Social media rejuvenated my love for tennis. Between the players, the writers, and the fans, I am constantly plugged in. It is actually fascinating because I did not take Twitter seriously until last year when I made a ‘social media’ New Year’s resolution to restrict my tennis related Facebook statuses to TEN for the entire year. Of course, not a single person believed I could succeed and it seems a lot of them were rather happy that their newsfeed would NOT have tennis (27 likes). In all seriousness, I thought it was mission impossible.
But I succeeded. I kept my promise and limited my constant commentary on Facebook to a minimum. Instead, I embraced a different outlet: Twitter. It has been almost 1.5 years now and I don’t think I could revert back to Facebook (with the exception of the occasional update on epic Grand finals and hilarious vines/GIFs/replays). My tennis-loving friends and I have moved most of our conversation to Facebook messenger and we talk EVERY SINGLE DAY. People still complain occasionally about the tennis spam but I don’t think they realize how much more it would be if I did not use Twitter and Facebook messenger.
This year, The Tennis Notebook and @ByTheMinTennis are my newest endeavors. These two outlets are the complete opposite. I either find myself writing long essays like right now or limit minute-by-minute action in 140 characters or less, respectively. Both have reinforced my love for the sport but it also got me thinking. Can you imagine tennis without…
Constant Score Updates:
In fact, I only read tennis articles when writers tweet them and I have never read about tennis in an actual physical newspaper (with exception to the time I was in India and had no Internet access). What was tennis like before the internet seriously took control?
In 1982, Burling Lowrey deconstructed the evolution of tennis writing for the last sixty years. If you have ~25 minutes, definitely read this article. Just like any writing, he breaks tennis writing into four categories of decreasing importance: Match Play, Biographers/Profilers, ‘The Scene’, and Technique. He states:
The difference lies in a sharper diminution of quality in form and substance as one shifts from one branch to the next. Because of this disparity, I would define a tennis writer as one who specializes in describing and analyzing tennis matches from an extensive background in tactics and stroke production. Anything else must be considered an embellishment of questionable legitimacy.
He breaks apart the different eras of writing and gives plenty of examples. The graphic below demonstrates the change in prose style and how it correlates to the historic time period.
From the Broadcasting Era to the #SocialMediaEra
I took the liberty to add ‘Present Day’ to the timeline Lowrey developed throughout his essay. In the 1970s, television coverage began and a sport that was primarily for live audience or otherwise read about it in the newspaper, started to become accessible to others. Broadcasting also increased the popularity of tennis and more people began to attend the Grand Slams. In 1991, the first television package for men’s tennis broadcasted 19 tournaments to a worldwide audience. Now, with the wonders of online streaming through ESPN3 or paid services like Tennis TV, it is possible to watch a majority of the matches. Typically, matches also have play-by-play commentary, which maintains a balance between game and player insight.
However, even if you cannot watch the match, mobile technology is playing a huge impact. The ATP/WTA have an app for tracking scores. Many individual tournaments now have their own app so you can listen to radio commentary through your phone or laptop and send questions via tweets. Honestly, BBC radio with Russell Fuller sometimes gets me through a long day.
Lastly, if you cannot listen to coverage, you might as well just go to Twitter because you can guarantee fans, writers, tournaments, and TV accounts are all live tweeting the matches.
According to IBM:
IBM and Tennis Australia tracked 8,595,362 Twitter references about players during the 2014 tournament. On Twitter, @australianopen grew to 440,567 followers, an increase of more than 65,000 fans, up 80 per cent on 2013.
In fact, one of my favorite Twitter accounts tracks the most random statistics throughout the year including social media accounts.
Twitter has become an outlet for Q&A sessions with the fans.
The players also keep us updated, especially those who are injured. While there are probably official reports, I don’t read them because the players tell us their progress.
They even provide us with their own commentary sometimes.
It has become so evident that the social media plays a role in tennis that there are articles summarizing the best of the best on social media.
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But there is another beauty of the #SocialMediaEra. Fans want to get involved. We see this in the number of retweets, favorites, and replies. Thus, two different tennis related ventures are taking advantage of this fact. The first is @ByTheMinTennis, which is just one feed of many hosted by @ByTheMinSport. The motto of these accounts is simple:
Min-by-min coverage of sports by fans and guest writers. Never missing a moment. Sometimes witty and stylish. Always giving the score.
With the number of people on Twitter watching matches worldwide, this effort is kind of brilliant. I have had the pleasure of being part of this year. The concept is simple: instead of tweeting play-by-play about a match on my account with barely any followers, I am now providing play-by-play to an interactive, tennis-loving, online community. Read my comments about my first experience in the opening of Note# 4. I will be doing commentary this Sunday for the men’s Miami Open final so make sure to follow and tune in!
The second is Jeff Sackmann’s crowdsourcing effort, Match Charting, to improve tennis analytics. In fact, he just blogged about the recently free ATP/WTA statistics database. Why do we care about statistics? Because other than this unfiltered hilarious commentary, people love data. At least,
For example, everyone loves records.
However, a few more obscure statistics come to mind since the beginning of this season, all from Carl Bialik, a writer for ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight, and he loves using Sackmann’s website.
Maybe it is just me, but I would never think about using this database for these instances and at the same time, I love knowing about these things.
I think the last, more dramatic example is during Fabio Fognini’s defeat of Rafael Nadal at Rio Open. With the late start to the match, every single tennis writer went crazy when they started thinking about the possibility of breaking a record on the latest finish ever except no one knew the actual record. Eventually, someone figured it out and garnered a bunch of retweets but I think this tweet summarizes my twitter activity during the end of that particular match.
As I mentioned before, I only really read about certain topics like match-fixing, doping, or players overcoming personal difficulties. It should be noted, I only know about these articles through Twitter anyway.
If you enjoy reading these tennis notes, make sure to follow the publication, ‘Recommend’ and share! If you are interested in certain topics or perhaps even writing about certain topics, get in touch through my Twitter or leave a comment. Cheers!