One of my greatest joys is to see how tennis rapidly becomes a lifestyle in and of itself for so many enthusiasts; young and old, beginner to competitor. There truly is no better choice for a healthy, fit and fun lifestyle!
That being said, the evolution of the game and its perception is vital to the sport’s continued success and we all know that change is difficult. We are at a crossroads in the tennis industry where thinking outside the traditional box, addressing the tough issues and getting organized is becoming more paramount than ever to the sport’s continued growth and enhancing the experience for players and spectators.
Tennis's public presentation could be dramatically improved if the powers that rule the pro game were not so fragmented. The main changes need to come from external factors—such as the calendar, technology and consistent rule enforcement.
Take the grunting on the women's tour, for example. The WTA acknowledges that it is a problem, but with two of their top three stars as the worst offenders, they are reluctant to address this until the next generation. The problem is, according to my friend and fellow commentator Mary Joe Fernandez, the next generation is already shrieking!
Wimbledon and the other majors would love to stem the infernal racket on the court, but continue to look to the Tours to fix the issue. Since it's not an ATP Tour problem, a good resolution would be for the ATP Tour to enact noise level guidelines. This would give cover to the Grand Slams who could then utilize these guidelines for all pro players. Give the players a year to adjust, and we as spectators and viewers could relax!
The time has come …
It's also time for a time clock on court to speed up play. All tournaments should install time clocks so the players are not operating in the dark, and know exactly when the 25 seconds allowed between points are up. I realize there is strong sentiment to avoid this and other technology creeping into the sport, but this is not going to hinder the integrity of the game or the athletes.
Davis Cup who?
Grand Slam events are the crown jewels of the calendar. The Davis Cup could stand alongside these majors, but the format stinks. The matches are played during the year and separated by months of Davis Cup inactivity. Ask an American about the Davis Cup and they will likely respond with “Um … Davis … what?” Do you know who won last year? Do you know who is still in this year? Do you care?
If the competition was played in a season like the NCAA’s March Madness, the NFL’s playoffs, soccer’s World Cup, or golf’s Ryder Cup, the Davis Cup would join those as part of the international sports landscape, and viewers would take notice.
Despite these issues, tennis remains the sport of a lifetime, and at the top echelon of the pro game, the Slams and the Masters 1000 of the ATP Tour, thrives. The WTA Tour is, by far, the most preeminent women's sport. No other comes close. Tennis also holds its own against competition from the online world. It is still the sport of exercise, competition, and most of all, fun!
<p>Cliff Drysdale is an International Tennis Hall of Famer, ESPN commentator and manager of tennis clubs nationwide, including Southampton Racquet Club and Camp in Southampton, N.Y.</p>