Google Down the Line!: THE LOW DOWN: Wertheim + Tignor don't care about Olympic tennis - do you?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

THE LOW DOWN: Wertheim + Tignor don't care about Olympic tennis - do you?

SI's Jon Wertheim and TENNIS mag's Steve Tignor can't seem to understand why we should care about tennis in the Olympics.

When a reader asked Wertheim recently if he'll be including an Olympic-size version of his weekly "Tennis Mailbag" he says he's "passing" on the Games. Why? I'll let him explain:

Beijing messes everything up. Injuries are rampant, as players don't have time to recover after the Slams. The Masters Series events are moved two weeks ahead in the calendar. Players are wary of taxing themselves too much before Beijing so we have unfortunate situations such the now-infamous Montreal doubles session. The U.S. Open Series is more or less a fragmented mess, characterized by weak draws. (If this is the "Greatest Road Trip" in sports, maybe we should go on a cruise.)
He ends his response by saying, "I suppose we should simply resign ourselves to the unfortunate fact that once every four years, the summer calendar will be a mess." Right, as if the tennis schedule is such a gem normally.

In his blog Tignor whines (and I mean that in the worst sense) that tennis is "diminished by the Olympic surroundings" and the only way its fans (and apparently its mainstream media) can truly appreciate the sport is on its "home turfs" such as Arthur Ashe or Rod Laver Stadium or even Wimbledon's Centre Court (which Tignor believes won't help Olympic tennis when it's played there in 2012 because it won't be called "Wimbledon".)

He ends by saying,
No matter how long tennis remains in the Olympics or how many of the top players compete, "gold medal" will never be synonymous with the sport the way "Grand Slam" is. For that reason alone, we won't need to watch it.
P-P-P-lease. Are we so close-minded and self-involved that we can't appreciate the sport in any and all contexts, from the Olympics to a city park? Or is it that the mainstream tennis media feels encroached upon, that "others" are co-opting coverage of the sport they should own??

Maybe that's why they feel the need to render Olympic tennis meaningless and unimportant.

(image via Getty)


  1. I agree. While I've always been a fan of Jon Wertheim's column & his views on the game, I was disappointed with what he thinks of tennis in the Olympics. Sure, a gold medal may never equal a Grand Slam, but just because tennis might not be one of the "spotlight" events at the games doesn't mean it's worthless. Clearly, many of the top players care about the Olympics enough to participate in it (in risk of "messing up" their schedule), so why, as tennis fans, should we ignore their effort & cast this off as a tier II event (or worse)? Not to mention that when many consider the sport to be dwindling, why should anyone (tennis "experts", no less) suggest anybody to NOT watch it during the biggest sports event in the world? It's exactly this kind of mindset that gives the general public the false impression that tennis is such a clique-ish, esoteric sport.

  2. I'm sure that those competing for a real honor of taking a medal home for their country would have to agree to disagree with his way of thinking. How ridiculous.

  3. Guess we should forget the Olympics, Davis Cup and all those pesty tournaments in between the Slams.

  4. They show the Olympic tennis matches at 2 in the morning where I live so I never get to watch and I can't say I care much about tennis in the Olympics. For some athletes the only time they really get to shine is every 4 years at the Olympics so the focus should be on them. I'll just wait for the US Open to get my tennis fix. To me the Slams do matter more.


  5. kakeru: great points all around. yes the sport of tennis wants to grow and evolve yet at the same time wants to preserve and maintain a "separate but we want to be equal" mindset. you can't have it both ways. in fact, the olympics is a great opportunity to ride alongside more popular sports and leverage what they do well and expose their fans to tennis. no brainer to me.

    tennis thinks it has all the answers and can fix the problems itself. it's such a self-defeating perspective.

    b2012: yes, exactly. i'm tempted to say it's a very american mindset. they're (especially tignor) having temper tantrums because the US Open Series - the USTA's idea of great marketing and innovation - is being overshadowed and disrupted by the Olympics and no one is paying attention to them.

    but have they seen the Series commercials? they're amateurish, low-quality, uninteresting, and corny - all messages the USTA is sending out about the sport.

    Hmmm - maybe that's the REAL reason no one cares. so i wouldn't blame the Olympics, just their poor judgement.

  6. Lisa - it's not about mattering more or less than the Slams because we all know, right now anyway, a gold medal doesn't equal a Grand Slam title. but, it's about Olympic tennis mattering at all. they're attitude is "why should we care at all?" and then give these flimsy reasons which really have no basis.

    the reality is there is prestige that goes along with the Olympics. it happens every four years so is it really that bothersome?

    in fact it is a great showcase for tennis especially to people who never watch it - just like a lot of the other sports there. isn't that one of the great things about the Games? we want the sport to grow but we don't want it to be seen on the biggest stage in sports? does the really make any sense??

    i say appreciate the opportunity and do something with it besides complaining.

  7. i love tennis completely but i actually look forward to watching volleyball and swimming and stuff during the olympics. so i dont think tennis should dominate the limelight at the olympics.
    that said, it shouldnt be dropped from the olympics either because its good for all sports to come together once every four years.

    btw: do basketball fans complain as much as tennis fans? i'm not sure.

  8. Oh I've been putting tennis on a backseat too, since only during the Olympics would I pay such close attention to sports like gymnastics, swimming, diving, track, etc etc. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't watch tennis AT ALL, I think that's the point here.

  9. Look, when athletes go to compete in an event, obviously they care enough about it to work at it. So as fans, should we not care? THEY are the ones playing with a passion. THEY are the ones giving us entertainment. Who are we to belittle their effort in any event?

    Just my 2 cents.

  10. It would make things to much more interesting if they'd even show the matches on tv, or even mention that it's going on! There's been so many interesting match ups, especially the next rounds that are barely going to be covered. I'd much rather see Rafa VS Nole than beach volleyball or rowing! Makes you wanna scream at the tv. ugh.

  11. Totally agree with kakeru, rich and babz. Apparently the athletes do care. And as a tennis fan, OF COURSE I DO, TOO.

    I really don't see the sense in despising any tournament for that matter. Sure, there are some more important ones - obviously the ones that matter point-wise and all.
    But still, I love to see tennis whenever possible. And it's true, olympic tennis maybe does reach more people who normally don't watch it, and if we don't want that to happen, it'd still be that snobbish elite sport it used to be.

    "The U.S. Open Series is more or less a fragmented mess."
    What is up with that? Last time I checked, the US Open Series were not the one and only event in tennis that matters. It's not like we're bored out of our minds halfway through the season, just eagerly awaiting the summer swing in the "center of the world" to finally get some "real tournaments" - hello? It's all tennis, and it's all wonderful!
    Wertheim seems like a defiant child to me here: "Beijing stole my thunder, now I hate it."

  12. "THEY are the ones playing with a passion. THEY are the ones giving us entertainment. Who are we to belittle their effort in any event?"

    great point babz - i love how the media thinks they should decide what's important, what has value, what we as fans should watch and care about with tennis.

    if the baller's find it important, and they've said over and over how important the olympics are to them, then the media should cover it. without them we have no sport.

  13. "they're (especially tignor) having temper tantrums because the US Open Series - the USTA's idea of great marketing and innovation - is being overshadowed and disrupted by the Olympics and no one is paying attention to them."

    I do not think I can add anything to this that will not have me accused of being racist or prejudiced, as I am not American, but I agree wholeheartedly.

    I just don't get it. As you say Rich, once every four years is too much for tennis players to pay attention to the biggest sports event in the world? To have the opinion that the Olympics is stealing the limelight from the US open is just ridiculous. Much like a boy whose toy is taken away, do you not think?

    ALL hardcore tennis fans WILL watch the US open. We're not stupid or ignorant - we know the Olympics don't matter as much to the rankings and whatnot, as yet. The players know it too. Yet they go and compete and giving it their all (ie. Fed. LOVE the roar over Berdych win) and endorsing Olympic tennis left and right. Maybe they realize Olympics is another way of bringing tennis to the masses?

    All I know is, tennis could use a little more following as it is a great sport, a huge sport, yet where is it now? In the world of internet and globalization, the world of tennis is still very clique-y, to borrow Kakeru's words. If you are already in the know, in the thick of it, sure there are enough coverage to satisfy even the most obsessive of fangirl/boy. But what about the general mass? I am lucky enough to have my Grandpa introduce me to this beautiful sport. But as far as I know, I am the only one amongst my friends to watch and follow it. As of today, I have lived in 3 places of 2 countries. Not too many places, but you'd think I'd find one, just one average tennis fan. Nope. Nada.

    I just wish that people privileged enough to have live tennis matches coverage all year long would appreciate it more. I guess it's true that it's hard to look down from the top. All this whining reeks of snobbishness covered up thinly with their titles as editor of this and editor of that.

    Spread the love people, and appreciate. Thou shall not be immune to the foolishness of players and put them on pedestals, but thou should appreciate what they do for the good of the sport.

    Sorry for the rant Rich!


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