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Discussion Starter #1
Big Names Return to Competitive Tennis
By BILL FINLEY



Boris Becker and John McEnroe are well past their primes, but when they face each other tonight at the Tennis Club at Harbor Island Park in Mamaroneck in World Team Tennis competition, their match will provide star power, something this year's men's final at Wimbledon could not do.

For those who remember when men's tennis had a lot more sizzle than it does today, the Becker-McEnroe match, the feature attraction when Becker's New York Buzz take on McEnroe's New York Sportimes, might be worth a look. They may be older and a bit slower than when they were the big names at Wimbledon, but this will still be a match between a charismatic star, in the 44-year-old McEnroe, and an explosive talent, in the 35-year-old Becker.

"It will always be special to play John because obviously he is one of my idols and one of everybody's idols, if you like the game of tennis," Becker said. "We call each other friends now. We get along, much better than in our playing days. It's still a privilege to be on the same court as him."

World Team Tennis will offer a glimpse of the past, the present and the future. Young players like Andy Roddick (St. Louis Aces) and James Blake (Hartford FoxForce) will compete alongside and against long-established players like Becker, McEnroe, Martina Navratilova and Andre Agassi (Sacramento Capitals). Becker and McEnroe may not be the best players on their teams, but they are likely to be the biggest draws.

Becker and McEnroe combined for six Wimbledon singles titles in the 1980's, when men's tennis had a number of marquee talents and the Grand Slam events always produced a buzz. That has not been the case lately, especially at this year's Wimbledon tournament, in which Roger Federer of Switzerland defeated Mark Philippoussis of Australia in straight sets.

The men's finals produced a 2.7 overnight rating, the lowest on record for the event. Each overnight rating point equals 717,310 television households. Federer and Philippoussis fit the profile of the new breed of top men's players, largely anonymous figures who cannot seem to make a name for themselves. Andre Agassi seems to be the exception, but many of the other players ranked in the top are relatively unknown, among them Carlos Moya, Guillermo Coria, Rainer Schuettler, Sébastien Grosjean and Jiri Novak.

Becker believes the appearance of a declining popularity in the sport is more pronounced in the United States, where fans have grown accustomed to seeing top American players succeed.

"Andy Roddick didn't make the finals and Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi were not in the finals," he said. "Having an American in the finals is something that people in America have been used to for the last 10 years. Tennis is in a transition period. The familiar names are moving out and the young people like Federer, Roddick and Hewitt are coming in, which is something the public is not used to. I think it's a question of time."


Navratilova, who plays for the Philadelphia Freedoms, said she believed it would not be long before Americans were playing well enough to invigorate the sport.

"I think Americans got a little too seduced, for lack of a better word," she said. "It depends where people are from. Americans aren't paying a lot of attention to men's tennis because Pete Sampras isn't playing and Andre Agassi got knocked out of Wimbledon early. Andy Roddick is just getting started.

"People say men's tennis isn't what it used to be. But without a top American, interest is sure to wane. It needs new blood. But you've got players like Roddick and James Blake coming on. If Andy Roddick wins the U.S. Open, people will start saying men's tennis is back."

In the meantime, the presence of some of the best old-timers is the biggest drawing card for World Team Tennis. McEnroe versus Becker seems more interesting than Federer-Philippoussis, no matter how old they are.

McEnroe will be playing his fourth season in the league. Becker is playing World Team Tennis for the first time, and it is a way for him to ease himself back into the sport. He retired in 1999.

"I haven't been playing and that's the reason I want to do this now, before it is too late for me," he said.

The Sportimes play a 14-match schedule that concludes July 27. The New York Buzz is based in Schenectady. Becker and McEnroe met 10 times during their careers, with Becker winning 8 of the matches.
 

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Re: Men's final rating lowest ever. Can Mac and Becker save tennis? (NYTimes article).

I find that very surprising that this year's Wimbledon men's final ratings in the United States were that low! I know Federer and Philippoussis aren't American, but they're no "un-knowns" either. Maybe if the product was marketed better here in the US, then people would actually know of and care about Roger and Mark and would want to see them fight it out on tv.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Re: Men's final rating lowest ever. Can Mac and Becker save tennis? (NYTimes article).

It's too bad that in America, a sport's popularity hinges on it being nationalistic.

Then again, this proabably is the case with most countries. The difference in America is that we are so large and powerful, we can automatically produce champions in almost any given sport.

Plus, due to lucrative contracts, players from Europe, Asia and Cuba come here to play basketball, baseball and hockey.

Tennis stars do move to America, but still represent their home countries, for the most part.

I think the popularity of tennis will continue to wane until Roddick and Blake start winning Slams, or Federer, Marat, etc. become American citizens.
 

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Re: Men's final rating lowest ever. Can Mac and Becker save tennis? (NYTimes article).

Tennis Fool said:
I think the popularity of tennis will continue to wane until Roddick and Blake start winning Slams, or Federer, Marat, etc. become American citizens.
Unfortunate, but true.

I thought the recent success of Pete and Andre at the Slams, winning the US Open and Australian Open respectively, would spark some interest in men's tennis once again with the American public. But it hasn't happened. The amount of coverage here continues to suck and sales of tennis products are also down. It's frustrating. :fiery:
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Re: Men's final rating lowest ever. Can Mac and Becker save tennis? (NYTimes article).

Leo said:
I find that very surprising that this year's Wimbledon men's final ratings in the United States were that low! I know Federer and Philippoussis aren't American, but they're no "un-knowns" either.
To the general sports fan who watches the Slams on weekend TV, they are. NBC only aired those matches featuring Roddick and Agassi, until they were shut out. Pundits such as Wertheim hedged that Agassi would win, and the commentators kept mentioning Roddick was the oddsmakers pick. No wonder casual fans were scratching their heads win these two lost. They weren't given any information on Federer or Philippoussis at all.

I think that if Federer or anyone starts to win multiple slams, gets their mug on the Tonight Show (which made Becker in the States) or David Letterman, they will become more familiar.

Maybe then, we'll actually see some commericals without McEnroe, 19 years past his last Slam :eek:
 

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"Can Mac and Becker save tennis?"

Short answer - no!

I came to know tennis as an individual, international sport. That's how I and most casual viewers see it. In the past few years, I've read and paid more attention to Davis Cup and FED Cup. WTT gets next to no national exposure in the U.S. I can't see the team concept and the promotion of past big names attracting new fans.
 

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Re: Men's final rating lowest ever. Can Mac and Becker save tennis? (NYTimes article).

Safin made Letterman in 2000 right after winning the US Open. Didn't help.

You know what's really annoying? Ferrero won the French Open but even with all of our hours of coverage with ESPN, we didn't see a single match of his until the quarterfinals. Even worse, we didn't get to see any of Federer in Wimbledon until the semifinals! These are top 5 players and were both considered heavy favorites in the Slams, but still didn't get any recognition by American networks. They just keep force-feeding Agassi and Roddick upon us, and forget about all forgein players.
 

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Re: Men's final rating lowest ever. Can Mac and Becker save tennis? (NYTimes article).

The men's finals produced a 2.7 overnight rating, the lowest on record for the event. Each overnight rating point equals 717,310 television households. Federer and Philippoussis fit the profile of the new breed of top men's players, largely anonymous figures who cannot seem to make a name for themselves. Andre Agassi seems to be the exception, but many of the other players ranked in the top are relatively unknown, among them Carlos Moya, Guillermo Coria, Rainer Schuettler, Sébastien Grosjean and Jiri Novak.
What really annoys me is how they like to blame the players for "the failing" of the sports in America. If we compare Roddick to Federer, it's just easy to see who had done better so far, even before his Wimby title. Federer has a TMS, won more titles, made TMC, beat Sampras on his prime, single-handedly winning DC for his country and led the tour in match-wins and tournament-wins going into Wimbledon. He won the grass tourney before going into Wimby, just like Roddick. Just about the only thing he didn't do better is screaming at the ump like Roddick did. (And we can't say Federer doesn't show emotion, he cried on several occasions when he won tourneys. So if fans didn't know about Rogi's personality, it's certainly not Rogi's fault of not showing.) But Roddick is about 100 times more popular than Federer in the States. So is it because Federer failed to make a name for himself or bcos the US media failed to even mentioned him as a hot favorite coming into Wimbledon. Of course, when ESPN barely mentioned him and not showing his early round matches until SF, made him virtually an unknown coming into the Final. I'm not surprised the rating is low, I'm :fiery: that they keep blaming the players, not the media, the network and atp for failing to promote the sports as it is.

I bet Moya, Grosjean, Coria and company are household names in their respective countries. Maybe US is the biggest single market in the world. But Europe as a whole is quite big and these European players have their marketing power in the European continent, do they not? So I just hope these US sports writers stop pointing their fingers at the wrong direction.

I do want tennis to be as popular as possible in the States, I want as much tennis on tv as possible. If it means American players has to step up, then I hope they do. But if I'm a network executive, that's like the most passive way to improve rating (cos all they can do is praying that Roddick will win the next slam, and the next and the next.) Would they rather take matter into their own hands, like working out a better strategy of promoting the sports, trying to promote it as an international sports, introducing the top players to the casual viewers (meaning not just showing the Americans). They got pay so much to do their job, maybe they should try doing it and not just hoping certain player can deliver for their sake...
 

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Re: Men's final rating lowest ever. Can Mac and Becker save tennis? (NYTimes article).

Well isn't it kind of understandable that when you have a "national" hero you focus more on him than on the others. Guess it's no surprise that Swiss TV would never show a match live with out a swiss player in it. Unless it's a swiss tournament or a big final. (But credit to the swiss sports news they at least mention the winners of some tournaments.)

And with the states beeing "slightly" bigger than Switzerland it's no surprise they feel the dropping of interrest much more when there is no "well known" (to the general public) player in a huge tournament anymore. Maybe when Federer, Ferrero, Hewitt, Safin et all keep winning and really become international stars they will get recognised by the general (mainly not really caring) public as well. And when they then find out that these guys actually do play some wonderfull tennis then I'm sure the raitings will go up again.
 

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Re: Men's final rating lowest ever. Can Mac and Becker save tennis? (NYTimes article).

excuse me,but who really cares if tennis in america hasnt a good tv rating?if i should post an article with tennis rating in my country,u'll see that tennis is followed from just 1.000 ppl cos only 6% of population have pay-tv here :p
 

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I find it a little sad that the ratings for tennis are dropping just because there is no american player in the final.. :eek:
For me I see lots of "interesting" players like, Hewitt, Safin,.. that have great personality and are well worth watching, wherever they come from.
Smaller countries can't afford to have an attitude like that, or you might as well stop watching any sport.

But things will surely get better when Andy Roddick gets it going really good ;)
 

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Tennis Fool said it best:

It's too bad that in America, a sport's popularity hinges on it being nationalistic.

It always galls me when I watch tennis coverage or hear tennis commentary about American tennis. I'm a U.S. fan, and none of my favorite players are American. The idea that as an American, I can only enjoy tennis if I see Americans playing and winning is just alien to me.
 

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Originally posted by Lindsayfan
excuse me,but who really cares if tennis in america hasnt a good tv rating?if i should post an article with tennis rating in my country,u'll see that tennis is followed from just 1.000 ppl cos only 6% of population have pay-tv here :p
I understand your point as a fan whose home country is not the U.S. But, while I am from the U.S., my concern over the down turn in ratings is economic, not nationalistic pride. The U.S. is a huge consumer market. If they don't watch and buy the products advertised, there will be less money in the industry as a whole. Over time this will have a negative effect on the quality and quantity of tennis available to all of us fans. With less access, the sport could revert to an elitist, country club past time rather than an athletic competition. Although I could exist without professional tennis, I would lose one of the great passions of my life. I also like the social evolution and personal stories that are a part of professional tennis.
 

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Re: Men's final rating lowest ever. Can Mac and Becker save tennis? (NYTimes article).

Still it's surprising that so few ppl watchet the final. Did they forget that Federer was the man who ended Sampras winning streak there or the one who defeated the US Davis Cup almost all by his own??
 

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*shrug* *yawn* pfft

America apologizes for not being fair and not catering to us. Seriously, tennis isn't the big thing here. Everywhere there's a sport that isn't "the big thing" and here it's tennis. I agree with TennisFool if that's who said this, but I think tennis will always be waning until, some great resurgence takes place--here. But I chose to like the sport that isn't basketball or American football so as an American, I'm pretty psyched that we get consistent coverage at all! I don't expect anything great

All international footie fans in the US get is UEFA CUP on fucking ESPN2 once a year and the crappy World Cup every 4 years!!!!!! That's a jiff right there. That's why you gotta buy the satellite tele and order Fox Sports World. :D
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Re: Men's final rating lowest ever. Can Mac and Becker save tennis? (NYTimes article).

Doris Loeffel said:
Did they forget that Federer was the man who ended Sampras winning streak there or the one who defeated the US Davis Cup almost all by his own??
They didn't forget. They never knew. The average sports fan probably believes Sampras retired undefeated and Federer is that hockey player that dated Kournikova :eek:

Regarding the finals: Maybe it has to do something with Philippoussis. I think when he played Rafter in the 98 US Open final, that was the lowest US Open rating in history, also.
 

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Re: Men's final rating lowest ever. Can Mac and Becker save tennis? (NYTimes article).

Possibly, although I think it's more likely that Rafter's two finals in 97 and 98 being the only ones not to feature an American during the 1990s had something to do with it. Something of a comfort to Philippoussis, anyway.
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
Re: Men's final rating lowest ever. Can Mac and Becker save tennis? (NYTimes article).

Vera: Regarding your post on the media taking the promotion of the sport into its own hands. What the media would do is put together a "focus group" of Americans or ask Americans to answer an online poll. The question: "Can Andy Roddick save tennis?" Answer: A)Yes. B)No.

As you see, I'm being cynical. I think the media knows the average American wants to see an American, despite other arguments.

Also, just look at how this board becomes the WTAWorld board, whenever Roddick wins :eek:
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Re: Men's final rating lowest ever. Can Mac and Becker save tennis? (NYTimes article).

jmp said:
I understand your point as a fan whose home country is not the U.S. But, while I am from the U.S., my concern over the down turn in ratings is economic, not nationalistic pride. The U.S. is a huge consumer market. If they don't watch and buy the products advertised, there will be less money in the industry as a whole. Over time this will have a negative effect on the quality and quantity of tennis available to all of us fans. With less access, the sport could revert to an elitist, country club past time rather than an athletic competition. Although I could exist without professional tennis, I would lose one of the great passions of my life. I also like the social evolution and personal stories that are a part of professional tennis.
Money drives everything.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Re: Men's final rating lowest ever. Can Mac and Becker save tennis? (NYTimes article).

OMT, it's pretty pathetic that Becker lost to Mac, a player 13 years his senior:eek:
 
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