OPINION: Pandemic continues to reveal tennis’ dark side

Compared with other popular sports, tennis largely escapes the broad contemptuous strokes from critics. Footballers pay is wholly unjustified, rugby players are thugs, golfers and cricketers have zero personality and their sports and fans are ridiculously dull. I could go on. But tennis, well the main gripes seem to revolve around the classist roots that still remain and the hopelessly outdated views on equal prize money and the incorrect, archaic view that the women cannot play.

For some sports, the pandemic has only sharpened the knives of some; footballers voted not to sacrifice their considerable wage packets in the early weeks, these same footballers are chiefly seen flouting the rules of lockdown, and much more.

Tennis players are ultimately seen as just too vanilla to warrant much attention from any non-fan, but now their is increasing spotlight on the main contingent for all the wrong reasons.

From the laughable and implorable yoga/hair-washing rants from Bernard Tomic’s missus Vanessa Sierra, the hilariously out of touch and dramatic comments of Bautista-Agut to [again] the privileged and unnecessary demands of Novak Djokovic, the Australian Open has cast a shadow on the sport’s protagonists like never before.

Perhaps it was naivety on my part to think that tennis players were immune to such behaviour, likely instead that I have placed these sporting stars on too high a pedestal in a subconscious defiance of the golf and cricket bores that surround me.

Lastly, as if the continued, incorrect honouring of Margaret Court wasn’t enough, Tennis Australia’s organisation has been revealed to favour the elite players more than many thought possible. While I imagine this would be the case in any of the slams, the contrast in facilities enjoyed by Serena, Novak and co compared with the lower ranked players – especially during exttreme quarantine scenarios – seems short-sighted and grossly unfair.

Still, like with those overpaid footballers, boxers and golfers, I won’t change my own habits one bit and will just carry on championing sport like the rest of us. After all, it has always ultimately been nothing more than an escape route from life’s responsibilities and realities, and perhaps that’s all for the best.

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