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Who Says Tennis Is Boring?
by Ken Haruta

Just the other day I watched a sports wrap-up program on TV, and one commentator claimed that tennis has become boring. He started rattling off the usual glib remarks like power games, etc., but when the second commentator challenged him to explain in detail, all he could say was, "Ahhh, ummm, ...", with no substances to back up his comments.

This appears to be a typical example. It seems fashionable these days to say, "Tennis is boring," particularly among non-tennis sports writers and commentators. These individuals think tennis in its current form needs "improvement," and one immediately becomes suspect if they enjoy tennis in its pure, unadulterated form.

I can think of several tacks taken by the tennis-is-boring-and- needs-improvement claimers.

  1. Macho Men
    Tennis has always been a "sissy" sport and should be upgraded on the macho-scale.

  2. Copy Cats
    Tennis is not a complete sport and must copy other sports like football or baseball.

  3. Rule Revisers
    Tennis will be more exciting if some of the rules are changed.

  4. Wood-Racquet Warriors
    Tennis in the "good old days" was far superior.

  5. Sensation Seekers
    Top tennis players (Sampras in particular) have no personality.

Let me elaborate on these points and present my counter arguments:

  1. Macho Men

    I don't know whoever thought tennis was sissy. Even my grandmother, who knew very little about tennis, surprised me by saying that it's a strenuous sport; you play for hours continuously with short breaks on the changeover, whereas in baseball, for example, almost half of the time you are standing and waiting unless you are the pitcher or the catcher, and most of the other half you are sitting in the shaded dugout.

  2. Copy Cats

    Can you think of any reason why basketball players should be shooting a puck instead of a ball into the hoop? These claimers insist that tennis needs something else... music on the changeover, for example. Perhaps these are the same people who take a radio to a camp site and drown out the songs of birds and the rustling of leaves. I happen to like Wagner and Debussy, but on the court I prefer no music, period. Each sport has its own charm. I rarely watch football games on TV, but that's my preference, and I'd never suggest that football could be "improved" by changing the shape of the ball or abolishing the field goal.

  3. Rule Revisers

    Rule Revisers never die; and they don't fade away either. Somehow they think tinkering with the rules will improve tennis. The usual items on the list are playing the net- cord serve, one serve instead of two, using small-head racquets, etc., It has also been suggested that instead of 15-30-40-game, use 1-2-3-4. This last one is just a technicality which would add nothing of substance. As for the net-cord serve, does anyone seriously believe that playing it rather than calling it let would somehow improve tennis? The one-vs-two serves proposal does involve a strategy question. Two serves allow the player to have a variety of options: go-for-broke on the first and slice the second; twist on the first to catch the receiver off guard; and many more. One serve just wouldn't leave much room for interesting strategies. I'll take another look at the Reviser's List when baseball is played with 11 players and two strikes instead of three.

  4. Wood-Racquet Warriors

    I must admit this claim has some validity. When the tennis players were wielding 14-plus oz. natural wood racquet with a head size resembling a badminton stick, probably it required more skill to hit the ball correctly and hard. Consequently, the players focused on placement, spin, and finesse rather than overpowering the opponent. But do these claimers realize, for example, the different surfaces, such as those of the Grand Slams, drastically influence the nature of the game? The super-serve and power game may be suited for Wimbledon, and has its own excitement and fascination. Take, for example, the Sampras-Ivanisevic final this year. I don't know about anyone else, but I was on the edge of my chair watching the entire match on TV. I also watched the Edberg-Krajicek match at the U. S. Open two years ago. Stefan executed his signature serve-and-volley game in perfection to beat Krajicek. I'm not going to elaborate on how different the French Open is. Just remember why Sampras has a problem winning there.

  5. Sensation Seekers

    It sounds very strange to me to hear some people say that Sampras has no personality. Do they watch a tennis match to see the antics of immature brats, or see how well the game is played? Do these people *really* watch the details of how Sampras plays this game? His anticipation, preparation, and perfect execution of strokes? His tactics and strategies? As for his emotions, I've seen him happy, dejected, playful, annoyed, even though his feelings are always subdued. It's just that he doesn't make a fool of himself like some of the so-called "colorful" players. Do these detractors ever say that figure skating is boring because the skaters don't jump up and down (well, maybe they do that), and yell and make obscene gestures? It's just satisfying and uplifting to watch a champion skater perform a perfect routine. Have you ever sat at a deserted beach at sunset, listening to the breaking of the waves, and thought it was boring? Perhaps to some people it is. But to me it is nature at its best. So is tennis when it is played to "perfection." I just urge anyone to *really* watch Sampras, or any excellent player, perform at their best form in a match. I might even call it sheer "poetry in motion." It is years of effort and preparation culminating in a beautiful artistic performance. I don't know what else you can ask from any sport.

Certainly tennis has changed. But do you realize 99% of the changes have been in the racquet design and material? The court size and the scoring system (except the tie break, which I think is an excellent one) have been the same as far as you and I can remember. In a free economy, the government or corporations might influence, but have no last word on, what people should prefer. The changes in the racquet have been accepted by the majority of the tennis playing public, because people prefer racquets that way. It is worth noting, though, that professional players are the last ones to accept any new racquet designs. Pete Sampras, for example, is still playing with the Wilson Prostaff, no oversize head, no long-body, no titanium.

Yes, some changes are inevitable. But I believe the changes to tennis brought by the racquet evolution (not revolution) have helped tennis a lot more than hurt it. Tennis in the current form may not be perfect, but it's fine with me and a lot of other tennis fans, who enjoy this great sport.

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