The Game of Tennis in the Land of the Free
By Khalid B. Sayeed
Professor Emeritus
Queen's University
Kingston, Ontario
Canada

Many people and particularly American chauvinists or super patriots do not seem to understand that thousands of people, sometimes as many as thirty or forty thousand who turn up in New York to watch the US Open, seem to think that they have almost an unquestionable right to support their American player.
Tennis unlike many sports is a game of skill. It is a highly civilized game where in my opinion the ball often produces music unlike many other games where the player who hits hard and vigorously wins or is the champion. Before the final in the US Open starts the American national anthem with its moving terms "America the land of the free and beautiful" is played. And the American Air Force fly their jets to honor the occasion. I have no quarrel with all this. My only concern is that if Americans think that their land is the land of the free and beautiful and thirty or forty thousand spectators in overwhelming numbers support their own player and if the result of this vociferous and one-sided support makes the non-American player to play his game extremely difficult if not impossible. I have noticed that in a few cases where perhaps the world's best tennis player, Roger Federer, was playing against his American rivals, the thirty or forty thousand Americans in their overwhelming numbers and through deafening shouting supported their own player.
In all these cases, Federer won his match and in one particular case, he even complained about the one-sided nature of the crowd support. Tennis, unlike many other games, involves concentration and strategy where there is a duel between two agile minds who know how to hit varying shots from side to side and sometimes in complicated angles. If, as a result of this overwhelming one-sided support of thirty or forty thousand people, disables one of the players from playing his best game and if the slightly inferior American player wins the match, how can United States become the land of the free and beautiful? In other words, audiences in tennis have to display a considerable sense of appreciation of how skillfully the game is played. As a great majority of American spectators only support their own player, it becomes very difficult for the non-American player to be at his best in strategy and skill. The outcomes in several instances have favored the American player even though his non American opponent, given a fair chance and even handed support on the part of the spectators, could have won his match.
It is disturbing and often times painful to see American spectators display such one-sided or chauvinistic attitudes. Maybe if these problems continue, important tournaments like the US Open should be held on a neutral territory. Perhaps places like Toronto or Montreal which are fairly close to the American mainland should hold the US Open. What I am suggesting is that in a game like tennis where a sense of appreciation of the skills and strategies that are involved, the audiences have to develop a better sense of their judgment and responsibility.

 


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