JUST HOW QUIRKY IS PRO TENNIS?
It is said that the origins of tennis go back to 12th Century France when it was a game of indoor handball played by monks against monastery walls.
Eventually, the use of a player’s bare hands was replaced by using gloves, holding paddles, and eventually racquets.
With the invention of a process for rubber in the 1800s, the game moved out of doors on grass aided by bouncier balls.
Then in 1877, the All England Club held the first Wimbledon, and its committee created a rectangular court and a set of rules that are essentially the game we know today.
With that said, I wonder how the quirky traditions of professional tennis have come to be.
For one, how did that elusive net-cord wave come about? You know, when a player apologetically waves to another when their ball clips the net and somehow drops in. Why apologize when the goal is to win the point? Wasn’t that the intention? Most of us realize that pros don’t really mean that fake regret anyway.
And, then there’s the quirk of certain pros who like to store extra serving balls in their pockets. Isn’t that rather cumbersome? And, what’s the purpose when there are plenty of ball kids to pass the serving balls out when one is needed?
Yet, some players won’t give up the weird tradition, like Andy Murray, who last year caused a stir during one match when – not once but twice – extra serving balls dropped out of his pockets onto the court during play. He blamed it on his shorts and ordered longer ones with deeper pockets to contain the balls in the future…
Another quirk that gets me is when serving players show new balls. Why is this necessary when the chair umpire announces “new balls” over the loudspeaker to the court crew prior, and the intervals at which balls are replaced is always the same (initially after the first 7 games, then every 9 games).
Also, just when did grunting in tennis become mainstream? It’s very distracting, yet it is very common nowadays, especially amongst female players. Does grunting, or actually shrieking, really aid the player in their follow-through? Some sort of exhalation is normal, but yelling out forcibly is just plain annoying. However, is that also the point? Does the loudly grunting player hope to rattle her competitor?
And, when did medical timeouts during a match become allowed? It’s just plain unfair to the more prepared healthy player for officials to stop a match and aid an unhealthy player. Part of the challenge of pro tennis is the physical demands it imposes on players. Also, some players may abuse the medical timeout rule and use it as strategy to break a successful player’s rhythm which is totally unfair.
Excessive toweling-off by players is another ongoing quirk of pro tennis. In the future, I encourage you to stop and take note of how often players have the ball kids retrieve their towels during the match. It seems to happen after every single shot. Is this really necessary? Some sweat can drip onto players’ faces and hands, but what’s the purpose of those terry cloth cuffs and headbands everyone is wearing?
I’ve also noticed those funny drink concoctions the players are pulling out of their bags nowadays. Just what is in the blue or brown liquid that needs to be refrigerated? And, why take a small sip of that drink, and then right away take a small sip of water?
Finally, the challenge system in tennis is totally necessary and good for the game. But, why does pro tennis put weird restrictions on the players in this regard? For instance, a player/team is allowed a maximum number of 3 incorrect challenges in a normal set. After that, they are not permitted to challenge in that set again.
But, by setting up the challenge system this way, officials are actually encouraging players to use it as strategy. Like, instead of challenging a call they think might be wrong, a player may wish to save it for later to be used during a more crucial point. Isn’t the purpose to get every call right? The onus is squarely placed on the player, which is just plain quirky, but not unusual for tennis.
Let me know if I missed any other quirks of pro tennis, there’s got to be others!
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