Random thoughts on recent Davis Cup tennis triumphs and the need to resist all attempts to convert polite, knowledgeable, respectful fans, who love the game more than the result, to screaming banshees.
The last time I played tennis was 70 years ago in Ludlow, Shropshire, England. I had friends with a large house and a tennis court in the back garden. My serves were rated “not bad,” my backhand “decent,” my forehand “weak and erratic.”
No great crowds watched. Just the mother, father and brother of my winsome daughter-sister opponent. Sometime the crowd would be doubled with various aunts and uncles in attendance to murmur at shots well made and enjoy the post-game lemonade.
I never progressed beyond lowly amateur competition. Make that extremely lowly. It’s a sad fact that after Ludlow, I never again fired an ace or smacked into a double fault, and the only tennis I watched were major tournaments on television. I never saw high-level tennis in-the-flesh professionals play until the Davis Cup series in Vancouver two weeks back.
I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by a friend who had played as a high-end amateur in English county contests. She was patient in explaining long-forgotten rules and game strategies to me. The importance of breaking an opponent’s serve; about what was happening when the scoreboard read 40-40, which was called “deuce” until “adv” appeared against one player’s name, which meant he’d gone ahead by a point, but that if he lost the next point the score would again be 40-40 — “deuce.”
Never observed those rules in Ludlow. Or maybe I never got to “deuce.” Anyway, the Davis Cup tennis was great, the match between Canada’s Milos Raonic and Spain’s Guillermo Garcia Lopez a triumphant, historic, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory for the Maple Leaf. It was more than just a one-game victory in that it also sealed overall victory for Canada in the three-day tournament.
A great day for Canadian tennis, marred only by the incredible bellowing of the PA announcer in the University of B.C. hockey rink, which had been attractively converted to a tennis court for the occasion. I have no idea who the gentleman was, but his announcing style had all the earmarks of someone trained to announce heavyweight boxers or professional wrestling tag teams. With volume at its highest level, we were informed MiiiiiiiiiiiiLOS RAyyyyyyyyONIC!!!! would be playing GuileeeerMO GarrrrrrCia LoooooOpez!!! of Spain. The bellicose announcements were made even more embarrassing by thunderous rolls from massed drums. I was told it was all designed to “motivate” the crowd but the BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! that punctuated the three-day tournament must have set tennis fans watching around the world on TV wondering who let the dogs out.
Canada’s Raonic and Spain’s Lopez looked embarrassed.
Hockey fans scream and shout, so do basketball fans. Soccer fans sing, football fans sometimes need drums and so-called thundersticks to stir enthusiasm, rugby fans scream at referees and linesmen, but tennis fans have always set more thoughtful standards. Tennis fans applaud triumphs or groan as a background murmur when on-court disaster occurs. The multi-thousand tennis crowds in France, England, Italy, Spain, Australia — anywhere the game is played at the highest level — are always enthusiastic. They clap their hands and cheer excellence, even when that excellence is displayed by players from a country other than their own.
Victory for a favourite team is always desired, but for a true tennis fan, it’s the playing of the game that counts. A bit like cricket or golf, where the best shots are preceeded by silence and cheered with respect if successfully completed.
I understand local tennis enthusiasts have expressed an interest in seeing a future Davis Cup contest to Victoria. I wish them well and hope they succeed in bringing such a major sporting event to the Island — but with a better understanding of tennis fans than their big-city counterparts.
The organizers of the Vancouver event handed out cards to departing spectators asking for feedback “on your experience” at the tournament. There was an online survey with a chance to win a new iPad or one of two Davis Cup prize packs if the survey was completed by Friday. I thought of sending a copy of this piece as my feedback contribution, but I didn’t. Too scared one of the prize packs might be a soundtrack of the drums and the PA announcements.
© Copyright 2013