“I’ll just serve aces”: enough of the over-complimenting, it’s time someone spoke the truth

Although the Australian Open has the reputation of being immensely successful each and every year, I get the feeling that it’s the same people, the same families that are its biggest supporters. Their annual seats at Rod Laver Arena are eagerly and happily filled, their couches often occupied and remotes ignored as their television stays locked on Channel Seven. This peaceful picture is one that tennis is happily and intentionally central to during these often hot and painfully long January weeks. And while it’s been proven that targeting this audience is more than viable, I can’t help but notice the stubbornness of people who haven’t been brought up with this delightfully content home setting. There are many – I think too many – of my friends who will never watch tennis, citing how boring and predictable it is for their stigma. You could mount many an argument against that point of view, but their passionate ignorance of the game is a sign of perhaps just how monotonous tennis can seem.

What tennis could do with is a new breed of players – or at least a player – that goes against the norm of toeing the party line. After every match on “RLA” you’ll hear the winner say all the right things in his or her interview with the Jim Couriers or Sam Smiths of the Channel Seven commentary fraternity. And this – I feel – is part of the problem. The correlation between a player’s ranking and their ability to delight the crowd with their vague, generic but somehow refreshing wit appears strong. Roger Federer – deservedly known as the master, etc. for his on-court prowess – has also served as the benchmark for post-match interview schmoozing. Federer’s knack for over-complimenting the lowly opponent he just triple-bageled has driven me – as an avid tennis watcher at this time of year – completely nuts over the years. This kind of maddening politeness is a typical weapon in the armoury of talents that top tennis players must possess. Fed and Co. make every crowd they play in front of fall in love with them by thanking them for “making this my favourite tournament”, and go on to charm thousands by being respectful of their next opponent; “it’ll be a really tough match” is a stalwart of any pro-player’s bank of clichés.

What I’d like to see is a player bring genuine, unwavering confidence that borders on offensive arrogance to the court. It would almost certainly encourage a portion of the tennis-haters to tune in and barrack for this player to win because of the displeasure it would bring to tennis-lovers. And you wouldn’t lose that traditional audience either, because they would applaud keenly for the player representing the dreariness we’ve become accustomed to. Tennis players aren’t meant to be supported like clubs are. Barracking in the stands comes from patriotism, as it would with any Olympic sport. But with a new wave of tennis players that offend the traditionalist majority of the crowd and ignite encouragement from the minority, tennis crowds could take on a completely different dynamic.

Imagine a player with the nerve to respond to Jim Courier’s friendly warning about the “dangerous” next opponent by not only dismissing that player’s ability, form and credibility, but refusing to answer any more questions until Courier apologises for implying the possibility of a loss. In a Mundine-like act, this player would hold so much self-belief that he would go in to every match expecting not only a win but the tennis equivalent of a first-round knockout. In opposition to the usual praise for the upcoming opponent’s game, he would deliver a stinging backhanded compliment, like “his strength is unquestionably his second serve returns, but that doesn’t matter because I’ll just serve aces”.

About Tom Riordan

Tom Riordan is in his second year of a Bachelor of Journalism at Swinburne University. He loves all sports, and plays for Brunswick Cricket Club. He supports the Western Bulldogs and can be found on weekends among half a dozen others in Q38 on the top level of the MCC.


  1. Love it Tom. I often wonder why tennis and golf (which have become tediously polite and serious) don’t allowing barracking from spectators and sledging from opponents.
    After all when I line up a six foot putt this afternoon, I fully expect some friendly advice like “you should be able to get down in 3 from there.” As I stand on the tee on the fourth someone will say “look out for the water on the left, you’ve been in the river the last 3 weeks”.
    Tennis and golf need Davey Warner’s on the field and in the stands.

  2. Dave Brown says

    Seeking unpredictability in tennis – follow Andy Murray. He has everything – supreme skill, frequent injuries, bizarre facial contortions, strange clothes, shouting at his mum in the stands and whingeing on twitter when people admire Nadal’s G&D. Closest thing to a loose cannon of substance that tennis has.

  3. We should bring back Ion Tiriac, and Ilie Nastase.


  4. I agree that it would liven up interest in tennis but the mere mention of Mundine is why it will never happen. These guys need sponsors too.

  5. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Good stuff Tom,
    The lack of spontaneous wit in most professional sportspeople deadens the language and the culture of those sports. Tennis could do with a few cads and cadettes to at least make it a bit more theatrical.

    PB, if Warner’s wit matched his batting I’d agree with you, but to me he comes across as a boorish blowfish.

  6. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Good point , Tom is it also more to it in that re women’s tennis v rarely a upset . Waiting for a aussie to really arrive , Tomic is getting hammered as I type hopefully
    the , Ks really do come thru and are indeed special . Is it that the only difference we see in tennis is major men’s matches are.best of five sets , indeed surfaces are well and truly hard court with a bit of grass and clay thrown in , compared to cricket with
    tests , 50 over and 20 – 20 games all completely different , great discussion point , Tom

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