There has been a lot of tennis going on as of late and with the temperatures heating up, there is much more play to look forward to. While there have been clay events in Europe, the U.K. and U.S. have hosted hardcourt events that had a unique and important feature to them: they had current players as tournament directors. This, dear readers, is an important feature that will hopefully be a positive for the sport soon and perhaps, further down the road.
A few months back, Feliciano Lopez mentioned the importance of finding a way to get the play going at tournaments again. His words had value not just as a player but as a person who understands the ins and outs of what it takes to make a tournament run. After all, he is the tournament director of the Mutua Madrid Open since 2019 and apparently, a year has been enough time for him to understand that whilst the only crew seen by most spectators are the ball kids, umpires, and lines people there is an unseen team - often shockingly small - that make these tournaments run.
This is the beauty of Jamie Murray being a player as well as Tournament Director of the Battle of the Brits. Shown on Amazon Prime U.K. as well as Tennis Channel in the States, not only was it solid tennis, it was a quality event that was enjoyable to watch on television and served as an example of how a successful event can meet the needs of the players and sponsors in the current climate. JC Aragone put on a top event as tournament director of the Ltec/Styslinger Tennis Exhibition in Miami. Featuring top American players in a beautiful setting, it was also an enjoyable event to watch with a feature on ESPN Top 10. Seeing these two players, in different stages of their career, take charge, seek to do something positive, and carry it out successfully and responsibly is encouraging and enlightening. Several times commentators mentioned how Murray had a deeper understanding and appreciation for what it takes to put on an event. JC also said he would be more appreciative of what it takes to put on an event haven not given it much thought before. These types of experiences are hopefully going to have a positive effect on any future discussions about player and tournament relations.
The DraftKings All-American Team Cup held in Atlanta, Georgia looked to be an enjoyable and successful event. I did not watch it and am mentioning it because Frances Tiafoe tested positive for Covid-19 whilst there. From what has been reported, he acted responsibly as well as the tournament and has reported that he is following the proper quarantine protocol. We all have to remember that this is a possibility even when the best precautions are taken. Hysteria should not group this event with others that preceded it. Perhaps you think it should not have had fans and fortunately, you did not go. There will be other events to come with fans and the players are risking their lively hood but doing so with their eyes open. Tiafoe will not be able to play World Team Tennis this season as scheduled because of his positive Covid result. Hopefully, he will be up and healthy for the rest of the season and will be able to contribute positively to conversations on how to play the sport during this period we are living in, with or without fans.
The past few weeks have been eye-opening for players and events organizers. Often times, sides are taken, and positions stood behind out of emotion and politics. What these players, especially those acting as tournament directors, have been able to experience is the empathy of the other side. Let’s hope it will contribute positively to future conversations and how the industry implements improvements in the near and not so near future.
A tennis observer