Professional tennis deserves more love

In a crowded landscape, tennis goes unnoticed

The sport has a lot going for it.

If you want some strange looks to come your way around the dinner table or at a party, confess that your favourite professional sport to follow is tennis. Diehard tennis fans appear to be few and far between, despite all the perks of following the sport.

Being a tennis fan means having a sport to follow for 11 months of the year, from the Australian Open in January to the Tour Finals and international team competitions in November.

While steering clear of an off-season lull, tennis also avoids the monotony of other sports by having different tournaments almost every week.

One does not have to watch a team—who may be miles out of a playoff spot with a month to go—sleepwalk through the end of the season. In tennis, every match is meaningful.

Along with every tournament being a clean slate for the players, their individual character—especially the many classic and beautiful venues—always provides something fresh. The venues being spread across the globe gives the sport an international flavour.

Wimbledon, played in London, is best described as regal: grass courts, the all-white dress code, strawberries and cream, the military-trained ball boys and girls, the royal family connection.

Meanwhile, the US Open, played in New York, is gritty: hard courts; pop, rock, and dance music blaring during changeovers; matches that go to all hours of the night; raucous crowds.

The Davis Cup, tennis’ premier international men’s team competition, has its tradition rooted in national teams playing in front of home crowds. With matchups usually taking place in one of the competing countries, fans show up with their flags and face paint. Matches are usually played in indoor stadiums that add to the atmosphere.

Sprinkle in the Monte Carlo seaside, the California desert, the brick clubhouse in London, and the Andes Mountains in Rio, and you get some of the best venues and events in all of sports. Topographical diversity is truly one of tennis’ strengths.

Tennis’ different playing surfaces provide players and fans with far more than aesthetic variety. They each present a unique set of challenges for the competitors, allowing different players to shine through and exhibit their skills.

Heavy serves and aggressive play shine on the grass. Foot speed, topspin on the ball, and the ability to grind out a point is the winning formula on clay.

The breadth and depth of coverage afforded to the women’s game is another great thing about professional tennis. The WTA Tour is extremely prominent and is shown on national TV regularly, exposing fans to a whole new cast of characters and a variety of playing styles.

Tennis is also one of the few professional sports that pays both men and women fairly, with women playing for prize money equal to the men at the highest level.

Being that it’s an individual sport, fans can support their favourite tennis players much differently than they do their favourite players in team sports. In team sports, fans are pressured to live and die with one club—for better or worse.

In tennis, there is no such that as a “bandwagon” fan. It’s perfectly acceptable to support the best players while drifting away from those who get eliminated early.

Tennis players are great at expressing their personalities, especially through their on-court attire. Despite tennis often being criticized as a stuffy and conservative sport, tennis fashion is much more exciting than the team uniforms that many pro athletes are forced to wear.

Roger Federer’s Wimbledon cardigan spoke to his class. Rafael Nadal’s muscle shirts showed off his athleticism. Serena William’s catsuits exhibited her status as a trailblazer. Nick Kyrgios’ red hat showed that he prioritizes his own image over his sport’s institutions.

With August featuring some of the best tournaments on the calendar—the men’s and women’s tours each make a stop in Canada—and culminating in the US Open, it’s the perfect time to become invested in this beautiful sport that remains a hidden cultural gem.

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