Live or Electronic
March 30, 2011 -- We are all voyeurs at times. Take notice the next time you sit in a movie theatre or in front of your home entertainment center. As you sink in the cozy chair, your senses directed at the screen, the plot, dialogue, and graphics explode like fireworks, enthralling you while the world outside melts away.
Following a tennis match is much the same as watching a movie, baseball game, or soccer. We concentrate on the tennis ball and the players, plus, at times, the sights and sounds that envelope the setting.
If you're with the media, though, those obvious observations can seem as far away as Pluto if you sit at a computer much of the day, and stare at a screen, or at the brand new HD Sony Bravia TVs right above the workstations. It's like being in the front row of an iMax theater. And it's all yours, at least for the week.
To make things more enticing, live feeds stream in from Stadium Court, Grandstand Court, plus Courts one and two, stats compiled alongside the games. The enchantment can mesmerize you, if only for a bright spot in your mind that diverts your eyes. Right there. The courts are right there. It's sunny outside.
Then, you have to pause... ask why watch a live match when you can watch four matches at once here in comfort at a homelike workstation?
Between points and at changeovers, you can watch egrets and grey herons float on the wind. And, perhaps, the red-faced vultures that soared over David Ferrer and Mardy Fish late this afternoon portended the Spaniard's demise, as he lost to the American 75 62 to the surprise of many. Could Fish win the title? He hasn't dropped a set all week.
You can hear the balls hit the strings, too. After a time you can train your ears to hear the differences between tight and loose string tensions. The sounds add dimension. Your whole horizon expands. It's like hot fudge on ice cream for your senses.
Victoria Azarenka and Kim Clijsters, vying for a spot in the women's semifinals, battered the ball with intensity tonight. The thwack of Azarenka's shots made hearts race and hopes rise. Clijsters' foot speed couldn't keep up. She hit the balls late and flat. The subtlety of the timing couldn't be seen on television.
You can see the speed of the ball. Geez! What an awesome sight. Forehand drives rattle your nerves. Loopy shots relax you. Slices evoke art. Drop shots elicit gasps. Both Azarenka and Clijsters used the droppers. One drop shot seemed to follow another. Clijsters dropped one on Azarenka, and then she paid back the favor. Tit for tat.
You can see tiny gestures. Yesterday, as Ana Ivanovic served for the match, she attempted a swinging backhand volley and missed badly. She twirled around and stuck out her tongue in disgust. Bet that was a highlight of someone's dinner conversation.
Azarenka and Clijsters acted so coolheaded this evening, though. Neither player revealed much, although Clijsters had to have been frustrated with eight double faults in two sets, two losing sets... her first loss to the Belarusian Azarenka, 63 63.
"Mentally I just kind of feel like I didn't have any fighting spirit," Kim said somewhat dejected. "It's obviously tough against someone like her."
You can also eavesdrop on fans and learn about human nature if they aren't enraptured with their iPhone or Droid or any number of hand-held distraction devices. They unpack lunches, too, and munch on popcorn, and drink lemonade through straws.
Fans were quiet tonight, roused only when Kim gave signs of a comeback. Could she do it two nights in a row? "We love you Kim," someone yelled. "You can do it," another said. The mics from ESPN2 didn't pick those up.
But they did pick up the singsong sounds from Azarenka that starts the moment she strikes a ball and travels across the net to the strings on Clijsters racquet. It's the longest rally cry on tour, and a bit high-pitched.
Close out the world or let it in. That's the choice.
Thumps, thuds, pops, and the mysterious whisper of a slice serve, or massive quantities of information on flat-screens?
Rafael Nadal's Babolat racquet is strung at 57 pounds (crosses and mains) with 15 gauge Babolat RPM Blast. It produces a different timbre than Roger Federer's Wilson racquet strung at 52 pounds (crosses and mains) with 16 gauge Luxilon Rough and natural gut. Stick around courtside long enough and you'll learn to hear it and know what it means to an opponent.