I’ll start with a quote from Mario Vargas Llosa’s essay “The civilization of the spectacle”:
“Today, sport has acquired an importance that in the past it possessed only in Ancient Greece. For Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and other frequenters of the Academy, the cultivation of the body was simultaneous and complementary to the cultivation of the spirit. It was believed that both are mutually enriched. The difference with our time is that now, generally, the practice of sports is made at the expense of, and instead of, intellectual work “.
In the past, when we watched players like IlieNastase, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Björn Borg we didn’t just appreciate their different styles, but we marveled at the way they could improvise and produce strategies to defeat each one of their opponents. They prepared each and every point and resolved them in their own way. We admired their talent as tennis players, but we loved their intelligent approach to the game as well.
Today, though, certain developments in the world of tennis are a cause for concern. A few days ago I read that at the recent Australian Open, more than seventy per cent of the points did not last longer than four shots. The statistics are similar at last year’s US Open. These figures may not surprise us, but the people who love this sport have reason to be worried.
There have been no changes in the rules of tennis since it first became a professional sport, even though today’s players are far bigger and more powerful than their predecessors. Not to mention their rackets which have become high technology weapons made out of extralight, lethal materials.
We all know that other sports like Formula 1, football and basketball have introduced changes in order to make the races or the games more entertaining.
I think I can predict where the future of tennis is heading, and I’m afraid I don’t like what I see. If nothing is done, we will soon be witness to the almost total domination of speed and power to the detriment of skills and tactics. Tennis will just become a matter of brute force, rather than a sport in which players need to work on improving their skills, reflect on the game, and apply intelligent strategies.
If the trend continues, those of us who are involved in the game will have to adapt: we’ll have to leave our principles to one side and pursue a new kind of training that ignores reflection and leads to what the wise men of Greece rejected centuries ago: the separation of sport from the cultivation of the spirit.