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Original Issue


"Pro tennis is another case of the inmates running the asylum."

The Trouble with Tennis
Sally Jenkins's article The Sony State of Tennis (May 9) hit the ball right on the racket. I have been watching tennis for many years, and I have never seen a more petulant group of boors.

I have to agree that tennis is in trouble. Today's pros are self-absorbed and egotistical. Yes, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors sometimes were too, but at least they gave something back to the sport, whether by acknowledging fans, conducting youth clinics or promoting tennis through the media. Today's stars don't appear to appreciate what the sport has given to them.

I long for the types of gut-wrenching matches played by Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. Pete Sampras and Jim Courier are prime examples of the growing isolation of players from their fans.
LESLIE JACKLIN, Corona, Calif.

The people who run tennis used to concentrate on promoting the beauty and enjoyment of the game. But then a Trojan horse filled with hundreds of millions of advertising dollars appeared on center court. Today only Nielsen ratings and corporate sponsorships matter, and the sport teeters on the brink. As you suggest, only a commissioner can save it. If Deane Beman could do it for golf and David Stern could do it for basketball, why can't someone do it for tennis?
FRANCIS X. DEALY JR., Greenwich, Conn.

Your article just might be the catalytic spark that brings together all the fractious elements pursuing self-serving agendas—the ATP, WTA, USTA, USPTA, USPTR, TIA, IMG, etc. If these organizations would coordinate their programs for the good of the sport, tennis would flourish.
Publisher, Tennis Buyer's Guide
Trumbull, Conn.

To your list of 10 ways to improve the game, may I add number 11? Return to the wooden racket. Today's high-technology rackets rob the game of its athleticism. Sampras is a fine player, but watching him serve ace after ace is a bore.

One tennis star who is addressing both the ills of tennis and the ills of the inner city is Zina Garrison Jackson. In only seven months of operation, the Zina Garrison All Court Tennis Academy has enrolled 650 children, aged live to 17. The city of Houston and national corporate sponsors are backing the program and Zina's efforts to influence the lives of children. While the sport itself is in a state of confusion, Zina's All Court students are part of a unified team that emphasizes sportsmanship and builds confidence.
Executive Director
Zina Garrison All Court Tennis Academy

Contrary to the opinions expressed in your story, tennis in the U.S. is alive and well. Its growth since the USTA permitted professionals to compete in the U.S. Open in 1968 has been phenomenal. During the Open era, USTA membership has increased by more than 1,000%; in the last five years it has increased by 52%. In 1993 the 500,000-member organization boasted revenues of $88.7 million, up from $370,000 in 1968.

Also last year, the USTA spent almost $19 million—28% of its operating budget—developing tennis at the grassroots level. The USTA Schools Program alone reached more than five million youths in more than 20,000 public schools and distributed 40,000 new and used rackets. The USTA National Junior Tennis League's entry-level program reached 110,000 youngsters of many ethnic groups at 1,900 sites across the country. USTA League Tennis, an adult recreational program, has 186,735 players, more than twice the number who played in 1986.

Millions of people play tennis in our country as a result of the efforts of the USTA and its thousands of active volunteers.
President, U.S. Tennis Association
White Plains, N.Y.

Jenkins mistakenly assumes that something has happened to tennis. What has really changed is the fans. Today most of us are more attracted to a bench-clearing baseball brawl or a trash-talk-backed slam dunk than to the quiet grace of Stefan Edberg or the gutsy determination of Aaron Krickstein. Tennis may yet change with the times, but it will probably be to its detriment.

An OT to Remember
I enjoyed seeing the old photos of Bill Barilko and Bobby Orr in your article about overtime in the hockey playoffs (Love That OT, May 9). I was disappointed, however, by the absence of the photo of one of the most thrilling overtime goals in NHL history: the picture of Bob Nystrom, hands raised, with fans celebrating in the background, after he scored in Game 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers to clinch the 1980 Stanley Cup for the New York Islanders.
BRETT S. EHRLICH, Lauderhill, Fla.



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