What goes on in the air, stays in the air (until now)…
“I made a huge mistake. I have let my fans down, and let the sport down.”
It’s time to whet your appetite for the most anticipated tennis tournament of the year…
It was deathly quiet on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Novak Djokovic took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and tossed the ball. He was serving on championship point. The usually rambunctious crowd was still; having collectively inhaled their war cries, saving them for the inevitable end of the battle raging below them. Novak is tall, imposing, and incredibly Serbian, with charisma oozing from every pore and cheekbones to die for. A gladiator, a champion, a warrior waiting to strike.
But down the other end of the court, his opponent is something else entirely. The man standing hunched over his racquet, ready to fight for his life, is more than your everyday celebrity sports star. This man has been labeled not just the greatest tennis player, but the greatest athlete to ever live. He is called the Maestro, the Master, the Genius, the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). I call him God. He is none other than Roger Federer; the Swiss tennis deity who has enriched the lives of everyone who’s ever watched him play.
Novak smacks the ball with terrifying force. Back, forth, back, forth, back again; it whizzes over the net. The crowd begins to stir; the gasps, shrieks, and other inexplicable noises come thick and fast as the final point is played. Suddenly, Roger’s ball lands just outside the baseline and Novak Djokovic has officially claimed the 2015 US Open crown.
After a moment, the crowd begins to clap; a grudging, watery sound that increases gradually as the two move to the net. It’s a weird moment. Victory is usually delirium from the winner and ecstatic chaos from the crowd…but not this time. As these two kings of the court exchanged post-match niceties, it was overwhelmingly clear that of the 23,000 people in Arthur Ashe Stadium, 20,000 of them were desperate for Roger to win.
I sat on the couch at my home in Sydney for a solid half hour when the match ended. Crying – loudly. I was so heartbroken by Federer’s defeat I could feel a pain in my chest. Oddly enough, I wasn’t the only one. Three of my friends sent me texts littered with teary emojis, expressing the terrible sadness we all felt. I checked Twitter; the die-hard Federer fans (who call themselves the FedFam) were distraught. Even the Rafa Nadal fans (the Rafamily) were loudly lamenting the loss and they are about as partisan as a fan club can be.
So, what is it about Roger Federer that inspires this cult? Why are people like me, who have never played the sport and have absolutely nothing to do with the tennis world, so entranced by everything he does? And why is Novak Djokovic, the sensational athlete, philanthropist, and hilarious impression-maker, so terribly resented whenever he beats the Swiss tennista?
After much contemplation, the only answer is that dearest Fed is a perfect human being.
I’m not kidding; that man is quite literally nailing life like he’s following a textbook. His impeccable record extends far beyond the court. Aside from the 17 Grand Slams, 87 career titles, and his 300 million dollar net worth, he’s just an all around good guy. Not only is he head-spinningly gracious, he’s funny! And handsome, and kind, and gentlemanly, and he has two sets of identical twins (two girls, two boys). This adds about 5 points to his perfecto-ranking because not only will they always have a buddy, they’ll be able to play men’s, women’s, AND mixed doubles together.
How can such a being exist? How has such a masterful member of the human race have manifested in this imperfect world? And why does nobody begrudge him anything? All I can say is thank you, Universe, for Roger Federer. You’ve done us all a great favour. Now excuse me while I comfort-buy “I Heart Roger” T-shirts on e-bay.
Image via Ibtimes.co.in
With the US Open in its third day of play, the temperature is rising on the sticky, humid courts of Flushing Meadows, New York City. However, it’s not just the thermometer that’s making the stadiums steamy. Victoria Milan, a dating website for married/attached people looking to cheat (move over, Ashley Madison), has taken a very interesting US Open poll. According to the ladies on the website, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic is not just #1 in the rankings, he’s also been voted the #1 most desirable player at the 2015 tournament.
In order to discover this staggering statistic, the website asked 8,364 of its female members whether tennis players feature in their sexual fantasies. A colossal 79 per cent of these women admitted that the heaving, lunging forehands, backhands and aces made them a little hot under the collar, with a few clear favourites. Novak Djokovic led the pack at 28 per cent, the Spaniard Rafael Nadal (of Tommy Hilfiger fame) came in a close second at 24 per cent and the Swiss maestro Roger Federer rolled in at third with 16 per cent.
Here are the Victoria Milan data specifics, to give you an idea of who to save your smile for:
1. Novak Djokovic – 28%
2. Rafael Nadal – 24%
3. Roger Federer – 16%
4. Fabio Fognini – 9%
5. Gilles Simon – 7%
6. David Ferrer – 5%
7. Benoît Paire – 5%
8. Andy Murray – 3%
9. Feliciano Lopez – 2%
10. Grigor Dimitrov – 1%
Personally, I think Rafael Nadal should be a resounding number 1, but, like, whatever…
This isn’t the first time that tennis players have been acknowledged as the best celebrity crushes. InStyle and Elle magazine have each recently released a list of the sexiest male tennis stars, citing (along with the top three) players such as the Czech Tomas Berdych, Italy’s Fabio Fognini (Google him, you’ll thank me later), and the smoldering Spaniard Feliciano Lopez (who was recently described by commentators as “genetically modified”).
And they’re not the only ones jumping on the bandwagon. Sugarscape.com capitalized on the terrific tennista trend circa Wimbledon, compiling their own top 14 list. Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov (ex-boyfriend of Russian beauty Maria Sharapova) got the biggest mention, because let’s face it, he’s magnificent. And don’t forget the 6 foot 10 American John Isner, the boyish good looks of Canada’s Milos Raonic, and Spain’s David Ferrer, whose Disney-esque face and princely physique will leave you breathless (again, please, PLEASE Google him).
So what is it about tennis players that makes them so incredibly crushable? CEO and Founder of Victoria Milan, Sigurd Vedal, stated that the fact that tennis players do it for the ladies is not surprising. “Muscles flexing, sweat dripping, determination and strength are all showcased during the US Open, and once a bit of imagination kicks in, it’s no wonder the female members of the audience are the most avid viewers. Everyone has a fantasy – and it’s easy to see how US Open tennis players just make it so easy for women,” he explained.
But it’s not just all that sweaty, gladiatorial action on court that makes us gleefully giggle. Think about it; these guys are not only in peak physical condition, plus super tall (no need to sacrifice the stilettos), they’re just inherently dateable. They’re disciplined as hell (none of that egomaniacal superstar actor crap), conditioned to keep their heads in high pressure situations, and all that practice at good-sportsmanship gives them a gentlemanly core. Add to that the fact that they get flown around the world by sponsors for 10 months of the year with their entourage of coaches, family, and partners, and you’ve got the perfect boyfriend!
I am unashamed to say that on my bucket list, along with skydiving, meeting Meryl Streep, and hunting for sexy vampires in New Orleans (they all apparently live in the South), is spending a period of time as a tennis WAG. Seriously, I can think of nothing better than running around the world with my gorgeous, disciplined, gentlemanly boyfriend, and watching tennis from the exclusive players’ box all day, every day. Admit it; 2015 is a VERY attractive year for tennis. So gentleman, if your wife or girlfriend has developed a sudden interest in the sport, be warned; she’s probably (in fact, definitely) in awe of more than the fabulous tennis skills on display.
I’ll leave you now with a serve of my top 10 US Open tennis hotties. You’re welcome.
Images via The Guardian, Tommyhilfiger.com, Dailymail, Harpers Bazaar, Tennis View, Aircelchennaiopen.org, Express, Ksiazkizbojeckie.blox.pl, Sexpornimages.com, Zimbio, Tennisworldusa.org
The US Open has long been the most flamboyant of the four grand slams. Held in New York; the city lives up to its reputation of endowing whatever it touches with a sense of “there’s a first time for everything!” This year, in tennis terms, is no exception…the sky high screenings in Times Square of Rafael Nadal casually flaunting his Tommy Hilfigers is testament to that. However, another notable first this year is that the women’s final has sold out before the men’s.
According to the organisers, this has never happened before in the history of the tournament. Ever. So why this year? The advertising has been no different. The crowd has the same interests, or do they? Alongside the Federers, Nadals, and Djokovics of the tennis world, one player has a more interesting story than anyone. A female player. I’m talking about America’s Serena Williams, who is aiming for the first Calendar Slam achieved by a woman since 1988.
To nail a Calendar Slam, a player must win all four grand slams in a calendar year; The Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open. Serena already has the first three; to win the fourth on home soil is beyond making history. But this fascination with her is unusual. Plenty of records have been smashed by extraordinary female sports stars/teams, and nobody cares or even knows about it. I mean, the Australian Diamonds netball team just won the World Championships and the media was covering Nick Kyrgios’ sledging of Stan Wawrinka.
And it’s not just netball. The Southern Stars women’s cricket team just regained the Ashes, yet only 7 per cent of sports programming in Australia covers women’s sports. And as for the pay gap, it stinks. At the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, the men competed for at least $3.975 million. Two years ago, when female cricketers played their most recent World Cup in India, the $75,000 winnings paled in comparison. There is a similar disparity in many sports including surfing, soccer and golf.
Which brings us back to tennis, one of the only high profile sports to have equal pay for both men and women. There is some contention about this. At grand slams, women play best of three sets, and the men play best of five. Women will spend about two hours on court per match, and men will play for four, five, sometimes six hours. In other smaller tournaments, all players play best of three.
The disparity in court time means a disparity in TV air time; less advertising, sponsorship exposure, and ratings. It is perfectly understandable and logical to argue that for grand slam tournaments, men receive more prize money than the women. Until seven years ago, when Wimbledon joined the pack of equal pay, that was the case.
So why the lack of pay gap in tennis? If you consider the gender equivalent training, travel, physio, press, injuries, jet lag, pain, and self-discipline athletes put themselves through, it’s entirely justified that the pay is the same. Women in all sports undergo the same physical and mental struggle as men, coupled with the constant battle to be relevant in a boys club. Yet the vast majority of sportswomen are not properly acknowledged for their colossal efforts.
There are other female sporting role models out there like Serena Williams; we just don’t hear about them. I’m not sure if women in sport will ever receive the same appreciation, at least not in the near future. However, if we make an effort to watch women’s sport on TV/in person (we should; it’s actually fabulous), talk about it on social media and generally push an interest, we may close the gap sooner than we think.
It’s safe to assume that by now, you will have heard of Nick Kyrgios. The 20-year-old tennis star caused a stir at this year’s Wimbledon – throwing racquets, back-chatting umpires and the infamous ‘tanking’ incident. He even hugged a ball-boy (really a ball-teenager) during a match. Add to that the outrageously awkward comments made by swimming legend Dawn Fraser and you have a melting pot for drama.
At face value, Kyrgios’ recent behaviour seems deplorable. It’s presumptuous to refuse to play because you disagree with an umpire’s call. It’s rude to mutter, “do you feel strong up there?” to another umpire because he reprimands you for swearing. Nobody is denying that this is unacceptable. However, what is also unacceptable is vilifying and dismissing a person as a “tennis brat” (thank you, Dawn), before thoroughly examining why such behaviour is manifesting.
I was a complete headcase when I was 20. So were my 20-year-old friends. We had no self-awareness, self-discipline, or self-respect, which was glaringly obvious in everything we did. However, we had the luxury of working through our post-adolescence in the privacy of our own homes, where our misguided meltdowns (mine were often toddler-esque) were witnessed only by our unfortunate parents.
Kyrgios is not afforded the same privilege. Every bump in the emotional rollercoaster of leaving his teens is captured, magnified, and displayed for the world to see, right when he is at his most vulnerable…on the court. Facing the kind of anxiety that poor Bridget Jones felt when Mark Darcy discovered her horrendously misleading diary.
Don’t get me wrong, after hearing about a few of his on-court shenanigans, I was more than ready to jump on the Judge-y Train. However, that was before I watched his fourth round match against the world number 20 – Frenchman (and sensational babe) Richard Gasquet. What I saw was something quite different to the erratic youth the media has been yelling about. Honestly, the guy looked terrified, and seemed extremely distracted by soul-crushing anxiety. Unsurprising, given the gargantuan task of maintaining his reputation, his sponsors, and his dignity on the most public of stages. Behind the apparent petulance I saw only genuine distress… and I felt sorry for him.
Of course, there are many 20-year-olds who manage this pressure flawlessly. Former world number 1 Rafael Nadal was beyond reproach from the age of 16. However, not everybody is cut from that exquisite cookie dough. Like many young people, Nick Kyrgios, with his flair for the dramatic and obsessive drive to better himself, is not yet equipped to cope with extreme stress. I sure as hell wasn’t. It’s simple, and above all, normal.
At the core of the issue, this isn’t a spoilt brat who cares nothing for tennis. This isn’t an attention whore. This is a paranoid kid, whose worst fear is not living up to his own incredibly high expectations of himself. It’s borne of the fact that he cares so very, very deeply about what he does. Patting away a couple of balls isn’t tanking the match. The keen focus and sheer determination Kyrgios displayed when he won the third set should eliminate that assumption.
My advice for Kyrgios is to sit down, take a deep breath, and work out a more productive way to handle his frayed nerves. For his own sake, he needs to do it quickly. However, nagging, belittling, and patronising him isn’t going to help. So leave the guy alone. His behaviour really is none of our business. If Kyrgios ever needs a hug on court again, I’ll happily give him one; the ball-kids are usually busy.
Image via Jockington.com