Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tennis Drama - is it starting to get out of hand?

I don’t know about you, but I’m not thrilled about the drama that surrounds tennis, whether it’s in the professional (mostly women’s) game or in recreational leagues, during ALTA and USTA matches. I’ve been following a 50+ comment discussion of Serena’s latest appalling behavior at the 2011 U.S. Open on LinkedIn, so I know that my dismay is not unique.

Sure we’ve had bad examples in the professional game ever since it exploded on the scene as a popular sport in the boom years of the late 1970’s and early 80’s, but after some (men’s) retirements and a relatively quiet period that was followed by the sportsmanship of Roger Federer’s rivalry with Rafael Nadal, there now appears to be more drama than ever in the women’s game. I’m tired of it, I’m not interested in seeing it so I won’t watch it. You hear that ESPN, I’m turning it off. Showing a replay over and over as a lead-in the next day of an incident the day or night before will lose me (and I’m sure others) as a viewer, so beware, if you care.

Unfortunately, drama seems to have always been a part of ALTA, at least since I started playing in the league in 2000. Some men just take themselves and/or winning too seriously, and controversy seems to happen all too often on Saturday mornings. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming my innocence here. In fact, I used to be a pretty sad sort myself. These days, when I run into a familiar face on the court – someone says they recognize me – I wonder if I should apologize for a past indiscretion. Perhaps as a reformed player, I’m noticing bad behavior more often than ever. Whether a player starts with a bad attitude (hard work week?), or a ‘questionable’ line call sets them off, some are ready to explode the minute anything happens which can be used as an excuse … and a good morning is ruined for all. I used to tell my spouse about these occurrences when I’d come home, but I think that’s half the reason she doesn’t want to join me and play mixed doubles competitively. Who needs it?

I don’t know if humor can preemptively resolve these issues before they happen or not, but I have – and will continue – to try to lighten things up during warm-ups (and even during the match) at times. It’s no fun for anyone to get all riled up playing a game, especially those of us who aren't paid to play it. We all want to win, even those who say they don’t, but we don’t all have to go home feeling badly about how we lost, or won.

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