Bob Dylan in 1964 released the song 'The Times They Are A- changing', an all time classic with some educational lyrics. There is a verse with the words 'Come mothers and fathers throughout the land, don't criticize what you can't understand'.
I liken the song and that verse in particular to a sport that I at times shake my head in disbelief at the way in which it is now played, coached and officiated.
When Bob Dylan released that classic hit in 1964 the great Australian Roy Emerson won three of the four Grand Slams of the year. Only Manuel Santana of Spain prevented Emerson from taking out all four majors with a win in Paris while the Australian was knocked out in the quarter finals. Unlike the above lyrics I will in fact criticize several things that I can't understand as I see the sport turning into some sort of circus, plenty of clowns.
I will start with the towel, yes the towel was introduced to the game by someone who obviously thought about the rules in detail and how to exploit them. With 25 seconds between points up for offer there is time to 'go the towel' and sure after a 40 shot rally it perhaps is warranted.
So what about an ace ? Why do players go the towel after being aced ? Is that a chance to do the sums and try to work out where it's going next or is it just habit ? What's wrong with a sweat band ? Surely Roy Emerson in '64 was happy to 'go the sleeve' or use the sweatband after a long rally. I wonder what the great man thinks when he watches the game now days.
I find it interesting that the ball kids are now part of the whole routine, their job now is not just confined to chasing tennis balls, on the contrary. They must keep their eyes on the player just as much as the ball, their jobs are a little more complicated now. When the player issues that arrogant finger and points at the towel, well the player must be obeyed. So do I have a suggestion ? Make the player fetch his own towel.
I am a little uncertain of 'injury' time outs as 'injuries' often disappear throughout the course of a tennis match after a quick rub down with some glossy fluid and a firm hand. I think though that we all know if an injury is 'legitimate' then a quick rub really won't do much but Victoria Azarenka took the whole process to new dizzy heights.
Yes in 2013 at the Aussie Open the screamer from Belarus took 'injury' time out to a new level of incompetence. She did so with around 10 minutes of 'regrouping' apparently under the watchful eyes of Tennis Australia Officialdom.
What many would still like to know however is why wasn't she disqualified for her time wasting ? As Azarenka herself admitted "I almost did the choke of the year". Now the reason I question Tennis Oz is this, THREE minutes are allowed for an 'injury' time out.
Apparently Azarenka had two injuries so that should add up to SIX minutes of treatment, not TEN. Why was she allowed a further 4 minutes ? And I apologize for my continual inverted comma's (' .....') however I am 45, never been injured and never used one as an excuse either as a loss, for poor form or to not turn up at all. ( Many do )
Now to my favorite part of the game, 'coaching' and as you can see I also use the inverted comma's due largely to the fact that 'coaching' now days has many perceptions. It doesn't matter what skills you have, it doesn't matter if you can even play or explain the game, what matters is how you present yourself.
If you are 'LOUD' ( with your clothing, gimmicks and magnetic car signs plus your many 'likes' on your Face book pages ) then it's a done deal, you must be 'respected' and dollars thrown at you. A Zen Master you must be.
Here's an example for you that I find rather interesting to say the least.
I read somewhere that a tennis coach once went to the extraordinary lengths of painting his house the colors of his least favorite football team. This apparently came about due to a 'bet' between himself and a student. I believe that this was in fact referred to by this coach as 'walking the walk'. Personally I disagree.
If you 'walk the walk' in tennis you simply show your 'expertise' by playing the game, nothing more nothing less.
You can come out with as many gimmicks as you like in the sport of tennis but please don't resort to publicity stunts to gain popularity. Results in the end will speak volumes, gimmicks are a dime a dozen and as a great man once said: 'Arrogance needs advertising, confidence speaks for itself '.
A strange game now days is tennis, I am sure Roy Emerson would be happy to offer some advice on just where tennis needs a 'tweak'.
Get rid of the towel and the 'injury' time outs, play the game without the gamesmanship and teach the game without the gimmicks. Make officialdom accountable for players' actions and be brave enough to make a decision regardless of who the player is.
Roy Emerson and Bob Dylan 'talked the talk' and 'walked the walk' in 1964 with their own unique styles that required nothing but a racket, a guitar and some talent. The times, well they are a-changing but we don't all have to play 'follow the leader'.......