In tennis-128 players compete four times a year for a grand prize of 3 million dollars. Not every player will win grand slams. The same way in any profession people view their work as a means to an end- there are many players who view tennis as a job that funds their livelihoods. For many players, tennis is not an endeavour where slams and masters titles are a measure of their life. It is why it is quite astounding when athletes are held to this expectation that their only goal in life should be winning titles and slams. In any other field, even the most high-octane professions of law and medicine- it is not uncommon for individuals to simply view their work as a means to pay for their bills, as large as they may be.
The most ironic aspect to all of this is the entitlement that fans sitting at home seem to have about a player’s career. It can be often heard in sporting circles that a player is simply ‘cashing in those cheques’. However- don’t most people who work 9-5 simply just clock it in and work for a payslip? Only a very small handful in any profession view their work as pursuit where they want to be the greatest of all time in their given profession.
Would it also be normal to see a doctor or lawyer’s messages being filled with abuse over their career performance? On the one hand, it is understandable, since they are not a public figure. However, would you ever hear a case of a doctor being harassed in their emails with messages such as “washed doctor”, and “just retire already” – simply because they didn’t perform as well as they usually do?
Moreover- is it technically fair that we see analysts and the media pile on players who are having a dip in performance? It is understandable that athletes get paid a lot of money- however is there any common sense behind holding athletes to a different standard to people who perform far more important roles in society besides entertainment? It is an extreme example but one must wonder what tennis players owe to anybody besides themselves. Tennis is not a team sport- so they are not letting down others on the team. If you don’t want to see a tennis player play, wouldn’t the common sense solution to be to stop investing time to watch their matches?
This brings a salient point as it is clear so many tennis players have been the subject of abuse online simply because they lost a match. While this is the work of a small group of people- we must ask whether these views are just in isolation. Instead- are these not the views that are perpetuated daily by TV sports panels who make the most outlandish statements for maximum outrage? Unfortunately, it is also clear that there is a percentage of fans who imitate the armchair analyst styles of sports discussion programs who perpetuate these narratives/
So, is it time to accept that for most tennis players, tennis is simply a job?