Wednesday, March 30, 2005

An Unhealthy Trend

One of the major differences between the way tennis was played in the 1980's and even the 1990's and now has nothing to do with quality of tennis itself. Yes, racquet technology has improved by leaps and bounds. There are hardly any players without their own personal trainers and players are much more powerful; the ground strokes are well-honed, and monster forehands abound. Now, I'm not on a trip down memory lane here - I'm not going to argue that the game was better then or it is better now. But I wonder why, if the current players are so much fitter than their preceding generation, do we see so many injury time outs, especially in big games. Yes, I'm being pretty cynical about this - I think some players (male and female) are faking it! Witness the final of the Australian Open where Marat Safin took an injury time out and called out the trainer for what appeared to be just a case of nerves causing tightness. The game turned on its head after the break. I was delighted with Safin's victory as he so clearly was the best of all, but the fact remains that he asked for and was granted a timeout for no real reason. Not to be outdone, the women's final had its share of injury drama. Serena Williams did appear to be genuinely bothered, but once again, the match was the never the same once play resumed after the break. I did feel sorry for Lindsay Davenport as she had great momentum and Serena looked desperately short of rhythm. These are not isolated events - one of the more controversial time outs in recent memory was in the French Open of 2003 when Justine Henin-Hardenne beat Serena Williams, almost driving the younger Williams sister to tears. There were plenty of such moments throughout this tournament, which makes one question, how many of these were genuine injuries that needed attention and how many were minor niggles that players once used to take in their stride? Worse still, how many of these were deliberate tactical ploys? One hopes not (many). On the other side of the story, what could/should umpires and tournament referees do in such situations? Currently, there seems to be a lenient view of it all. Is that a tacit acknowledgement on the part of ATP and WTA that players these days play far more than it makes sense to? - NK

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