Friday, January 05, 2007

Who counts as an American tennis player?

I have been catching up on my TENNIS magazines this week and am on the "Special Report" issue from November/December about the demise of American tennis--an issue the tennis media likes to trot out every few years.
Running across the bottom of the special report section are factoids about the history of American tennis including these two juxtaposed on one page:
4: Times in the U.S. Open's 125-year history in which no American made the singles final
13: Times in Open history in which no U.S. woman made the final, including 2006
You see this language all the time in sports media. Basketball and women's basketball; soccer and men's soccer, etc. Usually coverage of tennis does not fall victim to the same habit of othering the women's game.
Also, in another article about the history of American tennis, author Stephen Tignor writes that "any list of the sport's legendary names begins and ends here." And then he proceeds to list all the names. Missing from the list: Martina Navratilova. Yes, she started playing on the tour in the 70s as a Czech citizen but her greatest years came after her defection. She always expressed loyalty to the U.S. including playing in the Fed Cup. Yet because she was not born here she does not appear as a prominent part of the history of American tennis?
According to TENNIS an American is 1) a man and 2) someone born in this country. That leaves out a whole lot of people and makes for a less rich history.

1 comment:

Diane said...

I'm very disappointed to hear that Tennis Magazine has decided which of our citizens is actually American. I've seen the same thing happen in figure skating before, too--leaving out Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan from lists of great American skaters. This is even worse--both of them were born in America, so the omissions were racism, pure and simple.