Ignoring the future
I don’t think we cover tennis right in this country.
That sentence, realistically, could open up an entire can of worms I’m not, quite, willing to go into any detail about. But, while obviously masquerading as an opinion, it’s a fact. We don’t offer enough excitement or interest in a sport which, unbeknown to most of the country, runs all year round.
There should be comprehensive highlights of all tournaments on free-to-air tv, not just live coverage of a couple of the slams. We should be analysing all of the Masters and Premier Mandatory tournaments in depth, predicting draws and using the results to shape how pundits believe the slams will unfold (also, kudos to anyone reading who knows what a Premier Mandatory tournament is – I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest less than 10% of the population have heard of them). Football takes up too much time in this country, relegating tennis, and other fantastic sports.
But hey, I’ve just finished studying Sports Journalism, I know the argument that the public just isn’t interested. Strangely enough, the media has the power to control what the public are interested in, simply through their coverage (but that’s another can of worms I’m not willing to open!).
The Shanghai Masters are on at the moment. To be fair, people who follow the BBC on twitter will probably know that. Andy Murray has the World Number One ranking in his sights, and crucially for this ramble, Nadal lost early on. Two tennis players who are half of the only four the media in this country, and therefore the population, care about.
BBC have made a big deal about Nadal in the last few days. Because, for the first time since 2003, neither the Spaniard nor his old rival Roger Federer are in the top four of the rankings. And it seems they are losing their minds over it.
Except, no-one who actually follows the sport is actually surprised. In fact, the only thing we are surprised about is that it’s taken so long for that to happen. Look at the two guys who have replaced them. Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka. Both have reached Slam finals this year, Wawrinka went one step further and won his. Stanimal has won three different slams in three consecutive years.
In those three years, how many have Nadal and Federer won? Some of you could probably work out the answer to that is one, Nadal’s 2014 French Open. Of the second most important tournaments in the calendar, the two have won five of the 26 available.
So why are we so fussed about this stat that they’ve fallen out of the top four?
And it highlights a problem with sport coverage in general. We focus too much on past glories rather than looking towards the future.
This year has been fantastic for tennis. Alex Zverev, Dom Thiem, Nick Kyrgios and Lucas Pouille have proven themselves as future top tenners. Kyle Edmund has broken into the world top 50, with further progression looking likely. Juan Martin Del Potro’s return from injury has been scintillating and inspirational, Gael Monfils and Grigor Dimitrov have rejuvenated their careers and David Goffin has shown his ranking is not a fluke.
Predicting how next year will finish is near impossible. Murray, Raonic, Wawrinka and Djokovic aren’t going anywhere fast, all of the names mentioned above will be in the frame for a top ten finish and can we really discount Kei Nishikori?
Why then, with such exciting prospects desperate for the exposure they need, are we still obsessed with Nadal and Federer?
What they did for tennis was fantastic, and to keep it up over such a long period is scarcely believable, but there is a genuine risk we won’t appreciate this next generation as much as we should because we’re too caught up on the one previous.
Take an interest in tennis, look beyond Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray and you will see a sport more competitive than ever, more exciting than ever and with a brighter future than most.
A lot of people have called the generation ending the golden one of tennis, but there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that the one just beginning is going to be even better.
P.S. As a little side, I was watching Pointless the other day and there was a question on the Blair Years. One of the clues asked for the tennis player who won Sports Personality of the Year in 1997. The answer was Greg Rusedski, and it scored two points. What did Greg do in 1997? He reached the final of the US Open.
Fast forward 19 years and Andy Murray has won Olympic Gold, conquered Wimbledon and is chasing the top spot in the world, three achievements Rusedski only got close to in his dreams. And yet, Murray is far from guaranteed to win SPOTY. How fantastic is that?
We may cover sport wrong in this country, but boy are we getting it right on the field!