If America were England...? - TennisForum.com
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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old Dec 1st, 2006, 01:42 PM Thread Starter
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If America were England...?

Lots of talk these days about the decline of American tennis?

One question for me is, will the sport continue to be popular in this country if it doesn't have American super stars.

Right now, there are no American male superstars, because Federer overshadows everyone in the sport (and wins all the slams, save the French)

On the women's side right now, the only superstars are named Williams and Williams and while it is probably still possible for either or both of them to make some real noise in tennis, it may not be probable. It all depends upon their ability to keep injury free and their interest in the sport in the first place.

Other sports where Americans do not lead the pack don't do well in America. Soccer has never really become a top pro sport here. Hockey is really struggling this year, with attendance down all over the country. (My opinion is that the sport has no superstar right now from any country). OPen wheel auto racing (of the Indy variety) is now an afterthought to NASCAR, in almost everyone's opinion because Americans don't win.

But look at England. It hasn't produced a winner in tennis since Queen Victoria's day. (ok, I'm exaggering -- but only a little). Yet England continues to put on the biggest, most successful tennis tournament in the world.

Americans are used to Americans winning the big ones in tennis, including the US OPen. How many times will Americans see girls named Clijsters, Sharapova, Kuznetsova, etc, win their big tournament before they start tuning tennis out?
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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old Dec 1st, 2006, 02:19 PM
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Re: If America were England...?

I think now in the USA the extreme sports rule. Kids get bored by tennis quickly, if there's not enough adrenaline.
On the other hand, England is more conservatory. Tennis there is a tradition.
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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old Dec 1st, 2006, 02:23 PM
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Re: If America were England...?

Tennis just isn't as big as football, baseball, basketball, soccer, or even hockey here in the U.S.

I don't know if it could ever be ahead of those other sports.
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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old Dec 1st, 2006, 02:51 PM
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Re: If America were England...?

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Originally Posted by ▪Derek▪ View Post
Tennis just isn't as big as football, baseball, basketball, soccer, or even hockey here in the U.S.

I don't know if it could ever be ahead of those other sports.
The fact that tennis is in competition with so many
other sports in the US and the fact that this is an
individual sport weighs heavily.

In the US, Tennis & Golf are in the same boat,
which is why they rely so heavily on individual
personalities ala Tiger/Michelle & Venus/Serena.

Ratings and interest soar when they are in
the hunt for major titles.

However, I will say that golf is better off than tennis
however for the simple fact that more international
stars in the US are known in golf as oppossed to in
tennis.
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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old Dec 1st, 2006, 02:54 PM
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Re: If America were England...?

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Originally Posted by Sefo View Post
I think now in the USA the extreme sports rule. Kids get bored by tennis quickly, if there's not enough adrenaline.
On the other hand, England is more conservatory. Tennis there is a tradition.
Tennis tradition in England(UK)

there's 10 times as many sports in UK than there are in the US.

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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old Dec 1st, 2006, 03:03 PM
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Re: If America were England...?

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Originally Posted by TonyP View Post
But look at England. It hasn't produced a winner in tennis since Queen Victoria's day. (ok, I'm exaggering -- but only a little). Yet England continues to put on the biggest, most successful tennis tournament in the world.
??

Well ENGLAND ( ) isn't going to stop hosting Wimbledon. We dont really deserve a slam in this country right now.. the LTA is a complete and utter joke.

But about the thread... like any country, interest in the sport will increase if they have a top player to follow regularly on TV. When Andy Murray or Tim Henman played at Wimbledon there was always huge interest - HENMANIA used to sweep the country for two weeks ... but then no one hears anything about tennis for the next 50 weeks.

Women's tennis sucks.
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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old Dec 1st, 2006, 03:59 PM
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Re: If America were England...?

For me Tennis is the U.K. is going foward !

U.S Players have been so unlucky

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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old Dec 1st, 2006, 04:40 PM
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Re: If America were England...?

I hate to be the lone dissenter, but I think tennis in the U.S. will do just fine for years to come. Let's look at the history of sports in general and tennis in particular in the U.S.

Team Sports like football, basketball, baseball, etc. have become the purview of the wealthy owners who spend big bucks for big name players and the entire genre is driven by people with money out to make more money so the price of a ticket continues to spiral upwards. Attendance has to make up for a large portion of the cost of running and transporting a professional sports team, so as the economy fluctuates, attendence fluctuates and the success of a team will rise and fall. Right now, all team sports in the U.S. are declining in attendance with few exceptions.

Tennis, like golf and the other individual sports, will (1) always be available to anyone who can afford the price of a racket and a couple of cans of balls, and has a love for competition;
(2) will continue to be dependent on big name sponsors like Sony, Landrover, Nike, Spalding, etc. who are willing to pay the way for the top talent to compete for the top prises, (3) has a tremendous amount of historical perspective in the U.S. for all generations, old and new, in the U.S. with people like Arthur Ashe, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Chrs Evert, and so on, and so on (4) still has some of the best trainers and training facilities in the world, and will continue to attract some of the top talent in the world like Maria Sharapova who has a bigger following in the U.S. than she does in her native Russia.

All things considered, tennis is just as much of a tradition in the U.S. as it is in Great Britian. While the U.S. Open certainly can't match the history, tradition and pomp of Wimbledon, in terms of success, and thus, attractiveness for sponsors, the U.S. Open will be around for a long time to come. Add to that the success of such events at the San Diego Pan Pacific, and the tournaments in Miami, Los Angeles, Phoenix, etc. tennis will be around for a long time to come in the U.S. and the dominence will shift from time to time. Right now, in women's tennis, the power resides in Russia. I don't know the first thing about men's tennis since I prefer to watch athletes who depend on skill, grace and finesse as opposed to raw power. In any case, two or three years from now, it may shift back to the U.S. or to Canada or Australia or wherever the then-current superstar leads the sponsors. And the wheel will continue to turn.
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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old Dec 1st, 2006, 05:16 PM Thread Starter
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Re: If America were England...?

First, let me clear up a few things, based on McQuest's post. I was not trying to imply that amateur tennis, the kind you and I play, is going to die in America. That won't happen.

My comments are confined to the professional sport as a viable entity in a crowded sports marketplace, where it must compete with golf and team sports for fan support, and for the all important TV coverage.

That, incidentally, in my view is one indication of the slipping interest in tennis. Tennis is being shown less often these days on network TV and more and more on cable channels, where the ratings are usually much lower than they are for NBC, CBS, ABC. I assume many homes don't even get the tennis channel.

Does tennis have the advantage of not belonging to wealthy owners? Well, I am not sure how that impacts the continued popularity of the sport, but the fact is, the slams are their own wealthy owners and many smaller tournaments are owned by IMG, which also owns Bollettieri, and reps various players. And then there is the influence of Nike. Actually, there is probably more financial conflict of interest in tennis than in many other sports. I don't think most leagues allow owners to own teams in more than one city, where as IMG owns tournaments where ever it wants.

America does, in fact, probably have the best training facilities in the world, with perhaps Barcelona running second. But that does NOT seem to mean America is turning out the best players, at least, not lately.

Does America have a strong a tennis tradition as England? It might, but I am not sure in America's case, that will mean tennis will survive as a top professional sport.

The Indianapolis 500 used to be pretty much the most prestigeous motor race in the world, equalled only to some extent by Le Mans in the eyes of the world. (Most American motorsports fans knew of LeMans, non fans thought LeMans was just a GM product name.)

Today the Indy 500 gets less press attention than the NASCAR Brickyard 400 run on the same track. And races at Daytona, Talledaga and other tracks also overshadow the 500. Why? Because Paul Tracy is a Canadian and Helio Castanadies (sp) is a Latino and other drivers are from France and Brazil and other places "whar they don't even be speakin' good English."

Yes, America has a great tradition of tennis superstars, men's running from Tilden to Gonzales, to Connors, to McEnroe to the just retired Agassi and Sampras. And on the women's side, there have been Moody and Connelly, and King and Evert and Navratilova and Seles (both imports).

But that was then and this is now. I suspect fewer and fewer young players are putting John McEnroe posters up on their walls these days. A few might still put up Jennifer Capriati posters, but her memory is going to fade as well.

Kids aren't going to dream about becoming the next Andy Roddick, if Andy doesn't get busy and win another slam. And I don't think any kids are dreaming about becoming the next Jill Craybas. I'm sure there are not many British kids spending that much time swatting tennis balls in their sleep either these days and Wimbledon lives because it makes money.

The US Open might survive without American stars, too, but I think that is less likely. They don't tear things down in England quite as often as we do. Center Court might stand another 100 years. Arthur Ashe stadium could be gone, just like lots of other sports arenas, in a moment's time, if somebody finds something more profitable to do with the land, and something pulling down higher TV ratings than America's big stennis show draws two weeks a year.
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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old Dec 1st, 2006, 06:20 PM
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Re: If America were England...?

I guess I’m just not getting your point. You say, “One question for me is, will the sport continue to be popular in this country if it doesn't have American super stars.” My reply is that, the survival of an individual sport like tennis is not dependent on one or even a handful of superstars. As long as we have amateurs competing in tennis we have the opportunity to develop new competitive professionals. We also have a continuing interest in the sport in general because we have thousands and perhaps millions of people who play it routinely and who will continue to have an interest in the sport whether their country is represented or not. Also take into consideration the American tendency to adopt any professional athlete who comes to the U.S. to train. They may maintain their allegiance to their native country, but as long as they live and train in the U.S. we point and say, “Hey, that’s my girl” or “Wow, look at that! He’s my guy”.

You also ask the question, “Does tennis have the advantage of not belonging to wealthy owners?” Here, we have no disagreement. The lack of wealthy owners does not have any impact on tennis and that was my point. You compare football and hockey to tennis in your post, but they just aren’t valid comparisons. Just as your comparison of open wheel racing and NASCAR to tennis has no basis. Tennis is an individual sport and is available to almost anyone who wants to try it out. When they do, they either love it and will continue with it and will continue to maintain an interest in the professionals of the sport, or they hate it and won’t have anything to do with it. There are no team owners, there are no multi-million dollar inventories of automobiles, tires and parts to maintain. You also say that the Grand Slams have their own wealthy owners, and by that, I assume that you mean the sponsors. I guess that’s true to a certain degree, but you sure won’t find a board room in Detroit dictating the rules of a tennis tournament. Sponsors pay for the right to have their name associated with particular tournaments and if they don’t like the results they get from that investment, they don’t renew their sponsorship. That’s called capitalism and it drives most of thee free world. And I have no idea what your implication is regarding conflict of interest in tennis, If IMG represents professional tennis players, and arranges for them to meet with other players in a tournament, I can’t see calling that a conflict of interest – yeah IMG is making money every time their player makes money, but does it make any difference who puts the party together, or is it more important who comes to the party?

In any event, you imply that tennis will decline as a sport in the U.S. without any U.S. superstars, and I say that tennis will be a popular sport for both spectators and participants for some time to come. I guess the best thing to do is to agree that we disagree.
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post #11 of 26 (permalink) Old Dec 1st, 2006, 06:57 PM Thread Starter
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Re: If America were England...?

"Free world?" What is this, 1949? FYI, the Berlin wall came down some time ago.

But that's an aside.

Your contention, that tennis is an individual sport and thus anybody can play it, is true. But does that mean there will always be US Open telecast for two weeks straight on TV, including weekend broadcasts on CBS?

First, your thesis assumes tennis is a completely bottom up endeavor. Believe me, Lindsay Davenport is not just some girl who one day picked up a racket, decided she liked it, and from there worked her way to the top of a professional sport. It took a lot of time and a whole lot of money for her to get where she got, and some of that money came from her well to do parents, some from the USTA player development program, which is fed largely by revenues from the US Open and from profits from licensing agreements.

America is a country where the athletically gifted kid has a lot of choices and that is in large part why heros or superstars as we call them, are important. I am NOT saying that a talented kid can't still play tennis if he or she wants to.

I am saying there need to be great players to keep a sport like tennis from being relegated to the Tennis channel, as much of Hockey is now found on a cable channel called VS.

Yes, any kid can still play tennis, but that kid in America might well look at Roger Federer, now a candidate for best ever, and see he made about four million last year. Then he might look at mid level stars in the NBA, NFL and MLB and realize they made that same kind of money, while the real superstars in their sports made one hell of a lot more.

Tiger Woods makes more than pretty much the whole ATP put together.

Right now in America, my guess is below Roger Federe and Andry Roddick,most casual US sports fans can't name anybody in the top ten in tennis on the men's side, and damn few top tenners on the women's side.

The eminent retirement of Kim Clijsters is not going to cause much weeping in this country. And it is no accident that some of these recent polls show the return of Martina HIngis as one of the biggest stories in tennis this past year.

But Martina ain't American and is doing nothing for American tennis.

All the great rivalries in this sport --all the ones that got big ratings on TV, always featured at least one America. Borg/McEnroe, Evert/Navratilova, Seles (adopted American)/ Graf.

Americans are pretty jingoistic people. Name a stingle sport without strong American stars that makes it in this country?
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post #12 of 26 (permalink) Old Dec 1st, 2006, 07:10 PM
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Re: If America were England...?

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"Free world?" What is this, 1949? FYI, the Berlin wall came down some time ago.
So what is it you want? A discussion or a fight? Let me guess! You must be from New York, right?
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post #13 of 26 (permalink) Old Dec 1st, 2006, 08:08 PM
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Re: If America were England...?

I think, really, that NASCAR and the NFL are the exceptions, not the rule in the US. With satellite and cable tv expanding to reach millions of homes, the sort of omnivorous sports fans who'll sit and watch whatever the networks feed them is a dinosaur. Basketball, baseball and hockey, all of which used to have huge network contracts, are now all to be found primarily on cable or local tv stations. Soccer has Fox Soccer. There's a golf channel. And, yes, a tennis channel.

The future of most sports is, IMHO, in this kind of narrow casting--finding your core audience and broadcasting to it 24/7. I think that's true for a lot of sports besides tennis--all of them, except probably football (our brand in the US; the world's brand everywhere else) and auto racing (NASCAR in the US and F1 everywhere else).

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post #14 of 26 (permalink) Old Dec 1st, 2006, 08:34 PM
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Re: If America were England...?

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I think, really, that NASCAR and the NFL are the exceptions, not the rule in the US. With satellite and cable tv expanding to reach millions of homes, the sort of omnivorous sports fans who'll sit and watch whatever the networks feed them is a dinosaur. Basketball, baseball and hockey, all of which used to have huge network contracts, are now all to be found primarily on cable or local tv stations. Soccer has Fox Soccer. There's a golf channel. And, yes, a tennis channel.

The future of most sports is, IMHO, in this kind of narrow casting--finding your core audience and broadcasting to it 24/7. I think that's true for a lot of sports besides tennis--all of them, except probably football (our brand in the US; the world's brand everywhere else) and auto racing (NASCAR in the US and F1 everywhere else).

I think you've got it, Max. And it won't be too long before most of us are watching the Tennis Channel, or the Golf channel or the Racing Channel on our wireless phone subscription hooked up to a laptop so we can take our entertainment with us whereever we go. The ultimate isolationist tool - a laptop compter with a wireless media access account, so we can sit side by side and watch different programs together!
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post #15 of 26 (permalink) Old Dec 1st, 2006, 08:52 PM Thread Starter
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Re: If America were England...?

California, where I live, is one of the tennis hotbeds of America. It has quite a few pro tournaments, including INdian Wells. It also has the climate for year round outdoor tennis and the room to build courts.

But the Los Angeles Times recently ran a story noting how many tennis complexes have been torn down in the last ten years to make way for other forms of land usage. There was a tennis club building boom in the 70s and early 80s. That was when America had Connors and McEnroe and Chris Evert, three Amereican superstars with distinct styles of play and personalities to go with them.

Now, America has no superstars save the often non-participating Williams sisters.

And can tennis survive on narrow casting? That I don't know, but I suspect not.

We are in a corporate era when your product doesn't have to just make money, it has to make MORE money. That's not my idea, nor do I endorse it. But today's media companies buy and sell and dump product lines, not be cause they are not profitable, but because they are not profitable enough.

Hollywood looks for blockbusters with each big tentpole movie as they call it.

The publishing world is interested only in best sellers.

There is a reason why pretty much only Maria Sharapova gets big endorsement contracts in tennis these days, becaue she is considered the player who has appeal BEYOND tennis. People should think about that.

Last edited by TonyP; Dec 2nd, 2006 at 12:04 PM.
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