In the past, tennis was played only as an amateur sport. When professional tennis finally emerged, the few tennis players who could make a living from the sport participated in smaller tournaments and tournaments that were held on an ad hoc basis while promoters managed to book courts at sports centers.
With the help of visionaries and promoters such as Kramer, Lamar Hunt and George McCall, outdoor tennis began in the 1960s with professional versus amateur matches. However, outdoor tennis was not a popular concept around the world.
An Australian newspaper asked MacCall, who had signed professional contracts for the country’s top players in Australia, to leave the country.
But outdoor tennis is here to stay, and the sport will never be the same again.
The money paid to players, even so-called amateurs, ranges from under-the-table deals to high-profile contracts. Today’s world-class players often drop out of college in their teens and turn pro. In fact, the number of graduates who have won singles championships in the last 50 years can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Television has changed tennis in both positive and negative ways, and in 1972, more than 50 million viewers in the United States watched a now-classic match between Australian stars Ken Rosewall and Rod Laver.
Rosewall won in five sets. A year later, Billie Jean King defeated the energetic and aging Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas. The show drew a crowd of 30,000, not counting the national television audience.
American stars Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe played well in front of millions of television viewers, but they could counter that their poor behavior during the match set an example that negatively affected an entire generation of young tennis players.
The number of tennis players, products and programs has increased almost simultaneously with the growth in the number of televised tennis tournaments. Names like Ashe, Newcombe, Roche, Smith, King. Navratilova, Becker, Evert, Borg, Graf, Sampras, and most recently, the Agassi and Williams sisters have all rocked audiences. Major tournaments such as Wimbledon, the Australian Open, the French Open and the U.S. Open have also attracted spectators who are not casual tennis fans.
Technology has also changed the game of tennis. Courts used to be made only of grass, clay or concrete, but now they are made of colorful plastic and have custom surfaces. Tennis racquets have gone from wood to graphite, boron, fiberglass and Kevlar.
Racket sizes started at 60 to 70 square inches (387.09 to 451.62 cm), progressed to giant rackets, and eventually settled on medium and large models with frames at 100 to 115 square inches (645.16 to 709.68 cm). The width of tennis rackets ranged from narrow to wide and vice versa. Lighter, stiffer, and tougher racquets make it easier for beginners to learn to play, for advanced players to improve their stroke, and for pros to hit the ball at bullet speed. Serves within 150 mph (241.40 km/h) have been recorded. Finally, the methods of teaching tennis and the science of coaching the sport have changed. For the first two-thirds of the 20th century, there was not enough interest to support a few professional teachers. Instead, today professional tennis players, teachers, coaches, camps, lessons and sports clinics are common. There are organizations and companies that train and certify such training to those who want to become teachers. The availability of information on preparation, performance, nutrition, hydration, psychology, safety, injury prevention and treatment, and sports science has greatly improved the quality of the game. Unfortunately, there is little control over the quality of information, especially on the Internet, which leaves tennis consumers vulnerable to various forms of novelty, fiction and fraud.