When Competition Becomes a Performance

Today Alexander Zverev GER [4] takes on Roger Federer SUI [2] and  Caroline Wozniacki DEN [6] confronts the zoning Elina Svitolina UKR [5] at the Rogers Cup, the third stop on the US Open Series. Tennis fans have reveled in the tournament for the last seven days. Riding the highs of new player wins and excusing the veterans missing the mark. All of it is glorious. The competition has us stuck on the coach. We perch or recline with fixed glaze trying to sort out the field, those who have been rocketing of late, Svitlolina, to the previously injured and returning, Stephens.

The race is on for the #1 position on the WTA: Pliskova, Halep, Kerber, Muguruza and even Svitolina. And on the ATP veterans’, namely Federer and Nadal, reemergence is slowing the breakthroughs of Zeverev, Shapovalov and Thiem. Then there are the ever injured, like Kyrigios, or those who simply can’t cinch a final, Wozniacki. Both fields are wide and deep. If we take the time to enjoy a match, it is the competition- wit, athleticism, perseverance, we seek.

As players take to the court, it is xs and os that should swarm them not the complicated metric of approval performers use whether on stage or in front of a camera.

Understandably there is a unique dynamic to professional competition. The stakes are higher, the risks are multiplied and rivalries are many. The athlete’s responsibilities before and after matches are many and require a very different skill-set than the 78×27 foot rectangle for which they train. Media literacy and diplomacy are for off court duties. On court we want to see players use all of their skills and training to best the opponent. That is all. No hamming-up is required. Neither clown or politician like deeds are necessary. Players simply need to be present. Bring their whole selves to the court. If that is the enigmatic and engaging antics of Monfils, flat affect of Osaka, dramatics of Siniakova, perfect arrogance of Federer or efficiency of Ferrer, OK. Please let the players compete in lieu of performing for us. Leave them in a zone of war. Let them battle for every point. Give them the space and permission to drop their masks and simply give the match all they have. We want, we need them to bring their battle plan and execute it.

pet peeve performance

Tennis is a sport. It is competitive. Let them compete not perform. When competition becomes a performance we all lose and the game is forever changed. This shift is underway all around us as we don masks online and in our lives as our realities are no longer real. Life is becoming just another tweet, snapchat or clip for public consumption and approval. Competition does not require a like! Let the players compete and leave the performance to those trained in the arts.

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