I've been hearing over the last couple of years about how tennis is on the
decline. People aren't watching (or even playing) as much tennis as they used to.
Tennis today simply isn't engaging our
imagination the way it did in the hey-days of the 1970's and 1980's. Back then you had great
personalities like Jimmy Conners, Martina Navratalova, Billie Jean King and John
McEnroe. You had five minute debates with umpires over bad calls, racquets flying
after missed shots, and the "game" of trying to figure out who was gay and who was not.
Tennis was a lot of fun then.
Now, all you have is just a whole bunch of the ball bouncing
back and forth. Everyone keeps their mouth shut. The drama just isn't there.
There isn't even a great rivalry to get excited about.
It hasn't reached Conners-McEnroe status, but I believe the rivalry between sisters
Venus and Serena Williams will be a fun one to watch in the next few years.
faced each other recently in an early round at the Australian Open with Venus coming
out on top. Though I was only able to catch some of the highlights on the sports
shows, it seems to me that a lot of tennis' problems could be solved by these two exciting players.
Even in the video clips, it was a thrill watching the colorfully beaded sisters fly through the air as they streaked across the court.
Tennis needs a soap opera for fans to latch on to in order to gain new spectators and new
participants. This could be the one: a sibling rivalry playing itself out on the court in
front of millions of people. They could be the Conners-McEnroe or the
Lloyd-Navratalova of the 21st century.
Another point that must be noted is the Williams sisters are African-Americans. Not since
Arthur Ashe has tennis had a black superstar, and that shows in the public and private
tennis courts of America. Part of tennis' problem, and the USTA in particular, is the
lack of minority participation in tennis. And while I have met several coaches and
players involved in bringing tennis to minorities through various camps and programs,
there still needs to be that superstar for kids to identify with.
With the Williams'
sisters, there are two potential superstars waiting in the wings. I can almost hear the
young girls already fighting over which one is going to be Venus and which one is
going to be Serena. Tennis needs to jump on this bandwagon now and be ready for to
put the public relations machine into high gear as these two sisters get a little older and better at
Let's hope that these sisters can bring tennis back to its glory-days and, at
the same time, take it to a whole new cultural level as well.
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