Alan Attwood: Silencing the sounds of summer

LISTEN. Suddenly there’s nothing to hear. No pock-pock of tennis balls. No thunk-thwack of cricket balls now that the Big Bash, which lingered too long, finally ended last night. It’s time to ponder what’s gone on. Let’s stick to tennis, which seems to grab attention only for a few weeks every year.

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Before the Open came a new event, the ATP Cup. Which left lingering questions, such as why is there another team event so close to the Davis Cup? Also, what does ATP stand for? That’s easy: Abusive Tantrums Permitted. Much of the abuse was directed at racquets, as innocent as Pete Townshend’s guitars during the instrument-trashing heyday of The Who. Racquets took a pounding during the ATP Cup and Australian Open. Alexander Zverev, Novak Djokovic and (of course) Nick Kyrgios all destroyed racquets.

People respond differently to racquets being smashed. Spectators enjoy the drama. TV producers file footage to replay in dead time. Psychologists wonder if it’s better for a player to release tension on a racquet instead of an umpire. I’m different. Whenever I see a player trash equipment, I think: there’s someone who doesn’t buy their own racquets. They’re not cheap. Treated with respect, they will give faithful service for many years. Though not in the hands of pampered prima donnas who haven’t paid for their gear since they were the same size as the ballkids.

They won’t believe it, but tennis players aren’t the only professionals who sometimes find the going tough. But you seldom see a footballer burn their boots after missing a goal. Or Andre Rieu smash his violin if the woodwinds come in late during a Strauss waltz. Or J.K. Rowling thump a keyboard on the floor when she hits a hurdle in Chapter 11.

Why do tennis players do it? Because they’ve always done it – including some women. (Hi Serena!) And because they get away with it. A warning here, point deducted there, perhaps a fine … Big deal. The mystery is why more racquet manufacturers don’t follow the lead of Head, which withdrew its sponsorship of Young Bernard after a Tomic Tank at Wimbledon.

Anyone providing custom-made gear to a professional should not accept its public destruction. They should send a bill, at the very least. Apart from anything else, it’s buck-passing. During meltdowns, players are suggesting they’re not to blame. It’s the racquet at fault. Or its strings. Or the court. Or the balls. Or the umpire. Or Meghan Markle. Anything but themselves. Another suggestion: in addition to bushfire aid for every ace served, how about donations for every wrecked racquet this year? Up for it, Nick? Aces; racquets – could be a close call.

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