Monday, July 07, 2008
Is the sun setting on tennis in America?
Madison tennis courts were far from filled on Wimbledon Sunday. Sure, there were some people playing today -- but in late in the afternoon of a sunny summer day, when the heat of mid-afternoon had started to wane, there was absolutely nobody except a nostalgic photographer on the courts at West High School. There was a time when all of Madison's many public courts would be jammed all summer long, but not now. It's no longer rare to see the melancholy sight of not just one empty court, but many. The popularity of tennis is waning in the U.S., which seems reflected in the nationality of the finalists in the Grand Slam tournaments -- the amazing Williams sisters to the contrary.
I used to play a lot of tennis, and the sight of an empty public court still triggers an atavistic reflex to grab it before somebody else takes it. But for my knees' sake, I'm laying off till I lose another 20 of the pounds I gained when I stopped smoking. Meanwhile, I'm contenting myself with tennis on television. Today I was rewarded with one of the greatest matches I've ever seen -- Nadal's epic 5-set, winning Wimbledon men's final battle with Federer, with all the suspense and reversals of fortune anybody could want. It was one of those matches where you really could say both players were winners, even though Nadal won the championship. After the match John McEnroe felt compelled to give Roger Federer an awkward hug, and you could see why he felt that way.