Understanding the decline of Australian tennis

John Harms explains the root cause of the decline of Australian tennis.



About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au. He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. JTH – love the totem tennis theory.

    Not sure if there is a connection, but Aussie tennis’ decline also coincided with the fact that yo-yos went out of favour.

  2. Jeff Dowsing says

    Not to mention the re-emergence of marbles as a prolonged craze during the mid ’80’s. It signalled the death knell for junior tennis participation at Blackburn East Primary.

  3. Dog accessory manufacturers should take some of the blame for the decline of Australian tennis, too. Once upon a time you’d walk your dog and take along a tennis racquet and a tennis ball. You’d give the ball a good whack, Rover would go haring across the grass, bring the ball back and you’d give it another whack. Now? Dog lovers walk along with those plastic scoop flingy things. No forehand, no backhand, no hope.

  4. Which, incidentally Vin, correlates with the rise of Australia as an emerging sporting power in Lacrosse.

  5. Totem tennis overrated? It pains me to say, but you, sir, are unAustralian.

  6. Just watched young Edben go down and I reckon I know the problem.

    Imagine having to put up with ” Let’s go Aussie let’s go. Let’s go Aussie let’s go.”

    Or “Come on Aussie come on come on…” for a whole tournament.

    By the way, I’ve got tennis elbow so I’m doing my bit.

  7. Lil Lleyton, bogans, C’mon , bogans, those vile Fanatics, bogans, C’mon Aussie, bogans…

    I saw THAT t-shirt today at the Aus Open,
    ‘Australia –
    if you don’t LOVE it


  8. Sad watching Matthew Ebden repeat last years result; 2 sets to 0 up, then losing it. It brought back memories of some of Mark Edmondsons’ ‘great’ snatch defeat from the jaws of victory performances of the late 1970’s. Wimbledon 1977, 2 sets to 0 up against Vijay Armitraj : lost. Wimbeldon 1979, 2 sets to1 against Wojtek Fibak: lost. Davis Cup, Sydney 1979, 2 sets to 0 up, as well as 3 match points against Vitas Gerulaitis; lost. Great memories; not. The fact 9 Australians played on day 1, but only 1 won, continues a malaise which has been going for many years.


  9. Andrew Weiss says

    I think that the demise of tennis in Australia came about when the good old tar courts got replaced by those colour things we have now. I remember how important it was to have quick and nimble foot work whilst playing on these tar courts espicially when the temperature was over 40 degrees and if you stood in one spot for too long you would stick to the court.

    You made sure you hit winners to try and get as many points before the brand new balls were totally black and you could not see them as shade from the pine or gum tress started to move over the court in the mid to late afternoon.

    Now that was when tennis was a skilful game.

  10. Jeff Dowsing says

    On a serious note, tennis has been 20 years behind the 8-ball at junior level. All the other traditional Australian sports have a strong presence in schools and tailored introductory programs designed to promote mass participation. AFL is a favourite whipping boy but they have been the benchmark with VicKick > AusKick. Tennis has existed virtually at local club level only, in fact local coaches have resisted alternate means for fear of losing business (quite a short-sighted view).

    Only in the past couple years has a program such as Hot Shots emerged with a concerted effort to spend the AO bazillions on building a bigger base from which more likely stars can rise to the top. Tennis somehow got lost in the antiquated notion of champions materialising out of nowhere on good old Aussie spirit. And failing that, materialising at Melbourne or Sydney Airport on a specially arranged Visa and fast-tracked citizenship.

  11. 16 Australians appeared in first round matches, 3 have reached the second round including young Duckworth who won an all Australian match. Hmm, with Australian tennis, i still reckon things are crook in Tallarook.


  12. Peter Schumacher says

    I just think that players from other countries particularly Eastern Europe are just hungrier. I often wonder how Alicia would go if she came from such an area.

  13. Jeff Dowsing says

    Was it the Serbs or the Croats that trained out of empty swimming pools as courts? Both countries’ strike rates are phenomenal, and I agree Peter, I think their hunger to succeed and make a living is a large part of it. How many Aussies look like emerging through good results at Grand Slam junior events only to drop by the wayside?

  14. Five or six years back, the young male tennis player Reid, i forget his first name; Ben ? Any how he looked good at junior level, only to disappear once in senior ranks.

    How ill Duckworth, Saville fare in senior tennis? Hopefully they will give us a future , beyond being totally dependent on B.T.


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