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Tennis, No One?
About three years ago, I started getting the Tennis Channel as part of my cable TV package. I had always yearned to have such access, but I had been too stingy to spring for the ten dollars a month they were asking.

But those days are gone now. Somehow, my prayers must have been heard by Comcast. I now enjoy 24/7 professional tennis on my big screen — at no extra charge. I would have thought that I’d eventually get bored with it, but that has not happened. For some reason, this particular sport has been endlessly fascinating in a way that no other, including baseball, has ever been. Even matches between second tier players — or even third tier, if the competition is fierce enough — are still drawing me in.

Nor am I differentiating on account of gender. I find that the offerings of the Women’s Tennis Association are no less interesting than those of the all-male Association of Tennis Professionals. If anything, the women’s game is more interesting. Men’s tennis (owing chiefly to advances in racket technology) is often reduced to one big serve, one big forehand, point over.

Moreover, tennis seems to be broadly enlightened as professional sports go. With a little pushing, of course. Billie Jean King and her cohort started the Virginia Slims tour back in 1973, and that effort has led to equal pay for women in the Grand Slams and some of the other big events, at least. Still not all the way there, but no other sport has done so well with pay equity.

Tennis has comported itself pretty well with racial equality, as well. Like soccer, it is a truly international sport, so you might expect that to be the case. The organizations around the sport, however — including the Tennis Channel itself — have made a credible effort to reach into minority communities to find talent at every level.

The players themselves, moreover, seem uniformly thoughtful, well-spoken, and bright. There are some boneheads, of course, but the two associations (which are largely controlled by the players themselves) have surprisingly good records for righteousness. As evidence of this claim, I point to the story of the Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai.

Peng, who was once ranked by the WTA as the No. 1 women’s doubles tennis player in the world, recently posted online that she had been sexually assaulted by Chinese ex-vice premier Zhang Gaoli. The post quickly disappeared, and so did Peng. Everyone expressed “concern,” including the International Olympic Committee (the Winter Olympics will be held in China in a few months), but no one did anything.

Except, that is, for the WTA. They have now cancelled all of their upcoming tournaments in China. This action will cost the association hundreds of millions of dollars. That is a sacrifice with some hair on it. In doing so, they have made everyone who’s done less, especially the IOC, look like chumps. Also on the chump list, it should be mentioned, is the ATP. The men have so far declined to step up in solidarity with their sisters. Individual male players have come forward, but they just don’t pack the punch, financial and otherwise, that the entire official organization would. C’mon, guys.

I will probably continue to watch the Tennis Channel, even though there might be a big gap in their programming where WTA events in China used to be. Or maybe I’ll just skip over those gaps and not watch TV at all. Not much hair on that sacrifice, I’ll admit, but at least I’d be chumping out the ATP.

Please Note: Tim Eagan will read your comments but he is currently not publishing them.

Yes, voting matters. Polls do not.
~ H, Santa Cruz