If you’re a tennis tragic, you’ve already booked your spot on the couch for SBS’s coverage of the US Open. For die-hards, it’s showing live on SBS; for the more casual fanatic, you can catch up on the action at a time that suits you via SBS On Demand.
But even if the last time you paid attention to sports was when your noisy neighbour played Huey Lewis and the News’s 1983 album, Sports, tennis is the sport for you. Why?
You only have to keep track of two people smacking a ball back and forth
Tennis is only as complicated as you want to make it. Sure, the scoring system is… unusual, but we’re talking about a sport where two people hit a ball back and forth – you’re going to pick up who’s doing it right pretty quickly. And while each game is fairly straightforward, the way they stack together means a match can become an epic struggle with each side jockeying for supremacy. You can enjoy it on a surface level, but if you want to go deep, there’s plenty to explore – it’s the Game of Thrones of sports.
It’s got great characters
Every classic story is built on characters. The trouble with most sports is there’s a whole team of characters out there and most of them are basically the same. With tennis, there are only two characters (unless you’re watching doubles) at a time. And tennis is a world game, so there are plenty of characters to choose from overall.
There are young guns like Australia’s notoriously fiery Nick Kyrgios; older players like Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun, who at 34 recently became only the second player in history to notch up 300 wins on the ATP Challenger Tour; and big guns like Swiss former world number one Roger Federer. At 36, Federer is having one of the most insane comebacks in sporting history ever – he’s won five titles already this year, including Wimbledon and the Australian Open.
It encourages combative personalities
Some sports demand respect for the umpires. Tennis is not one of those sports. Even the most mild-mannered players will let the umpire know they’re not happy with a decision, and tennis is packed with players that don’t know the meaning of mild-mannered. Shouting, racket smashing and general petulance are all part and parcel of the game – and if you’re really lucky, you’ll see a losing player suddenly “injure” themselves to avoid the disgrace of a formal defeat.
It requires grunts
Some tennis players are loud. Grunting at tennis – traditionally a sport played in complete silence; you don’t get the umpires at the football telling the crowd “quiet, please” – has become such a big deal in recent years that research now suggests we can tell winners from losers just by listening to their on-court grunting.
It goes fast and sometimes people get hurt
Unlike a lot of sports, tennis has no set run-time. This is why tennis is the sport most responsible for people coming into work tired the next day – viewers settle in for a quick game only to find it going on for hours. But the opposite is also true, making tennis a great way to get a quick sport fix. And it’s not just the run-time that’s fast – players have been clocked hitting balls at over 250 kilometres per hour.
There’s a reason the ball boys look nervous.
Watch all the 2017 US Open action from the quarter-finals onwards live, free and in HD on SBS, and streamed live via SBS On Demand. Starting from 9am on Wednesday 6 September through to the women's singles final on 10 September and men's singles final on 11 September.