Rafael Nadal wins his ninth French Open title. He topped No. 2 in the world Novak Djokovic. And for the ladies,Maria (Sugarpova) Sharapova, female champion. Whether you’re a tennis fan or not, most likely those are names you have heard of along with Roger Federer, Andy Murray, and Serena and Venus Williams. As a player, I am captivated by how easy they make the game look when in reality, physically and mentally it’s an absolute grind. No doubt about it. Watching them hit winners, make mistakes, master what seems like the impossible is fascinating. But recently, in my opinion, the sport on the women’s side, is less than interesting. Hear me out.
Tennis has evolved over the years from wooden racquets to body shape. Today, women’s singles consists of smashing the ball from the baseline, rarely moving up to the net unless they have to. Impressive but boring. And adding to the lull: who are these women? I grew up watching Martina Hingis, Steffi Graf, Lindsay Davenport, and still around today Serena and Venus Williams. Replacing some of the former stars, Maria Sharapova and…… and… who else is there? Chris Evert and Billie Jean King of yesteryear. Today there are fleeting stars, names that win big and then you never hear of again. It may get boring to see Federer and Nadal or Nadal and Djokovic play each other over and over again in the major tournaments, but truly it’s not boring. They give you someone to root for. Since you always see their faces on TV and their endorsements of watches, and more often than not you have seen them play before, you feel like you know them. You’ve latched on to their narrative and their brand, and now you feel somewhat invested in their successes and failures. On top of that, fans tune into see if anyone can actually beat Nadal on clay. And if that happens, could Djokovic be that guy? However, for the women, in the French Open, for example, once Serena got knocked out… simply said: I didn’t care. Not interested. I barely know and can barely pronounce any of the other contenders’ names. Sorry I’m not sorry.
To take this example one step further, former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki maybe you know her more for her ex-boyfriend Rory McIlroy than her tennis game? Or maybe not. I know it’s not quite the Kimye circus you hear about constantly, but regardless, what ever happened to her? Where has she been? In the past two years, 5 different women have won the U.S. Open, Wimbledon, the Australian Open and the French Open combined. On the other hand, men’s singles has had 3 and either Nadal, Federer, Djokovic or Murray reached the finals in all of those cases. Serena Williams has been the most consistent of the women but even she got knocked out early in this year’s French Open. I’m NOT bashing the sport. Tennis is one of the most difficult if not the most difficult sport to play in my eyes, but when talking about pure entertainment, fans need consistency. Think about it in terms of the NBA. Love him or hate him, LeBron James does wonders for the game. You know him, you watch him, you marvel at him, you want to burn his jerseys, whatever, but he’s got the sport by the horns. If neither he nor the heat were in the finals, would you watch? Maybe. Would it be as interesting? You probably wouldn’t have seen a hulk carried off the court like a prince due to cramps, I can tell you that much.
Women’s tennis needs its Queen James. It’s hanging by a racquet string to the few women leaving their mark in the clay. Nothing, no one will take away from each lady’s accomplishments but at the end of the day, sports are a form of entertainment and to be entertained we need a cast of characters to relate to, not extras making cameos.