The Return of Tennis

Among the biggest solo achievements in sports is winning a Grand Slam tournament. It’s really not up for debate. Being able to win a tournament which can regularly feature matches that regularly last three hours or more is quite a physical achievement. The US Open is America’s Grand Slam, and it’s normally impossible to think about the big tournament in Queens, NY without thinking about all the crazy and excited fans who create an electric atmosphere…except this year.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, New York is still prohibiting any fans at sporting events, even though the Big Apple has a firm grasp on controlling the spread. So even though the US Open is going on, there are no fans in attendance, and it makes the viewing experience very strange. Tennis fans are accustomed to hearing fans audibly react to every shot, but that’s not the case here.

Additionally, the USTA (the organizing body of the tournament) has not been piping in crowd noise, something that sports fans have seen in many other sports games around the world over the past few months. What this does is make for a frankly unsettling viewing experience. This isn’t to say it’s bad, but the only way to adequately describe the experience is weird. It’s like watching a tennis match at a local tennis club, except the players are the absolute best in the world.

I do know that it’ll also affect the players. Tennis players especially feed off of the crowd’s energy in order to influence the match, but that can’t happen here. If anything, that means that, while this is a weird viewing experience, it might be the most natural experience we’ll ever see when it comes to these world-class athletes competing mano a mano.

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