Football or Tennis?

ten.jpgThe World Cup is in 100029475403 days. Let’s start the countdown from today itself! So, every major international magazine from Time to National Geographic runs an issue on how football ‘unites’ all and every regional daily in every tiny corner of the globe runs huge cover spreads of football stars, including our very own la-di-la HT and TOI. So, the World Cup is on, yawn, and so the World Cup is over, yawn. So as to not to bring upon myself, the wrath of all the millions and millions of football fans across the globe and more specifically those who read this paper, I have no contempt for your favourite sport or players. All I ask for is not to be subjected to endless coverage and discussions of just one sport. I want something to watch or talk about, and, as my favourite sport gets overshadowed, I must stand up in its defense.

I am no fan of football, but Tennis? Now, that is what I call a sport worth watching. Man vs. man, point for point, muscle, sweat and the sheer physicality of the sport. Who wouldn’t want to see stuff like this? The strategy is simple enough – gun for every point; you either win or lose; there is no onside, offside, striker, midfielder; and other such incomprehensible complications for simply one ball. There is no mumbo jumbo of this team bats and that team bats now,  first inning, second inning, blah blah – and a boring, never ending cricket match. You may ask, what is so exciting about a sport where the most eventful thing that will happen will be a player bad mouthing the umpire, hitting a ball into the crowd or refusing to shake his opponent’s hand. How can anyone explain the exhaustion you feel simply sitting and watching a five set match. Forget talent and skill, and talk about stamina. The paparazzi following tennis stars are very limited, in fact non existent and the tennis press is extremely civilized. Drugs are simply unheard of and wild lifestyles on display are just not part of the system. It is not uncommon for national dailies and tabloids to do nasty spreads on super football stars, their families or their choice of a partner. Football and sleaze are synonymous, but tennis has always had a clean chit. There are no lavish parties, no nonsensical gambling, no steamy scandals concerning cigar guzzling ‘managers’, and no infamous girlfriends who regularly appear on covers of FHM, Playboy etc. Tennis players usually tour with their families and, for the better part of their careers, do little else but play the sport. Tennis is essentially a minimum controversy game and a high adrenalin one which is not only entertaining; it is grueling, intensely physical and for the large part, a mind game. Saving match points is nothing short of a miraculous mind feat – there is little skill but immense mental strength involved. The level of concentration required by individual players to remain unbeaten and to have a successful career is simply mind boggling. There is just no time for distractions. You have to keep winning and it rests completely on you, because you don’t have ten other people to cover up for you when you are having a bad day. You can’t get off with a pudgy figure, like countless of our cricket players do, and still pocket the crores. There is a certain quality that the game brings and we watch in wonder at just how much someone can excel at something.

Above all, the reason why I like this sport more than others is because it is the only internationally played and watched sport where women championships are held side by side with men. Both the men’s and the women’s finals are held in the same stadium which is packed for both the events. The men and women players are paid equally (in almost all the major slams), they both give press conferences and they both represent the face of the sport. Women players are just as well known, if not better than the men. Here, women too can draw in the crowds, be a cause of celebration for a nation and inspire many to follow them. Women too, can be athletic and entertaining at the same time. Football or tennis, you can have your pick, but in my eyes there’s a clear winner.

Inayat Sabhikhi

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