Wimbledon Needs A Needle-Turner at Center Court!
Let’s be real here. Tennis is not the sport it once was in the eyes of most Americans.
When I was growing up in the 90’s, tennis was a big deal. You had big names like Andre Agassi and Pete Samphras, and together, they put on one of the most fantastic runs in tennis. Not to mention, on the women’s side of the game, where there was Monica Seles who was well on her way to becoming one of the top women tennis players in the history of the game. Then of course there was her rival, Steffi Graff, who was also dominating the tennis scene during the 90’s and was named The Greatest Female Tennis Player of the 20th Century by the Associated Press.
But tennis has gone a long way since then. Sure, the Williams sisters certainly raised the game to a whole new level when they joined the circuit. They even had the “Tiger Woods Effect” on viewership and national interest for a good couple of years early in this decade. However, with subsiding injuries, inconsistent effort, and various outside interests, their once dominating effect has faded.
As for the Men’s side, it has been very dull for a long time. I think the most exciting thing to happen for American tennis fans over the past 3 years was Agassi’s final run at the U.S. Open. Sure, Roger Federer’s run has been nice, but there are many who have questioned the level of competition that he has had to face over the span of his dominance. And the answer is that there just hasn’t been anyone who has competed with him, outside of Raphael Nadal’s dominance on clay, which makes Federer’s run even less amazing because it means that he hasn’t even totally dominated the sport.
So why do I bring this up during Tennis’s ultimate prize, Wimbledon?
I do this to say that if there is one silver lining to this game’s recent history, it is the fact that it has created some of the best rivalries in sport right now. Which is quite amazing, because it is quite unlikely that two of the favorites in tennis make it to the finals, or even to a match late in the tournament. There are just too many rounds and too many upsets. And yet, despite that fact, we have seen a few great late round matches between top players over the past couple of years. Most notably, Federer vs. Nadal, and Venus vs. Serena.
Needless to say, matches like those turn the needle. It’s the only reason anyone on this side of the pond watched this last version of the French Open, and it’s also why Venus and Serena are often called the sisters of tennis. These two matchups/rivalries, whatever you want to call them, are not only a battle of the best, but they are epic contests, ones that we will talk about years from now and marvel at on ESPN Classic.
Which is why, in this year’s Wimbledon, these matches have to occur. With favorites falling out left and right, and these four still remaining, fans of tennis are sitting on the edge of their seats for what could be the most anticipated Breakfast at Wimbledon in years. If both of these matches take center court at the end of this tournament, this will go down as one of the most epic Grand Slams of all time. Fans will rejoice. Tennis will consume the sports-devoid summer (until the Olympics that is), and the momentum of Wimbledon will carry all the way across the pond to good old Queens New York later this August.
If these four don’t tango, tennis will continue to go on… as is. But an opportunity missed, is an opportunity lost.
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