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.