Yes I am a bit early – World Tennis Day is tomorrow after all. But in keeping with my habit of opening at least one present on Xmas Eve, I thought that I would jump the gun and get the celebration started.
March 3rd has been designated ‘World Tennis Day’. Coincidentally, March 3rd is also ‘Read Across America Day’. And, according to Dr. Google, it is also ‘I Want You To Be Happy Day’, ‘Peach Blossom Day’ and ‘National Anthem Day’. I guess the special day calendar is getting kinda crowded. But, as a supporter of World Tennis Day, I like my chances against the more nerdy alternatives.
World Tennis Day is the brainchild of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), and a sports marketing, management, and event production company called StarGames. StarGames’ part of the deal is reflected by their putting on a number of high profile matches, such as this year’s Novak Djokovic vs. Andy Murray exhibition match at Madison Square Garden. This is just one of the many star-studded events to be held in locations like Hong Kong, London, and New York.
According to its website, The Garden’s matches will feature the Bryan brothers vs. The McEnroe brothers, followed by the main course of Djokovic vs. Murray. Tickets run from $40. in the nosebleeds, to $400. courtside. If you happen to attend, please post your observations in the comments. I am curious about how the dude that lost to Baby Fed (Grigor Dimitrov) in Mexico, will fare against the dude that lost to Big Fed in Dubai.
Personally, I am far more interested in the grass-roots events supported by the ITF. Through its national associations, ITF focuses on growing tennis participation around the world. A lot of emphasis is placed on kiddie and junior events, with the recognition that we have to invest in the young ones in order for our sport to have a future. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled that the exhibition event is on. But the future of tennis does not lie in the hands of such one-off showbiz events that make a handful of people money.
World Tennis Day was inaugurated just a year ago, in March 2013, when 55 nations around the world participated. This year, the number of nation participants has increased to 75. I hope it continues to grow. I never take the future of my beloved sport for granted. There are countries where sporting events literally die due to the lack of interest, support, or resources. I do not ever want to have to fear this for tennis.
Tennis is already troubled by the fact of being an expensive sport, perceived by many to belong to the elite. Tennis lessons can be very expensive, more so if one lives in a large city with an already high cost of living. Most middle and high schools do not have tennis programs. The town I live in has literally a total of two schools with active tennis programs. There is a third school that has tennis courts with weeds growing in the middle. The nearby military base has tennis courts that have not been upgraded since the 1980’s. The courts are in such bad shape that the green paint has literally peeled off and one plays on bare concrete. Clearly tennis is not a big part of MWR services.
It is from such neglect that a sport risks dying. The future of tennis does not lie in the hands of the wealthy who can afford tickets to tomorrow’s Madison Square Garden event. Tennis’ future lies in the support of local neighborhood and community programs. It lies in tearing children away from the seductiveness of Flappy Birds and X-Box and getting them outside, rackets in hand, running around and enjoying themselves.
My local tennis club intends to do its part. Because of weather-related challenges, we’ve intentionally postponed our program for several weeks. We’ve decided that better late than never. Sure it’s great to open the bulk of your presents on Xmas Day, but it’s better to get a delayed gift than no gift at all. Which is why, in a few weeks, we will be holding a beginner tennis event. Only kids are allowed. We want them to be able to enjoy themselves without needing to wear winter coats. And our plan is to have them have so much fun that they will start harassing their parents to be able to return, to play tennis.