“Where’s men’s tennis going?” was my first question after watching this year’s gentlemen’s final at Wimbledon. Novak Djokovic of Serbia played against Britain’s Andy Murray. Both players are at the top of their league. Djokovic is currently ranking No. 1 in the world. Murray’s ranking — and profile — will significantly improve after defeating Djokovic in the final, no thanks to elaborate tennis as much as perseverance.
On the court, the two men played the game in tennis fashion that couldn’t contrast those of their predecessors Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal more. Unlike Federer and Nadal — who together contrasted so much to turn every match between them into an adventure — Djokovic and Murray displayed a balance of power and technique. Their presumably unintentional twin look with identical dress at Wimbledon led me to believe that the new generation of men’s tennis is heading towards serious staleness in fashion and entertainment terms in the time to come.
Maybe we’ve been spoiled for the past years by Nadal and Federer when it comes to individualism in tennis. And just maybe we’ve been equally spoiled by all the greats of tennis throughout history. But because of these greats we’ve grown accustomed to expect something more from tennis players than we expect from other athletes. Something more than evenly balanced play of opponents and cookie cutter twin looks.
Charisma plays a great role in sports. The tennis player is a cult figure in pop culture, a role model to emulate, the glamorous star who shocks and shakes, comparable only to the rock star or the Hollywood actor. It is the sport of the metrosexual man (Björn Borg), nerdy looks and prescription glasses (Martina Navratilova), fashion icons (Serena Williams), the sport of bad and worse hairdos (John McEnroe and Andre Agassi), and the sport of philanthropists (Stefi Graf). Some tennis players, like Björn Borg in his days, achieved greater following than certain pop singers at the time.
Ironically, Djokovic and Murray shared not only same sense for fashion and play, but also their lack of charisma. In regards to their play, both could have been brewed in the same tennis camp as kids, by the same trainer, in the same environment. Not a shot at the final from either side uncovered shock-and-sensation potential. No idiosyncrasies, tears and drama, theatrics or crazy ambitions came from either side, as we got them from other top players in Wimbledon. Had I not been aware which player is standing on which side of the court, I honestly wouldn’t have known who’s who.
It’s incredible what chemistry between players does. And it’s even more incredible what lack of chemistry between players does to a match. Had it not been for the circumstance that Murray became the first Brit in 77 years after Fred Perry to win Wimbledon, men’s final would have been a tedious as forgetful an event. Luckily, in the women’s camp it’s looking rosy. With this year’s Wimbledon extravagant champion Marion Bartoli and the German No. 2 sensation Sabine Lisicki, we’re looking at a new generation of charismatic individualists with star potential.