I’ve been playing tennis for 34 years. I truly enjoy the game. Every time I step on to the court, it brings me back to my junior tennis years and I feel like a kid again. I wrote this article not to be critical, but as an observation on how the sport of tennis is losing its traditional values.
I grew up playing tennis, usually wearing a Lacoste shirt that came in several different colors and white shorts. The shirt had a collar and the shorts had a classic look. Today's outfits are quite different. I am not a big fan of the cut-off sleeveless shirts. I see a lot of pros who wear them. I play in a North Shore league, and quite often, my opponents wear these types of shirts. Sometimes, I don’t know if I should serve to them or wrestle them. Two years ago, I watched a match at the U.S. Open. One of the players wore a shirt that had two holes in the back shoulder blade area. What’s up with that? I enjoyed the match, but kept thinking how ugly his shirt was. Most tennis apparel today is not made of cotton. I personally do not see any advantage to micro fiber. It feels like polyester and sticks to your skin. Most people would agree the McEnroe, Borg and Connors era was the most exciting in tennis. I don't see where cotton slowed them down. I think t-shirts look fine. There are some pretty cool t-shirts out there and most of them are cotton. My suggestion to the tennis fashion world is to stick to the basics. You will sell more outfits, and more importantly, your customers will look better in them.
It is hard to find a racket these days. There are so many choices. They are made of Aerogel, Microgel, fiberglass and a little bit of graphite. Some of them have holes in the frames. I think most people would agree the original Prince graphite is the best racket ever made. Some top juniors still use this racket. You don’t see many 100 percent graphite rackets these days. Pro Kennex makes a great 100 percent graphite racket called the Heritage Redondo. This racket has a great traditional feel. Not only will it take your game to a next level, but you will be able to hit a drop shot that Nadal couldn’t even get to. I know what you are thinking, who is Pro Kennex? I realize racket manufacturers have to be creative to sell rackets. I think they can still be creative and carry a 100 percent graphite racket in their selection.
I love going to the U.S. Open. I was a ball boy as a kid and am very familiar with how the tournament is run. It is a great New York event. I used to enjoy watching the matches on the outside courts the most. Obviously, today most of the matches are in Ashe, Louis Armstrong Stadium and the grandstand. This past year, we were watching Roddick in Ashe Stadium wipe some guy off the court in the first set. At least from my Section 322 seat, I think it was Roddick. I said to my wife and daughter, “Let’s get out of here.” We settled down watching a girl’s junior match on an outside court that went three sets. We all agreed this was more enjoyable than watching tennis where you have to look at the scoreboard to know who’s playing. My suggestion to the United States Tennis Association (USTA) is put one less match a day on the stadium courts and put the match on the outside courts. This way, the day matches won’t run into the night matches, which often happens and an avid tennis fan like myself will get a better value for his ticket.
My daughter is 10-years-old and has been taking lessons for four years. Emilie (her pro) is a great instructor and concentrates on the fundamentals of the game. I hear from friends in my neighborhood that their pros recommend using weights. I do not think any kid should lift weights and certainly not at 10-years-old. My guess is Roger Federer has never lifted a weight in his life. Tennis is a game of endurance and agility. Jogging and jump-roping is better preparation for serious juniors than lifting weights.
I know tennis has grown tremendously in the past 25 years. I also know that every game has to change with the times, but it is important to keep up the traditional values. My opinions and suggestions are to bring back these values. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I just cannot picture Bjorn Borg wining Wimbledon, falling to his knees and wearing a ripped shirt.