By Jason Menard
Recently, the fourth-ranked men’s tennis player in the world, Nikolay Davydenko said that he thinks that Wimbledon, the tournament that we’re currently in the midst of, is the most boring tournament in the world.
You know what? He’s right, but not for the right reasons.
Davydenko, apparently all-too-accustomed to that life of privilege he’s currently living, doesn’t just hate the tournament – although his noted success, or lack therof, at the tournament may make you want to take his comments with a grain of salt. He hates the surrounding regions, the nightlife, and pretty much everything within a 50-kilometre radius of the All England Club.
The poor guy. Like he said, “there’s absolutely nothing to do besides tennis.”
And that’s a problem how? Perhaps a little more focus on the grass and a little less focus on the nightlife and Davydenko would actually be a threat to compete at this tournament.
However, he’s right – in general – about Wimbledon and boredom. But he’s a little to narrow of scope with his comments. Men’s tennis, in its totality, is one of the most boring sporting spectacles on the global landscape.
Notice I say men’s tennis. There’s a reason for that clear distinction. But technology, training, and money have robbed men’s tennis of any of its allure. A point in a current men’s tennis match all-too-often goes like this:
Serve, ace. Or maybe, serve, fault. Or, if you’re very lucky: serve, return, winner. Or, and if this happens you better go buy a lottery ticket, serve, return, return, return again, winner.
Gone are the days when drama could be built and sustained over the duration of a rally. Better equipment, more powerful players, and scientific influence that’s able to refine technique to elite performance levels means that the men’s game has grown out of the confines of the court.
Look back at the glory days of men’s tennis: the days of Connors, McEnroe, Borg, and Lendl. If you have the luxury of watching an old match, do so. Once you get past the wooden rackets and all-too-revealing short shorts, what you’ll see is drama unfolding on the grass, clay, or hardcourt. You’ll hear the rising crescendo of a gallery building in anticipation of the eventual winner. You’ll see drama that’s allowed to play out over five, six, seven shots. You’ll see people actually strategically returning a service to a particular point on the opponents side of the net instead of blindly flailing for dear life and hoping to put twine to ball.
In short, you have women’s tennis.
There’s really no question why women’s tennis outpaces men’s in terms of overall popularity amongst the rank and file. Sure, nubile young women in short skirts and tight clothing has its appeal for most red-blooded males, but that type of eye candy only remains sweet for so long before boredom sets in. What makes women’s tennis so compelling is that they are able to engage the audience with rallies, strategic play, and excitement. They’re actually playing a game, displaying multiple skills, and allowing the viewing public to come along for the ride.
Men’s tennis isn’t alone in this challenge. Many of the complaints that tennis faces are the same that are levied against men’s basketball. Too much dunking, too much one-on-one, not enough team play or complementary skills like jump shooting and passing.
Unfortunately, machismo has turned men’s sports into a metaphorical pose down, with the one displaying the biggest, uhm, racket the winner. It’s a sporting debate that’s been reduced to nothing more than shouting, instead of a poetic swaying of the audience’s affections. Sure, yell loud enough and you may win the game, but you’ll never win the crowd’s heart.
So Davydenko is right. Wimbledon is boring – but no more so than the rest of men’s tennis.
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