels hit 6,004,648.

Attendance isn’t the only measure of tennis’ growing popularity. TV ratings for this summer’s US Open Series and US Open were up while ATPtennis.com has increased unique visitors this year by 61.8 percent. During the second week of the US Open, ATPtennis.com attracted 436,000 Unique Visitors and 4.9 million page impressions, its best-ever traffic numbers during a Grand Slam. During the week of Cincinnati ATPtennis.com welcomed a record 504,000 unique visitors who logged on for 1.38 million user sessions. Geographically, the United States leads ATPtennis.com traffic with 21.2% of visitors, followed by Argentina (11.9%), Chile (5.6%), Italy (5.1%) and Spain/United Kingdom (5%).

http://www.atptennis.com/en/newsandscores/news/2005/attendance.asp

Andre the Awesome :hearts: :worship:

PaulieM
09-16-2005, 03:53 AM
Andre the Awesome :hearts: :worship:
yes andre is single-handedly responsible for the popularity of tennis. :)

yaasmeen
09-16-2005, 12:27 PM
Nothing is as fun as it used to be, and tennis is no exception. The human civilization has hit its apex a while back, and is in the glacial state of deterioration. I don't envy 5-10 generations down the line.

The death of American culture and the decline of western civilization.

my gracious! such despair. :sad: i hope always this is not the opinion you take through your days! there is alot that need to change in the world - but i have great hope for us all. perhaps just i am "too young", but still i think this is a beautiful life and i look forward to my place in it! :wavey:

wcr
09-16-2005, 05:01 PM
Wcr: You ask a good question. Do we actually know if the popularity of tennis is recovering from a wane? Are there any attendance and tv ratings stats that can compare the audience from the 1970s and 1980s to now? Anyone know?

The concept of "the popularity of tennis" needs clarification. By that, do you mean are there more amateurs taking up the sport? For this answer you would have to research (1) equipment and clothing sales (2) memberships at the USTA and (3) amateur tournament activity especially in the juniors. Those are just off the top of my head. I'm sure there are more ways to know this.

If you mean popularity in terms of television, you cannot quantify today's ratings against those of the 70s and 80s when (1) there was no cable television; (2) the tennis season was shorter and (3) there were less sporting events broadcasted on television. We've got jump-rope contests competing for time on sports networks now. And how about curling?