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Wrestling with tennis

As a tennis novice, here's my marketing suggestion

Posted: Monday September 11, 2006 2:06PM; Updated: Monday September 11, 2006 3:48PM
If Andre Agassi were to take on a wrestler's personality, it would be Hulk Hogan's.
If Andre Agassi were to take on a wrestler's personality, it would be Hulk Hogan's.
Paul Hawthrone/Getty Images
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I ducked into my local video game store Saturday afternoon and quickly made my way over to the used section. My hat pulled down low, sunglasses on indoors, I browsed, knowing exactly what I was looking for but playing down my intentions, lest I be asked by an employee if they could help me. Because no one wants to have to ask for a video game. They just don't. That should be a man law: Video-game-store employees speak only when spoken to.

Thankfully I was left alone, but unable to find what I was looking for, I finally sauntered to the counter and asked: Do you have any tennis games?

My life has, strangely, been largely overtaken by tennis of late. It started a month ago, when my parents informed me they'd be coming up to New York for the U.S. Open. I scrambled up some tickets, and we planned to make a day of it. That was when I realized that I knew nothing about tennis. I knew the names and faces, but I couldn't tell you if Maria Sharapova was a net player or if Andy Roddick has been hot or cold. I couldn't have told you which network held the broadcast rights, how often they play the majors, nothing. In fact, my perceptions of tennis were almost wholly formed through the consumption of commercials and advertisements (that and occasionally seeing Roger Federer on Regis and Kelly). I was a marketer's best-case scenario.

Knowing a day at the Open was coming, I set out to educate myself. Two weeks ago I dodged the trickling rain and ducked into the Adidas Originals store in lower Manhattan, where Stan Smith was hosting an auction to benefit the Boys and Girls Club near his home in Hilton Head, S.C. I knew Stan Smith mostly as a pair of sneakers, and he seemed OK with that -- he was wearing his eponymous shoes and a pristine white Adidas sweatsuit straight out of The Royal Tenenbaums.

Stan and I spoke briefly, and when I mentioned I was a sportswriter who knew pretty much nothing about tennis, he looked surprised, probably because I'd willingly entered into a conversation about tennis with one of the greatest players of all time. When I told Stan I was going to visit the Open, he gave me a bit of advice: "I like to pick one player and watch them exclusively, for five minutes or so. That way you'll get a good read on how they're moving." He singled out Federer and Rafael Nadal, comparing their movements to a couple of cats.