Sunday, March 30, 2014

Why I prefer the first week of tournaments

I’ve never purchased tickets for the semi-finals or finals of any major tennis events. I do this for the lesser events of course, where the cost of tickets doesn’t break my bank. But for Majors and Slams, I always attend only during the first week.

My reasons are two-fold. First, this gives me a chance to see as many players as possible. At the US Open, for example, I have the option of purchasing tickets to the Arthur Ashe Stadium, which gives me access to the grounds as well as to the action at Louis Armstrong. Sure, I occasionally have to choose between matches, but if I attend over several days, I have the chance of seeing as many of my faves as possible. I even get to see some of the newbies on the junior courts.

But there is a second reason why I only attend the first week of major events – I simply can’t afford to do otherwise. Tennis is an expensive sport, for everyone involved. And, as I have written about before, tournament directors would apparently prefer to have empty seats shown on TV than drop their prices. And part of the reason for this may be because they know that the rich folks will turn out in their numbers for the semi-finals and finals. Not an empty seat in the house. So what tournament directors lose on the swing, they end up gaining on the roundabout, as they say in the Caribbean.

This all means that folks richer than me – and who may not have the patience for waiting to see whom Nadal beats during those muggy two weeks along the way – they have the option of splurging only for the last day or two of the event. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of these rich folks may enjoy tennis as much as the next person. But either they decide that it is just not worth it to have to sweat through two weeks in the Miami hot sun. Or they think that seeing and being seen should only happen once in order not to seem like a common civilian.

I suspect that there were a lot of well-heeled tennis fans among those disappointed when both Kei Nishikori and Tomas Berdych called in sick for their semi-final matches. Folks who had paid good money to see the four best at this event, ended up having to settle for two women’s doubles matches. The shame. The horror. (Judging from complaints).

Nishikori said that he hurt his groin during that three-setter against Federer. To be fair, Nishikori had made a similar complaint during the Delray Beach event in February. Too bad it didn’t kick in during his quarter-final match, but the way Kei’s adrenaline was pumping in his second win over Federer, he may not even have felt any twinges in his groin. The net result was that Djokovic got an easy pass.

Berdych on the other hand, was having gastrointestinal issues. I am not familiar with the history of Berdych’s gut, so I can only assume that he may have gotten carried away by the diversity of Miami cuisine – like in that that episode of Louis C K when Louis went off the grid and discovered the real Miami with the help of his lifeguard. (If you haven’t seen that episode, trust me, it is entirely worth it.)

Either way, there was some serious bromance going down in Miami among the last four men, as both finalists were gifted with walkovers by their opponents. But, in the end, it may have made no difference to the eventual outcome. Turns out that Becker has already made a difference to Djokovic’s game because just like that Novak was serving and volleying like a pro. And he continued his trend of breaking down Nadal’s strength – his forehand. And Nadal continued his recent trend of having difficulty holding his first serves when it mattered.

And a bunch of rich people still hasn’t stopped complaining.