SPORTS w/The Jock 6/30

Kelly Rossberg, Jan Peter Buksar, Lou Agresta, Cathy O'Brien, Stephen Pigman, Jonathan Ross, and John Pope.

by Tom Weppel
The lack of an American presence, especially in the final rounds, at Wimbledon, can be looked at two ways, with many feeling negative.
From one angle, you can conclude there simply aren’t that many youngsters getting involved in the sport of tennis anymore. Maybe they don’t see an interest or passion. Maybe they have a desire to do something else, like play video games or try other sports. Whatever the case, tennis is not being played as much as it was in the past here in the U.S., and so we aren’t seeing any names/talent up and coming.
In the fairly recent past, there were star players such as Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, and Pete Sampras. All those players, along with a few others, were popular guys. They made the sport interesting and entertaining. It made people in the U.S. want to watch these events, then go out and play on the local courts. From there, others emerged, and the popularity was steady at the very least.
Obviously, without a prominent ‘name’, then the perception is that American tennis is on the downswing. The best American player, it seems, is Andy Roddick, and he has done okay but not great by any means, missing out on winning any Major tournament of any sort.
One the other side, you can simply say that the sport has become much more international in popularity and accessability, as more and more kids are able to play tennis at a younger age around the world. They are also able to get started at an early age, at various courts around the world. This openness has shown its viability, as the top players in tennis…Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic…come from European countries.
I don’t think that is necessarily a bad item for tennis from an overall standpoint. I think it is a little wearing on the attitude and perception of American tennis fans. It also isn’t good for the American TV networks covering these events, as it certainly has and effect on viewership and ratings.
The same thing applies to the females. Without Venus and Serena Williams, there doesn’t seem to be any American female waiting in the wings ready to play an exceptional brand of tennis and make us interested. Again, the players we are seeing are international in their roots. Whether that is a good or a bad thing is a matter of debate.
No matter what the case, the bottom line is that tennis the state of tennis is strong. The level of play continues to get better and better. The popularity also seems to grow, depending on what part of the world you are talking about. That said, it will be interesting to see when we might see an American emerge on either the Mens’ or Womens’ side of the sport. It doesn’t seem like that will happen in the near future…
Roger Federer’s loss once again in the Quarterfinals at Wimbledon will certainly have a lot of people talking, wondering if he is starting to slip in his level of play, as he begins to age.
For the first three rounds, he seemed to have no problems at all in winning. For the last decade, he has simply been superb in winning Major tournaments, including Wimbledon six times in his fabulous career.
But in losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Federer simply faded in the final three sets of the match, after winning the first two. Everyone watching, including his most fervent fans, were questioning what was going on. After the match, Federer said he lost in a matter-of-fact attitude, as if it was a passing thing.
I’d be willing to bet, though, that inside, he wasn’t too happy with his outcome. I’m sure he is wondering what it will take to get back to the level he wants to be at…the level that everyone is used to seeing him play at.
Whether that will happen or not is certainly a matter of debate and curiosity. If he indeed is able to come back to top-shelf form, many will be thrilled. If he doesn’t, then its fair to say he certainly had one of the best careers imaginable on the Mens’ tennis circuit in history.