What do "One-on-One Doubles" tournaments, "Beach Tennis" tournaments and "QuickStart Tennis" tournaments have in common? The answer is ... these events, while greatly valuable, should not be understood as the heart and soul of tennis. They are tennis competitions, rather than traditional tournaments. One-on-One Doubles, Beach Tennis and QuickStart might be enjoyable, worthwhile, challenging and exciting, but market them as "I can't believe it's not tennis," rather than as "Tennis."
Miniature golf is fun, and might even improve putting skills, but The USGA doesn't try to sell it as "Golf."
Variations on the game are an exciting trend when understood in the right context, however, the core foundation of tennis rests on traditional competitions like the U.S. Open that are fairly and legitimately conducted. As the tennis world expands and adapts its formats, it should be recognized that the sport cannot, and must not, subvert its identity and integrity.
I applaud the USTA on the marketing coup of Chris Evert & Mike Greenberg entering and playing in the U.S. Open National Playoffs a few weeks back. This is great for the sport, since it brings attention to the U.S. Open National Playoffs which is an inspiring event.
Alarmingly however, I have heard a great deal of talk from credible people that their match was conducted like an exhibition. The rumor is that the draw was set up so that champion Evert, and celebrity Greenberg would play top level, experienced opponents who know how to play with Pro Am protocol and deference. It was said that Evert & Greenberg did not want to face two kids who would not understand the promotional spirit of the match and entered only with the assurance that they would play mature and accomplished opponents. The fact that they would draw Bea Bielik, the 2002 NCAA Champion and Darrin Cohen, a former standout at Virginia who happened to be the tournament's strongest team and eventual champions, in the first round, raises some questions.
While it is true that Bielik & Cohen played a match before meeting Evert & Greenberg (who got a bye), this gives no more then a little assurance that this was a legitimate draw because the likelihood of Bielik & Cohen losing to good, but vastly less experienced players was remote.
Furthermore, many who watched Evert & Greenberg, said that the match had the competitive appearance and feel of an exhibition, rather than a real U.S. Open qualifying match.
I hope the talk is all completely untrue and the events surrounding this match and the ensuing rumors are just the result of remarkable coincidences. This event is a part of the U.S. Open since the regional winner goes to the nationals and the winner of that tournament is placed in the main draw of the 2011 U.S. Open. This was not a promotional Pro Am and sorry, but you just cannot have it both ways. Please tell me that this match was not manipulated or staged in any way.
It is almost inconceivable to consider that the U.S. Open is not 100 percent pure because if this year's U.S. Open National Mixed-Doubles Playoff was tampered with, then the U.S. Open was corrupted, albeit in an indirect way and to an incidental extent.
Tennis is not "sports entertainment" like the WWE, and if treated as such, it lessens the sport.
Steven Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation and executive director and founder of Serve & Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally-ranked junior players, 16 New York State high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.