I love all sports but tennis has to be one of my favourites. It has so many unique features that give it a unique postion in the sporting world. Here a few of the reasons why I love it.
Scoring: Tennis games can go on forever (literally). You could win 1000 points but not even end up with one on the scoredboard. That is because in tennis you have to win to win. I know that sounds obvious, but think of most sports. Usually you can start off on a hot streak and then rest on your laurels, wait until the clock runs out. But in tennis you have to win the last point of the game, set or match to win it. Technically no match is ever over if you can win half the points and if you win the next point you are still in with a chance. The games leading to sets to matches mean that a lot of hard work can often render little reward. Losing a set 7-6 is in essence the same as losing 6-0
Psychology: It is this cool scoring system which gives way to the next cool factor in tennis. The strength of any player’s game lies in the mind games that he is playing with himself and with his opponent. The scoring means that there are certain points that become so critical and someone has to win them. A break point is a rare chance to gain a massive advantage. A set point even bigger. And a match point that isn’t taken in the fourth set of a grand slam final and ends up with a loss in five sets? That’s a killer.
The other side of the psychology is the mano e mano nature of the sport. It is one guy out there (or girl but women’s tennis sucks) versing another. They have no coach pep talk at halftime, no strategic advice. They just have themselves and a racquet (or 20). If you ever watch a match with Lleyton Hewitt you can witness the strange mental effects of momentum swings, self doubt, missing a crucial point, or firing up when all looks lost. Then you watch Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal and you see the benefits of having an insurmountable self belief. They face the big moments with strength and poise and relish any chance to crush an opponents will. Sometime they will go toe to toe with the strengths of an opponent to mess with their heads just like a ju jitsu specialist standing and striking with a boxer.
Live: I also recently witnessed how much fun tennis can be to watch live. It is a different atmosphere to most sports I have ever seen. The way the crowd will remain silent during a point and then fire up once the point is won is strangely respectful. It also has that feel that most sports do when you see them in real life. TV seems to water down contact and speed in every sport and the speed and power of the shots in tennis are no different.
Whether it is straight sets win 6-0 6-0 6-0 or deuce 15 in the 10th game of the fifth set. You gotta love tennis.
N.B. Since writing this both Nadal and Federer have lost and I probably won't watch the Australian Open final anymore...