June 1, 2007

Tennis: Making Hockey Seem Popular Since I Really Don't Care

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It’s that time of year again. It’s time for the most anticipated sports event of the year. I’m talking, of course, about the French Open, an event rivaled only by the Arkansas Derby and the “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?” season finale. Unfortunately, there will be no more U.S. flava on the men’s draw this year, as all eight Americans were eliminated in round one at Roland Garros. This disastrous occurrence leaves me feeling devastatingly indifferent and tragically meh.
In all seriousness, tennis is in a major downswing. It’s doing slightly better than boxing, which placed all its hopes on survival on the Floyd Mayweather—Oscar de la Hoya fight being a classic (it wasn’t). Unless Antonio Tarver discovers a cure for AIDS or Wladimir Klitschko wins “Dancing with the Stars,” boxing is doomed. Anyway, back to tennis.
[img_assist|nid=23477|title=Lentils?|desc=I don’t know, they’re quite perky.|link=node|align=left|width=200|height=200]Since the great Agassi-Sampras rivalry of the 90s, the biggest competition in men’s tennis today is about who has more personality, Roger Federer or a bowl of lentils. (Personally, I’d take the lentils.) Nobody in tennis can come close to beating Federer on hard court or grass, so three out of the four major tournaments (The Australian Open, The U.S. Open, and Wimbledon) are a mere formality. The French Open, the grand slam’s Ringo, is also moot thanks to Rafael Nadal and his near total dominance on that red surface. In fact, nobody has been this dominant on clay since Aiken’s boyfriend (ba-da-bing). But who really cares about the French Open anyway? Here in the U.S, there are hardly any clay courts. If you want to play on one, you may want to invest in several kilns.
Women’s tennis isn’t a whole lot better. The Williams sisters have lost a lot of their appeal from earlier in the decade when one or the other was winning practically every major tournament. They are apathetic about the sport now, regardless of Serena’s Australian Open win this year. You probably don’t remember, but they made a reality show for crappy cable channel ABC Family back in 2005 called “Venus and Serena: For Real.” The show was all about their acting gigs, fashion lines, and red carpet appearances. I’ve seen more sports in episodes of “Project Runway.”
But one of the worst problems plaguing the sport of tennis is that it is badly run. The Davis Cup, which should be a thrilling international team competition inciting patriotism in the involved nations’ populace, is mishandled to such an extent that the episodes of “Dora the Explorer” are more exciting. Last month, the U.S. team, made up of top singles players Andy Roddick and James Blake, and top doubles team Mike and Bob Bryan, soundly defeated Spain in the quarterfinals. They advanced to take on Sweden in an anticipated semifinal match. And that match is so highly anticipated that we have four more months to anticipate it until it finally takes place in September. New episodes of “The Sopranos” are timelier.
It’s too bad that tennis should suffer the fate of a disinterested fan base, since it is one of the most widely played sports around the world. Unlike exclusive sports like golf, all you need to play tennis is a racquet, a net, and a pair of sneakers. (Clothes are technically optional, especially if the match is Hingis vs. Sharapova.) Hopefully, some young tennis players will grow up to be good enough to play in the major tournaments and potentially win them. And hopefully, they’ll be able to beat the lentils in terms of personality.