Tennis is a lonely sport. Ask any player, analyst, or student of the game and you will hear this repeated again and again. It’s probably the first thing that comes to mind when considering the hardships of the sport. Players are worn down by long road trips away from home, with only coaches by their side. It’s similar for tennis fans. Nobody really throws a party to watch a Slam final no matter how important, and few find themselves waking in the middle of the night to take in a match on the other side of the world.
Even if you are that crazy, even if a match could have the rally of the season it’s rare to have someone sitting next to you to high five after the point concludes like you may when watching other sports.
The closest that many fans come to group excitement during a match, unless you are in the stadium itself, is the comfort of tightly knit “tennis twitter” or the few friends and family insane enough to get up at all hours to text back and forth throughout the entire match. It’s a solitary watching environment, but it fits well with the aura of the sport itself.
Celebrate points and cringe over defeat in equal measure, but do it mostly alone with your own thoughts. Just like the players as they stare each other down from either side of the net.
But this weekend, laying awake waiting for the Australian Open Finals to start, it was hard not to think about the benefits of such a viewing environment. Much has been made of the fact that both match-ups — Venus vs. Serena and Federer vs. Nadal — harkened back to the peak of “Golden Age” tennis circa a decade ago.
With the exception of Serena any of these players getting to the final of a Major tournament wasn’t only unexpected, it was damn near impossible to think about even a couple weeks ago. And they ended up playing each other. The matches were comforting in a bittersweet way because they brought everyone back to the glory of peak tennis without actually transporting people back to that time.