Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

Sound of Silence: Will US Open Tennis Turn Down the Volume?

To talk or not to talk – is that really the question? If there’s no crying in baseball, there’s absolutely no talking in tennis! Much to my dismay, there has been chatter on social media amongst some of the top players – Djokovic in particular – that US Open tennis fans should be permitted to talk not only between points and changeovers – but during points.

I may be a tennis purist but I’m not a snob. Tennis is one of the few sports, in addition to golf, gymnastics and ice skating, which is played and observed in silence. Presently, I will refrain from commenting on the obnoxious, ear shattering, wholly disruptive shrieking emanating from several well-known female tennis players and focus instead on the recommendation that tennis abandon its elitist mentality and permit spectator vocalization for the duration of a match.

As a New Yorker and subway commuter, I relish the opportunity to feel the silence and hear the ball make contact with the racquet along with the squeak of sneakers attempting to slide on the deco turf in Arthur Ashe Stadium. The hypnotic beauty and elegance of the sport can only be appreciated when play is conducted in near total silence.

No tournament approximates this state of nirvana better than Wimbledon. The scintillating mix of all white attire, lush grass and the echos of silence propels the sport, fans and players into another dimension where the poetic nature of this magical game is fully realized.

Regrettably, the US Open implements policies inherently designed to thwart this mesmerizing experience. As Ernest Gulbis lamented in a recently published article in the New York Times, most fans attend basketball games to watch basketball – not cheerleaders. “A tennis court is a tennis court. You don’t bring chips; you don’t bring drinks. It’s part of respecting the players, respecting what they do.”

Similarly, I don’t attend professional tennis matches to hear Justin Bieber sing, watch a kiss-cam or listen to piped-in music during changeovers. Djokovic however, finds this interjection of entertainment quite appealing and asserts it will increase the sport’s fan base by encouraging spectators to be more vocal though he refrains from wholeheartedly endorsing significant amplification during rallies.

Unbeknownst to the USTA, tennis is a sport – not a Broadway production. In attempting to appeal to the rowdy football, soccer or hockey fan, they inadvertently demean the sport. Consequently, it should surprise no one that a majority of fans as well as players surveyed, rank the US Open last in terms of overall satisfaction at a Grand Slam event. If the USTA ever hopes to elevate the Open experience to a level on par with the other slams, it must promote and instill a modicum of reverence for the history of the US National Championships and its exalted position as one of the tours coveted four Grand Slam tournaments.

No one loves a gripping, fiercely contested match more than me but this does not mean I will talk incessantly during the entire match to the person seated beside me or use my cell phone. Changeovers used to be the time during which fans discussed the key features of the match up until that point.

If the future of spectator participation permits amplified talk during play, how long before fans are coaching players on court via cell phone or twitter? I am a steadfast supporter of  impassioned fan participation but only between points or during changeovers.

All that’s required to maintain enthusiastic spectator interaction is quality play, interesting matchups and enduring, intense rivalries. So USTA listen up; tennis fans want to hear the ping of the ball bouncing off the strings – not Mariah Carey sing. Enough said.

Thank you for reading. Please take a moment to follow me @CaporaleEmmy and the LWOS Tennis department on Twitter – @tennisfollows. Support LWOS by following us on Twitter  – @LastWordOnSport and @LWOSworld – and “liking” our Facebook page.

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