America’s lost sport: The death of American tennis and the effort to bring it back to life

September 21, 2011
by Justin

There is no emotion that numbs the soul like death or witnessing a protracted demise. America is at a crossroad, standing over a slowly dying pastime, trying to figure out if we’re going to cut our losses and pull the plug. There was once a time when a majority of the top tennis players in the world hailed from U.S. Bill Tilden, Althea Gibson, Don Budge, Billy Jean King and Arthur Ashe were once superstars in one of America’s most popular sports. It was hard not to be pessimistic in 2010 when Andy Roddick, America’s only competitive male tennis player at the time, fell out of the top 10. That was the first time that has happened West of the Atlantic since 1973. Now there are only 2 male players from the U.S. in the top fifteen and one woman in the top fifty. American Tennis maybe on its last leg, but there is one family who won’t let it die.

The word McEnroe might as well have been a four-letter expletive when it came to legacies. The McEnroes brothers are 3 hard nose New Yorkers whose eldest brother John achieved stardom for his exceptional play, and infamy for his bad boy image. The New York Times once called John “the worst advertisement for our system of values since Al Capone”. The McEnroe’s new given titles are much more honorable. They all go by coach and are responsible for the new professional/college prep approach to bringing back high level tennis play from America.

Patrick McEnroe works with the United States Tennis Association recruiting kids still in elementary to be home schooled and play tennis full time. This type of immersion is the European technique, often used and associated with worldwide sports like soccer and basketball. Europe has tennis based boarding academies that groom young prodigies into superstars.

John has a differing approach from his brother Patrick. He along with his middle brother Mark prefer that the youth take an journey similar to his, which was staying in a normal scholastic situation while playing several sports outside of tennis. This method creates a more well rounded athlete who doesn’t get burned out by the game and whose family doesn’t have to suffer in the process of trying to fund their child’s expensive interest.

Though tennis may still be considered a sport for the financially elite, we as Americans have to support the sport we once dominated. I challenge you young athletes to teach our next generation. We live in a culture that doesn’t care about the labor, they just want to see the baby. Our job as connoisseurs of tennis is to be concerned about the state of the game, and to do our best to leave it better than it was when we arrived.

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