“Please don’t go away,” pleaded the announcer at the Cincinnati Tennis Masters.
But the punters were already on the move. They weren’t going to hang out at an awards show that meant nothing to them. And the fans go further away, or at least the boys. You no longer have any connection to tennis. It is too long. It is boring. And it’s complacent.
CLIVE BRUNSKILL / GETTY
Roger Federer shakes hands with Tidjane Thiam, CEO of Credit Suisse.
I like to look at Roger Federer and see one of the great sports champions, but most teenagers see a sell-out. Federer is not one of them. He’s a guy who has turned into part of his parents’ generation. He is a Swiss banker in tennis shorts.
That’s what happens when the madmen take over the asylum. It is significant that the two sports with the oldest population group are golf, with an average age of 64, and men’s tennis, with an average age of 61. It’s telling because these are the two sports that are played by the players themselves.
* Roger Federer reveals the breakdown during the celebration tour
* How Auckland captivates tennis stars like Serena Williams
Pablo Blazquez Dominguez / Getty Images
Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg has targeted Roger Federer.
The players begin to regulate themselves. The children have no authority to stand against because they are the authority. Novak Djokovic had a bit of a cheek when he first came on stage, but Federer and Rafael Nadal soon ironed that out of him. Now Djokovic is head of the ATP Player Council and speaks like a Wall Street suit.
At the US Open last year, Nick Kyrgios said himself during a change of goals; “You couldn’t have chosen a more boring sport as a job.”
That scandalized most of his peers, but Kyrgios spoke the truth of his generation. The children find tennis boring. You do not identify with any of these people. And they are right. Tennis is boring for them. To get used to something.
Roger Federer responded to Greta Thunberg in a way that was appropriate for a company.
Did you see a lot of kids at the ASB Classic in Auckland last week? No, me neither. I’ve seen a lot of rich people and I’ve seen a lot of older people. Sky presenter Jordan Vandermade did a piece with the camera that came out of a drinks lounge with a glass of pink bubby. But Vandermade looked grossly out of place. There were no other people of his age or ethnicity to be seen.
The sports with the youngest fans in America are basketball and soccer. Pam El, the NBA’s chief marketing officer, said; “The youthfulness that you see in the NBA is by design. Children start playing basketball at a young age and we have a strong youth program. Our players are icons of pop stars and have a strong appeal to young people. They have a large following and young people follow young people. “
Kyrgios plays basketball in his spare time. No wonder there. The same goes for my son. He likes the Dallas Mavericks, who are a young and ambitious team. And he’s a fan of 20-year-old Luka Doncic, who is just as old as him. But one thing he won’t see this week is 32-year-old Fabio Fognini, who plays for the ASB Classic.
CHRIS HYDE / GETTY
Roger Federer and his trainer Stefan Edberg at the Australian Open 2014.
I will watch because, like many of my generation, I have a frame of reference. As a child I saw Björn Borg and Vitas Gerulaitis and John McEnroe. These guys were super cool, they were rebels, and they had charisma.
McEnroe went wild and the other two went to New York’s hippest nightclub and carried McEnroe home. And unlike Federer, who goes on and on in several ways, Borg retired young, because that’s exactly what Jimmy Dean would have done. Who wants middle-aged heroes?
But our children don’t see tennis that way because it no longer exists. You see a sport that lasts for hours as the men’s games get longer and longer. You see two guys banging the ball back and forth at each other with 20, 30 strokes from the baseline during rallies. It repeats itself and it is boring for them.
I see the past in everything that is now, the echo of my youth. I see the volleys from McEnroe, the shots that could still be. The kids only see the here and now and it’s not exciting. Even ATP’s CEO Chris Kermode said, “Will anyone be coming to see a six-hour product in another 10 years? I doubt it. I really doubt it.”
Maybe that’s why the players kicked him out. They didn’t want anyone to tell the truth. They have sponsors for massaging. It’s bad enough when a kid at a Wall Street bank (see Moneyball writer Michael Lewis in a previous life) writes that young bankers have no idea what they’re doing and are ridiculously overpaid. But when the old man at the top of the ATP says that tennis is bored for too long, then he has to go.
Right now there’s a bit of cheer up in women’s game with the likes of 15-year-old Coco Gauff, and significantly, women’s fan demographics are six years younger than men’s game and they’re getting younger. It goes against the trend. Gauff’s match against Naomi Osaka at the US Open last year topped prime-time ratings on American television on Saturday night.
CHRIS SYMES / PHOTOSPORT via AP
Could the teenager Cori “Coco” Gauff save tennis from himself?
Kobe Bryant tweeted; “Great game @CocoGauff and @Naomi_Osaka_, the future of tennis is in good hands.”
Perhaps the future of women’s tennis is in good hands, but what about the future of men’s tennis? Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal surf in front of a generation of tennis fans created by Rod Laver and John Newcombe and Ilie Nastase and Billie Jean King and Evonne Goolagong and McEnroe and Borg and Gerulaitis and Martina Navratilova. My fandom was created then and is happy to still be fed because part of it feeds a nostalgia for my youth.
But I don’t think today’s kids will be watching tennis 30 years from now. The irony is that the Federer generation may be killing the game. We think they’re great and pay ridiculous amounts of money through sponsors, gate receipts, television and the rest. But the kids think they’re boring.
CLIVE BRUNSKILL / GETTY
Former tennis greats Rod Laver and Björn Borg.
And you know what? I’m starting to think the kids are right. This current generation of gamers does not represent biodiversity, they represent fossil fuels, metaphorically and literally. Federer was recently called out by activists about his sponsorship deal with Credit Suisse, a bank with strong ties to the fossil fuel industry.
Greta Thunberg increased the naming and shame when she reposted an activist’s tweet. “As of 2016, @CreditSuisse has donated $ 57 billion to companies looking for new fossil fuel deposits – something completely incompatible with #ClimateAction @RogerFederer. Do you support this? #RogerWakeUpNow.”
And Federer’s answer; “I take the effects and threats of climate change very seriously as my family and I arrive in Australia amid the devastation caused by the bushfires.
CLIVE BRUNSKILL / GETTY
Mary Carillo interviews John McEnroe, who was the coolest kid on the tennis block in the 1980s.
“As a father of four young children and a passionate advocate of universal education, I have great respect and admiration for the youth climate movement, and I am grateful to young climate activists for urging us all to examine our behavior and act on it.” innovative solutions.”
I mean yawn. How corporate is that? It’s a press release. The guy is turning into a financial institution. He makes sincere, solemn statements and keeps the bank doors open to anyone who pays. I’m sorry kids, you got that right. Let’s look at the B-ball. These guys are real.