The Tennis Fan Today (Part 1)

Professional tennis, and the watching of professional tennis, are two completely different matters. A person can love professional tennis as I do and yet never watch it, and not miss it, and not even mind when it isn’t being played. This empty Wimbledon pandemic fortnight, after the blank where Roland Garros should have been, leaves me shrugging with equal indifference. Of course, if Maria Sharapova hadn’t retired my guess is I’d feel differently, bothered at least if not somewhat heartsick on her behalf. I’d have loved to see her win more titles. But as it is, I don’t care.

Blame the impedimenta. To attending in professional tennis events in person in a normal year, a long list: inconvenience, jacked-up prices, extreme overcrowding, intrusive security, feral bands of child autograph hunters, terrible pop music playing on the changeovers (put this at the top of the list) and all over the grounds, the air thick with beeriness and meat smoke, the fatigue-slackened faces silvered by Jumbotron light pollution: a horrible time and this is with comp tickets, forget about having to pay for them.

But to follow from afar is not much easier nor any more pleasant. What started out, for one thing, as too many commercials has become too much to pay monthly for a premium cable subscription: an annoyance has grown into a major barrier. Beyond which is “the product” itself—always a product, professional tennis have never been more of one—how it looks and what it contains. When I’ve been able to watch on occasion these past several years, I’ve seen the commercials haven’t gone anywhere, they’ve multiplied inside the broadcasts and overrun the tournaments, the courts, the players’ persons. Information-wise, it’s a wasteland of pointless statistics, canned themes, obfuscation and hacky hagiography. The commentators chatter without ceasing. I especially dread the national embarrassment that settles in as the Americans mispronounce every single “foreign” player’s name. It’s deliberate, I’ve even heard them refer to the “Americanized version.” The embarrassment and sorrow at how our media hold us back, we the people who could use better training from childhood onward, these deep feelings get in there and spoil my enjoyment, over time they’ve helped to erode my wish to watch at all.

Slash a way through all these unpalatable trappings and there is professional tennis, the game itself and the act of watching it being played. Without question, we see our human civilization at a peak here—more than one, really. As sports go, like baseball, it’s full of perfections. Unusually, both sexes reach the highest levels of play, of reward, and of fame. The best men are like demigods. And where else have women, rising in white skirts out of immemorial subjections, made such a sustained display of active liberated female bodies, unrestrained and self-directed, excelling in competition? Simply to sit and reflect on the last century in professional women’s tennis is to be in touch with the highest ideals, while memory fills with heroics and proud moments. Tennis in thought is very beautiful.

In finding ways to make the pleasure of watching professional tennis outweigh the depressing nastiness of actually doing so, the modern fan leans hard on personalities. Attachments and infatuations bind us to the sight of certain players so that we’ll put up with the most aggravating coverage in return.  Also, great players, like Maria Sharapova, make it worthwhile to watch them. Though too many beautiful quiet tensions have gone from today’s noisy game (which despite what people say won’t be appreciably quieter in her absence when play resumes this year), a mute control brings goodness back, like a magic wand whose wave leaves us alone in the hush with our love idols.

I’d stopped muting Maria years ago, however, when I began to love the way she vocalized. Her whole game just captured me. Here is a tinyloop from a final she played at Stanford in August 2010. Victoria Azarenka’s voice is first, Sharapova’s second.

2nd Roland Garros title


About Tennis

The real one
US Open 1987 has been out and available for several years now, in its CreateSpace edition. As I began preparing the first Nostalgistudio edition for publication later this summer, I remembered that several people who read the book had told me they'd been a little lost at points because they don't know anything about tennis. For a tennis fan like me to hear this is shocking and sad, of course. I don't like to think of people being deprived of such an enjoyment--watching and being able to follow a good competitive tennis match is one of the higher pleasures in life, I think. As for the novel, the first chapter concerns a single fateful tennis match described in some detail. Those kind readers felt lost right away, this was the problem.

So I wrote some more text, a few pages to insert quite near the opening. If you've read the book and didn't get the tennis part, please accept this new material with my sincere and apologetic thanks. For newcomers, maybe people with some know-how about the game, I offer it for discussion. Did I miss too much again?

(The new excerpt is here.)


What a Wimbledon

Here I am spending hours and hours this fleeting summer in the preparation of new editions for Nostalgistudio of all three FAMEPUNK novels so far, immersed once again in women's tennis as a subject while simultaneously scanning its current state for promotional opportunities, ways to ride some surge in fandom into wider view. And what I see is so very far from promising anything of the sort, it might as well be a cloud of antitheses, when all but the seventh of the top ten ladies' singles seeds goes out in the first week. It's disgraceful and won't win fans--quite the contrary. Overpraised princesses wilting under a single round of pressure: no one wants to applaud that. To my personal horror, women's tennis has become the New York Mets. One loss, then two, then two others; they achieve something lemming-like, these super athletes in mostly identical dresses swatting forehands long.

via Gfycat


Another new clay season

A little scare just now when I sat down to write a fresh entry and found myself signed out of my Blogger account after two years away. I could see my two little old sites still reading "me" but couldn't enter to refresh them, this one and Reading Les Miserables at Work out of my control only drifted there, like junked space stations, relics. I sat bewildered. Then I thought, Would it matter? What if What is Famepunk? ended randomly, years out of date, out of carelessness? Couldn't it go on that way, an old attachment, always linked? Old and dead, yes--but would it matter? With a lynch-pin of my creative life (even if it hasn't looked like one lately) not just threatened but gone, snatched away, rationalizing like crazy, I kept calm. My mind formed ideas for going on without it, unencumbered by women's tennis blogging. But I was self-disgusted. I felt the loss I'd brought on myself through inattention. In the end I tried another sign-in, the right one. I'm grateful to be back.



Ostapenko versus Kasatkina. These are the outsidery finalists in this year's Charleston green clay tournament. Neither player seeded, none of the top ten seeds made it to the semifinals. Women's tennis continues down the path it's set itself.
Paying too much for not playing, paying too much attention to "storylines" over substance. And pampering, primping, pimping, party-dressing its "stars" for consumption--by whom? Who is even watching the WTA now? They haven't got a broadcast contract, they'd rather pay their executives than shell out for coverage. Who would want to watch? The outfits are all alike and all equally horrible. Meanwhile a virtually all-male coaching galaxy hovers over the enterprise sucking up cash and leaving blasted confidence.
As an outsider myself, I salute the young players (and the older over-the-hill but not players) who are looking at this situation as the opportunity it is. Good for Ostapenko! Good for Kasatkina! Good for Mirjana Lucic and Jo Konta and Elena Vesnina, good for the underdogs, all the "ovas" the others might mistake for nonentities. I'm not watching them either, but that don't mean a damn thing.
Sales update: All Famepunk books are now $2.99 each across all digital platforms. Writing update: I'm in year four of a book that takes place in the Soviet Union around the time of World War II; it isn't a tennis novel. But it will be good! Stay tuned for more about it.


Extended Quadruple Doubles Sale

In celebration of the world's greatest player, her doubles partners and the rest, the sale continues at Smashwords.