Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Same Damn Shots

I follow tennis just loosely enough to wonder if my impression of the game had become clouded by groundless nostalgia, but a recent article in The New Yorker set me right. In today's professional tennis circles, within the singles game,

of the top 25 men, all but one -- Radek Stepanek -- play predominantly from the backcourt, and the women come to the net even less often. "All the kids hit the same damn shots," Rosie Casals [says].
The same damn shots indeed, and it's monotonous. At what should be its highest levels, tennis has all but ceased to be a game of finesse, skill, guile, or grace, and has become a showcase of technology-enhanced brutishness -- one that is painful to watch, as painfully tedious, I am unhappy to say, as baseball, possibly even golf.

For the sake of the game as a spectator attraction and as a contest of tennis-like skill, I like the idea that there should be at least one major tournament each year in which all players must compete with identical racquets in terms of size, weight, materials, length, and so on. I would take it as far as making the players leave the racquet on one side of the court, so that they trade racquets from set to set. Racquets would become equalized in the same way as surface, weather, ball, net, lighting, noise level, and other significant factors.

Something like the one shown here would do nicely, with frame attached would be even better.

If someone can hit a 140mph serve with one of these racquets, more power to him/her/it, but I would expect any such creature to submit to thorough drug testing shortly thereafter.

Who knows? It could get people to play tennis again instead of whatever they're doing in today's game, which more and more approximates tennis in the way that firing an assault rifle approximates archery.

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