We are seeing the game on the ATP Tour better than at any other time in the history of men’s tennis. The historic accomplishments of The Big Four—Fed, Rafa, Djoker and Murray the Scott—have promoted the game to levels of interest never seen before. The game has always had its ups and downs, driven by the star power of the top players. The main difference is the complete global nature of the sport of tennis. When I played in the 1990s, there were massive stars like Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Boris Becker and many others, but the tour’s stars came from only a few nations. Today’s stars come from countries like Serbia that did not exist just 20 years ago. The popularity of tennis around the world is tied directly to the instant ability of social media that allows the player to show the off-the-court side of themselves. The many amazing stories of great white shark hunting with Agassi in Australia or parasailing with Sampras in Qatar stayed in my tennis journal and photo albums, but today, the experience would be shared live as it happened to tennis fans around the world.
The game is evolving at supersonic speed. The strings with the ability to add amazing amounts of spin and now racquets specifically developed to add even more production through spin. The game of tomorrow is going on today!
What we see on the WTA Tour is a tour in transition. The ATP went through this early on in the last decade. Agassi and Sampras were handing the game over to Fed, Roddick and Rafa. The Williams Sisters are doing the same thing to stars like American Sloane Stephens, a semifinalist at this year’s Aussie Open with a win over Serena Williams. Stephens is a hybrid player between power and control—the ability to strike fast with offense like Serena and counter with redirected absorption of the opponent’s power like Martina Hingis. Stephens is a superstar at her core. I have seen her handle media, sponsors and fans with confidence and poise. Her game is just starting to explode. Like all young stars, she will make her mistakes, but as her self-confidence grows, so will her poise in big pressure moments. Until her run at the Aussie Open, I did not see a “can’t miss” Grand Slam American prospect. I even saw Stevens as a very emotional underachiever, but what I saw from her in the first major of the year changed everything. As long as injury, wealth and fame do not slow her down, I believe we are going to see Miss Sloane Stephens fill her trophy case with a bunch of Grand Slam titles.
Until next time … keep going for the lines!