Welcome to March Madness
It's peak season for tennis, but something is missing
Posted: Friday March 9, 2007 11:37AM; Updated: Friday March 9, 2007 6:09PM
Over a 13-year pro career, Lisa Raymond has won 61 doubles titles, including a career Grand Slam. She and her current partner, Australian Samantha Stosur, are currently ranked No. 1 on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Lisa writes for SI.com on alternate Fridays about her career, life on the tour and other tennis news and notes.
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Welcome to March Madness! No, you haven't inadvertently clicked where you shouldn't have, nor is this an article written by Dick Vitale or any other college basketball commentator. We're talking about "tennis, baby!" as my old friend Dickie V would say.
Our version of March Madness began this week here in the desert, and continues for the next month, ending in Miami. For the next four weeks, the ATP and WTA Tours come together to participate in two of the biggest events on our calendar, the Pacific Life Open and the Sony Ericsson Open. The best of the best will compete on the hardcourts for what many feel are the most precious titles outside of the Grand Slams.
The picturesque mountains and crisp light air serve as the backdrop for the Pacific Life blockbuster. After two weeks in the dry heat, players fly across the country to South Florida to compete in the Sony Ericsson. For us, March is four weeks of fantastic tennis, leaving all of us to wonder who will be hoisting the cup, not that there aren't a few of us also wondering who'll be cutting down the nets. Personally, I'm rooting for the Gators.
When most sports fans think of March Madness, they immediately conjure up images of teams and the infectious energy that fills the campuses this time of year -- the camaraderie, friendships and support system that are built around such an experience.
While tennis is an individualized sport, the tour players are also a squadron of athletes traveling the globe and competing against one another, striving for the holy grail of our sport. We are a band of brothers (or sisters, in this case), an extended family that coexists on a daily basis, sharing the highs and lows of our rigorous careers.
There was a time on the tour when we shared in our collective experience, and the player lounges loosely resembled the collegiate atmosphere. But those days are long gone.
Over the past 10 years, something has significantly changed and it's obvious to those of us who have lived through it: Our tour is made up of kids! Don't get me wrong, it's a great thing. Today's youth is the foundation of tomorrow's future, right? The part of the tale that troubles me isn't the young'uns themselves, but rather the parents, coaches and agents who accompany them and the isolation that can materialize.
Why, you may ask? In the words of Rod Tidwell: "Show me the money!"
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