For generations, tennis meant class and money. Roger Federer followed in the footsteps of many other gentlemen. Even John McEnroe's dad was a lawyer. Many on the women's side were all class.
Class and intelligence followed often from wealth. Not to say that all had money. Tracy Austin comes to mind. But many did. And all had that gentleman's and gentlewoman's veneer. A patina of well-bred, less openly aggressive way about them. The favorites were especially welcome at Wimbledon. The Borg-Sampras-Becker crowd.
The whole system in the US was bent toward class. Had to travel. Had to mix with the junior tennis set and grind. Better competition made you better.
The advent of money affected things. Real money. And the tennis systems in Eastern Europe also did a lot to bring us other less cultured and more basic people. Nastase seemingly the head of that class.
Yet, today we have changes that will mar and could bring tennis down from its lofty perch. We have so many Eastern European (including Russians) and foreign players that we can hardly read the scorecards. And for every match seemingly brought to us from heaven, we have those whose roots come from another place and time.
We will see if the successors to Federer and Venus Williams (her sister has less class because she is so hyper-competitive) can manage to rise above the riffraff of current day tennis. We will see if Nadal has what it takes to star with class.
I seriously doubt it. The new generation of tennis stars have little to recommend them.
Yet there is hope. The Isner-Mahut match shows promise. Both were gracious, had personality and class, and brought tennis to the mainstream world.
The Real Truth is that our next phase is watch and wait. And hope, which springs eternal.
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