Does Tennis Need A New Bad Boy?

At the end of Wimbledon 2011 I read a newspaper article saying that men’s tennis desperately needed a new bad boy. I don’t agree, pure and simple. This article explains why, so read on to see if you agree with me or the journalist…

John Inverdale is what I call an ‘old school’ journalist. By that I mean that he was not a top champion sportsman, which is the trend in broadcasting. Inverdale trained as a journalist, started in newspapers, went to radio, then to TV – that’s the old school route in sports presenting.

He has presented the daily highlights show during Wimbledon for a few years now, and it was in a newspaper article after the tournament ended that he said the sport needed a bad boy.

Novak Djokovic had taken the title, and he is generally described as nice, friendly, respectful. In the final he beat Rafael Nadal, who is often described as nice, friendly, respectful.

The pair of them seem to be slightly overtaking the multiple winner Roger Federer, and guess how he’s usually described? Yep, nice, friendly, respectful!

Inverdale argued that this was all well and good, but the sport was missing the fire and controversy generated by the bad boys. Bad boys like John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Ilie Nastasie.

Bad boys who would hurl their rackets in disgust, have blazing shouting matches with officials and opponents, and polarise public opinion for them or against them. Inverdale suggests that whatever you thought of them, you would watch just to see what happened, and the sport was less watchable without them.

I think that’s nonsense, and here are 2 reasons…

The first reason is that as role models, the polite off-court demeanour of today’s top players is much better to see than the rude, selfish, obnoxious behaviour of the past.
On court the players today are just as competitive on court, they just don’t rant and rave.

I’ll take respect over rudeness any day!

The second reason against the bad boy deals with why the current players don’t rant and rave, and it’s this – it hurts their performance!

It used to be thought that getting fired up and annoyed would give motivation and spur on a player, but in fact time after time this has shown to not be the case. The top players admit themselves that keeping a lid on emotions when on court helps to maintain concentration, and also saves precious energy.

There are plenty of sports where the players seemingly moan the whole time, and it’s clear that youngsters mimic the behaviour of their heroes. With all the sports that give that image, we certainly don’t need tennis adding to the list. Rather it’s important that we do have other, decent models of behaviour to be able to influence.

Add in the reduced performance resulting from (literally) taking the eye off the ball to moan and complain, and you can see why I don’t agree with John Inverdale – I think men’s tennis is quite fine *without* new bad boys thank-you!

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