Tennis finally gets attention
The U.S. Open, the biggest tennis event in the United States, just finished this last week, but not without exciting drama. While tennis is usually not an entertaining spectator sport, this year’s tournament got fans talking. As a lifelong tennis player, one would expect that I would usually watch tournaments. To be completely honest, before the U.S. Open, I hadn’t watched a professional tennis match since the Australian Open finals. I, like many fans, get bored of watching Federer dominate the sport, and the level of women’s tennis is completely declining. Serena and Venus display some talent from time to time but never show consistent effort. However, the U.S. Open rekindled my interest in watching professional tennis by throwing in a Federer defeat, a Serena outburst, and a plethora of talented youngsters.
Throughout the two weeks of the Open, it appeared as though it was going to be an average tournament on the men’s side. After Nadal lost in the quarterfinals, I wasn’t even going to watch the semifinals or the finals. Federer only lost two sets on the way to the finals, and he was on the path to win, which I have seen enough times. I happened to be flipping through the channels when I caught the battle of Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro in the championship match. It was the end of the second set, a tiebreaker, so I kept watching. Though I’m normally a huge Federer fan, I must admit I was excited he was finally defeated in a grand slam. I think others felt that way as well.
Tennis player Jeremy King said he was thrilled about the Del Potro victory and stated, “The Fed-DP match was an instant classic. It was a combination of one of the greatest matches of all time and a huge upset.”
When someone dominates the competition for so long, it makes the sport stagnant and people lose interest. It is great publicity for tennis that someone besides Federer finally won a major. Way to rekindle some interest in tennis, Del Potro.
On the women’s side, there’s no doubt that tennis got more publicity than ever. American Melanie Oudin, only 17, captured the heart of fans everywhere. While the only hope for an American victory has been in the hands of Venus and Serena for the past several years, Oudin gave American tennis buffs everywhere a big shock. Before the Open, I had never heard of Oudin or her teenage media counterpart Caroline Wozniacki, currently 19. The two teenage girls had laid low in the publicity scene but were working on their huge tennis games. Oudin, who had only made it past the first round in one prior major, made it to the semifinals before losing to Wozniacki. The two could no longer lie low in the publicity scene, as Oudin was being praised for her young age and shocking performance while Wozniacki was commended for her incredible talent and charming smile. I was completely shocked to imagine myself at 17 standing in front of that crowd in New York. I asked myself, what is it about tennis that lets such young women dominate the field? I came to the conclusion that two things make women better fit for professional tennis. One is the starting age. Tennis players often start playing tennis before the age of 10, making their chance for burnout extremely high. Most women are also in the best physical shape of their life in their teenage years to their 20s. The rigorous demand of singles wears greatly on bodies, especially women. So while it is relatively shocking to see teenagers compete in such high-profile events, tennis players will keep turning professional about this age in order to keep the level of the game at its peak.
The teenage attention won’t be what is remembered about the women’s U.S. Open in 2009, though. Serena was lacking attention throughout the Open. Since she wasn’t going to eliminate the teenage phenoms, she caught her publicity by throwing a temper tantrum. She also caught a $10,000 fine. In case you missed it, Serena swore violently at a lineswoman the point before match point after she was called for a foot fault. After scurrying nervously to the head line-judge chair, the lineswoman reported Serena’s outburst, getting Serena a point penalty on match point. Serena lost the match and was furious. YouTube videos surfaced of her using the f-word and talking about what she would do to the lineswoman with the little fuzzy tennis ball. As a tennis player, I can imagine the frustration Serena had at this point, but honestly, there’s no excuse for acting that way on the court. Tennis in particular is supposed to be a competition of sportsmanship and class. Her outbursts are not uncommon, but this one showed Serena at a record low. She should have been suspended for some time. If we want to keep the sport of tennis honorable, there need to be harsher punishments for outbursts like this.
Overall, the excitement of tennis was at a record high. The athletes needed to supply some intriguing reasons to keep watching, and they sure did what they needed to do to catch my attention.