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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, May 26, 2024

Sports and Society: Tennis isn't a sport

After the 2023 US Open, I’m canceling tennis’ status as a sport for the pettiest possible reason.


Tennis isn’t a sport anymore.

Until last week, I would have had a different opinion. Tennis has all the hallmarks of a sport: competition, athleticism, clearly defined rules and even the use of a ball. Surely that’s a sport, right?

Wrong. After careful analysis of the 2023 U.S. Open, an Ad-Hoc Committee for Sports Definitions — with me as the chair — has been appointed and passed an official ruling:

On this day, the fifteenth of the ninth month in the two thousand and twenty third year since the birth of our lord (amen), tennis — along with its inferior subsidiaries badminton, pickleball and squash — have henceforth been BANNED from the International Society of Real Sports.

This ruling comes after revelations that tennis creates an adversarial relationship with its fans by telling them to shut up when the players are trying to hear the grass grow or meditate before serving the ball, something that happens around 200 times per match.

If that all sounded prissy or stuck up, consider it payback for the lame, unnecessary and utterly anachronistic rule that fans need to be quiet when the players have to focus.

The U.S. Open has been a big part of my life for as long as my neck was stretchy enough to bob back and forth to follow the ball. For about a decade, I would attend both men’s semifinals, which during my childhood meant I would watch Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and (insert some guy who is going to lose) play each other over and over again.

I know how exciting tennis is, but I remember the moment when I realized that there was actually a cap on how much fun I was allowed to have. When I was eight, my grandfather jokingly suggested that my brother and I yell at Djokovic in unison — urging him to play at the Hopman Cup, a smaller tournament then based in Australia that was near and dear to my family.

I agreed that we should, before my grandfather reminded me that we would likely be kicked out of Arthur Ashe Stadium for disturbing the peace so brazenly.

Then I watched that very same Djokovic play against the 20-year-old American phenom Ben Shelton, who’s built more like a linebacker than a tennis player. The American fans were squarely behind Shelton, and they would start clapping and cheering whenever anything went right for him or wrong for Djokovic.

After points, cheering is perfectly fine. But when Djokovic would hit his first serve out, the crowd would applaud, hoping for a double fault. Apparently, that’s far too rude. The chair umpire began ruthlessly chastising the crowd, demanding that they remain quiet in between serves and afford both players proper respect.

I’m all for respect, but when did we stray so far from sanity that cheering for the outcomes you want during a sporting event is rude? Imagine if NBA fans were expected to remain silent while opposing players shot free throws and to be perfectly stoic if someone missed the first shot. That would be ridiculous.

I’ve had my share of overdramatic arguments about what is or isn’t a sport, and obviously, I’m being facetious here. I’m not implying all sports should have rowdy and uncontrolled fans. But all spectator sports should allow spectators to actually get excited about stuff.

Tennis is no longer an upper-class leisure activity. Players are hitting the ball backwards through their legs and calling it a tweener, so can we cut the pompous politeness from the books? Last I checked, the king isn’t in attendance anymore. Even if he was, he should be allowed to boo and hiss while his opposition is serving.