For a lot of professional tennis watchers, the title of this heading could have easily been non-injuries, aches and pains. While there have been a lot of serious and real injuries that players have had over the past couple decades or so, there have been a lot of questionable injuries that have occurred during matches that have raised the eyebrows of more than a few TV tennis commentators and viewers alike.
Going back a few years to when I first started watching professional tennis, there was never the amount of stoppages in play due to injury. This was the early to mid 1980s. In fact, I never saw a player being treated on the sidelines for a muscle pull, a twisted ankle, a blister, heat stress or an injured little toe. If injuries did happen, the players just played through them or forfeited the match if they couldn't go on. Something happened to change all this as the game progressed into the 1990s.
The rules of tennis became much more lenient as to what an injury was and what could or could not be treated. I think a lot of this had to do with the player's union (the ATP for the men and the WTA for the women). Too many players were getting hurt, unable to get treatment for things that if treated, could allow them to continue to try and play and finish the match. If they couldn't, well, at least they tried. A lot of this is pride: "At least I tried to finish the match; at least I put up a good fight; I showed what a fighter I am; my team and fans would be proud of me for trying".
A lot of it is money. There is a lot at stake in professional tennis. The difference for a journeyman or journeywoman player getting to the next round with the promise of more prize money and losing early can be great. By getting treatment for a minor injury that would allow them to continue on, they could greatly enhance their ranking, their income and their life by playing on. By not getting treatment, the injury could become much worse or they would have to automatically forfeit the match.
Even for top players, the lure of fame and fortune is huge. As a result (and as hard as they try to get their bodies ready off the court) their bodies often fail them during a match because I don't think the human body was meant to go through what modern-day professional tennis players put it through. So, players will do everything they can to save themselves during high-profile matches - including taking the allotted maximum time between points, icing themselves, toweling themselves and using all of the rules now put in place for perceived injuries.
The physicality of tennis has changed greatly from the 1980s to this century. At any given point during a game, players are flinging their bodies around the court and contorting their bodies into pretzel-like shapes. It can be especially hard for players on the defensive - running back and forth on the baseline, flailing at balls, stopping, changing direction and trying to get into position to hit a quality shot at the other side of the baseline. For players who are not naturally built to be defensive players, all of this constant bashing and lumbering around the court that forces their bodies into positions that they are not normally used to being put into, injury is all too common. Even when players are trading quality shots back and forth, the sheer cannon-like shots are nothing compared to the grace-like quality of the early days of professional tennis. It is no wonder there are so many injuries - both on and off the court.
In today's game, the number of allowed medical time outs is bordering on the ridiculous. Leaving the court for an extended bathroom break or for medical treatment is being given out like candy. It definitely interrupts the flow of the game, despite of all the drama that comes out of one of them - especially if the medical time out is borderline preposterous. The incident in the 2016 men's U.S. Open final was one of these incidents. As with most TV commentators and fans of the game, the common thread around medical time outs these days in professional tennis is that they are being used as mental diversions and the ultimate non-no in professional sports - gamesmanship.
Times have changed in professional tennis. When I started watching, there were no towels that players used at the back of the court to towel off between points - they just used their sweat bands or just sweated. Players didn't get practically all of the balls from the ball kids, look at them and throw all of them back but two. Players rarely got treated for injury on the sidelines. Players never had ice towels to put around their necks. Players never took bathroom breaks. Yes, I know that the game has changed, but is all of this what we really want to watch? Wouldn't you rather watch some tennis instead?
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