Commentary: Whatever Happened To Men’s Tennis? [VIDEOS]
I remember 1993. It’s just one of those things I remember. 1993 was the year Steven Spielberg released both Schindler’s List and Jurassic Park, revealing that he is the cinema’s foremost authority on the Holocaust and dinosaur theme parks.
I also loved tennis in 1993. Forget about the women’s side which at the time boasted Steffi Graf and Jennifer Capriati – my two favorite women to ever watch on the court. The top ten men in the world heading into the 1993 French Open were: Sampras, Courier, Edberg, Becker, Ivanisevic, Korda, Lendl, Chang, Stitch, Brugera. (Medvedev, Krajicek, Muster were not far behind.) Andre Agassi missed the tournament as he suffered through tough injuries for the early half of ’93. Add Agassi to those top 10 and you have eleven men who’ve won grand slams. Eleven grand slam champions in one tournament.
What happened to men’s tennis? Today begins the quarterfinals of the French Open. The names? Hold your hat. Nadal, Djokovic and Federer are there and they’re the only real contenders. They are joined by Robin Soderling, Andy Murray, Juan Ignacio Chela, Gael Monfils and Fabio Fognini. Among those five, they possess a whopping zero grand slams.
There is no depth. There is no excitement. And it has created a series of grand slam events that are basically dependent on one of the two (now three) best players in the world finding themselves in the final. It creates a tournament landscape wherein a major upset may create brief excitement but it ultimately dilutes the overall impact of the tournament significantly. (In the basketball world, it’s like the 15 beating the 2 in the NCAA Tournament. Nice for the moment. Terrible when the 15 is blown out in the second round.) Couple this with the complete lack of American involvement in major men’s tennis and you have a sport dying a cold, cold death in the states.
Why has it happened? I doubt there’s any sociological reason behind it. Can it be fixed? I doubt there’s any sport prognosticator who could determine it. But the excitement of grand slam tennis – in Paris, London, Flushing – is currently missing from the sports universe. And as a lifelong tennis fan, I’m hoping that changes in the near future.
Here’s the ’93 French Open final between Brugera and Sampras: