It always cracks me up when tennis players gripe and moan about the length of the season, only to turn around and play exhibition matches the minute the season comes to an end. Players that you think would be resting up and healing their supposedly sore muscles suddenly find the energy to fly to all kinds of places to put on matches for the natives, for beaucoup money of course. I don’t mean to begrudge anyone their easily-earned millions, but the stank of greed sometimes gets to me.
When I started writing this year, I initiated a series of articles on the top ten changes I would like to see in tennis, starting with getting rid of some of the old farts who have been controlling tennis since time began, and allowing some new blood and energy to infuse the administration of the game. Somewhere along the way I not only lost track of my series but, like Tiger Woods’ mistresses, I also lost count.
I think that I got up to change # 5. Which means that the year is coming to a close and I have not met my quota of suggested changes. Apologies to any readers who have been keeping track. I promise to complete the series in the New Year. Feel free to remind me.
So here is the sixth change I would like to see in tennis. I’d like for players to stop whining about the length of the season and start appreciating the opportunities with which their lives have been blessed. I’d like for some of them to become a tad more grateful, not just for their blessedness but also for their amazing fans. And if they’re going to put on exhibition matches, I’d like for some of these pros from time to time to consider doing some free exos that their fans can attend at no cost. Now that we are heading full swing into the season of giving, I’d like some of these pros to start giving back. To say thank you to their fans and mean it.
And yes I know that there are a lot of tennis players who help support some wonderful charities. Federer has been doing some awesome work in South Africa. Agassi generously funds a school in Las Vegas. Roddick’s charity helps out programs for neglected and needy children. Serena Williams contributes to a number of charities including one that funds schools in Africa. Lindsay Davenport was very giving following hurricane Katrina and did not seek publicity for it. My intent is not to discredit any of these acts of generosity. But I think that tennis pros can and should give more, specifically to their fans, especially during their time-off.
And while I mentioned that I would have expected some of these players to be resting and healing, the truth is that unless you sat on and broke a glass table like Sam Querrey, it’s probably best for your game that you remain physically active. So instead of Serena Williams flying down to Barbados to play an exhibition match against Caroline Wozniacki for pay, I would have liked to see her do the same thing for free. It would have been great to see Serena and Caroline giving generously of their time and talent to encourage Caribbean girls and boys to play tennis. I can dream can’t I?
The same goes for Justine Henin who just played an exhibition match against Flavia Pennetta. I get that Juju needs the practice. But she didn’t need the money; neither did Flavia. They could have put on two exhibition matches, one in Belgium to inspire Justine’s young fans, and one in Italy for Flavia’s young homies. Are two free exhibition matches too much to ask for?
Apparently so. Because now comes word that Sampras will be hauling his creaky ass out of retirement to play an exhibition match against Verdasco, who recently was inspired to help his country win the Davis Cup. Kudos to Verdasco, to his team, and to the great Albert Costa who inspired them all. But how great would it be if Verdasco and Sampras did the whole thing for free. It’s not like either of them needs the money. The sixth change I’d like to see in tennis is for the pros to learn how to redefine generosity, particularly to their fans.