If you are wondering how tennis has evolved the years, the most straightforward idea is: with wide variations in tennis, no one player is dominating the sport.
Sure, tennis fans indulge in the prowess and experts of the super trio, namely Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic. However, this is how concentrated the sport is. On the one hand, we got the three, and on the other hand, we got Serena Williams (as if saying women’s tennis is a pretty diffused territory.
How tennis has changed
A lot of things have happened since tennis became a pro sport in 1968.
If there’s one word to describe modern tennis, that would be power.
For one, tennis players are using racquets made from graphite composites and carbon fibres. The racquets are lighter but equally durable like wooden racquets.
The strings, whether they are synthetic or power strings, tend to be looser and generating more spin. As such, a tennis player can hit the ball harder to make it land deep into the court.
Forehands were Eastern grip before compared to their Western grip counterpart that is mostly used today. Even tennis schools are teaching open-stance forehands. Safe slice serves were also inexistent today than the pre-Open era.
Tennis courts are totally different today as well. Plays are faster, reinforcing the need for speed. One has to be professional about training, for example, since consistency is also crucial in dominating the charts and records.
The style of play has also changed. It was no longer the serve-and-volley type of game that we saw before. Instead, tennis has become a baseline power game. Tennis has become a more physical sport that tests endurance and agility on the court, among others.
Tennis scoring is also radically different nowadays. A tie-breaker was introduced to quicken the pacing of the match. The players are also entitled to challenge specific calls like those in the lines. A hawkeye instant replay can be used to back either the decision or the call.
When not playing tennis, the activities are still about the sport though. This is particularly true for diet and fitness regime. It takes a village now to tend to the needs of a tennis player. And that includes a nutritionist or dietician and trainer – both physical and mental, in addition to the actual coach.
The last one was made possible by this change: prize money. And we are talking about huge prize winnings—hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is expected considering that the first US Open gave away $100,000 in winnings. By 2019, it was $57.2 million.
Athlete endorsements have been an additional source of income too. Federer and Djokovic once earned $25 million each in sponsorship deals in just one year.
Prizes and endorsement earnings also changed the attitude of tennis players for the best, but some for the worst. Knowing, compassionate players launched their own foundations and poured over their earnings to various causes.
Tennis players are competitive today, nevertheless, because of both financial and non-financial rewards of playing tennis.