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The TENNIS.com Round Robin: our sport's celebrity connection
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Published Jun 19, 2021
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No question, celebrities bring much to tennis. So what does that mean? A few stargazing members of our Tennis.com team offer some answers.
What intrigues you about celebrities and their connection to tennis?
David Kane: In ways not dissimilar to the Kentucky Derby, major tennis tournaments have long been a place to see and be seen and attracts celebrities from all elements of the entertainment industry. Our increasingly visual world means social media is often alerted within minutes of a star taking his or her seat at Centre Court or Arthur Ashe Stadium, and as decentralized as our pop culture has become, celebrity attention—be it on the game or the players themselves—is essential to keeping tennis a part of the zeitgeist.
Ashley Ndebele: I can’t say it intrigues me but it’s always fun to watch celebrities like Beyonce, Meghan Markle, Anna Wintour and Bradley Cooper taking in big matches from the player boxes and how some of them have formed special friendships with top players Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Naomi Osaka. Some of these stars have interesting tennis back stories, also.
Joel Drucker: Celebrities add a sizzle to tennis that’s different from other sports. No one expects to see Brad Pitt or Meryl Streep put on a football helmet, but millions of people both play and watch tennis. So it’s fun to see these celebrities wield a racquet. If they’re actors, how does their tennis fit – or not fit – their iconic roles? If they’re athletes, what’s the connection between tennis and their sport? Ditto if they’re politicians, business executives, writers. And how do they think tennis greats would fit into their world? These are just a few fun angles celebrities bring to the tennis.
Jordaan Sanford: What intrigues me most is how similar the two can be. Under the watchful eye of the public, scrutinized for each and every move they make, often caught by the click of a camera. Celebrities are carefully reviewed which is identical to a professional tennis match. It's not odd seeing actors, singers and performers trickle into watch Serena or Rafa or gravitate towards the sport. In a way, it's a reflection of their own existence.
Steve Tignor: I guess I'm interested in what attracts a famous person to the sport, and how deeply they get into it. Is it for exercise? For fashion? Because they like a particular pro? And do they stick with it long enough to get into the mental aspects of the game, and the rigors of competition? It may seem like an easy sport and pleasant diversion at first, but it requires serious patience to be successful at it.
Pick a famous person you're interested in—living or dead—and share your thoughts on how he or she might play and/or watch tennis.
Joel Drucker: I’d like to see The Beatles play doubles, mixing and matching partners over the course of a rooftop day of doubles. Longstanding partners Paul and John might attempt to dominate early, but I think George and Ringo would prove tougher than anticipated, particularly given Harrison’s silky touch. I see Ringo getting in a lot of first serves and always staying calm under pressure. John’s the shot-maker, but can be up and down. As a lefty, Paul has a wide range of weapons, but will he try to take over the court too much?
David Kane: Emma Stone stepped into the bespectacled persona of Billie Jean King for the 2017 film Battle of the Sexes and took in that year's US Open alongside King herself, congratulating champion Sloane Stephens after her victory. A hardcore fan of the Spice Girls, Stone seems to have the intensity necessary to get invested in the storylines told each week on the tennis tours, and has perhaps picked up a few things about the game from that fateful courtside viewing.
Ashley Ndebele: Before she was a household name, “The Big Bang Theory” alum Kaley Cuoco was a ranked junior tennis player. Should she have chosen to become a pro, I think she would have been an all-court tactical player, a brilliant shot selector. I could see her having a variety in her game—hitting the ball flat at sharp angles and throwing in high balls and slices to outsmart her opponents on the court. She would keep them out of rhythm by mixing power with well-disguised drop shots to change pace.
Steve Tignor: During Kobe Bryant's career, I lamented the fact that he hadn't chosen tennis instead of basketball. While his dad played in the NBA, tennis seemed like a perfect fit: Kobe had an international upbringing, in the U.S. and Italy, and a tennis player's individualism and take-no-prisoners willpower. He eventually got into the sport, but that only made me wish he had played it from the start. I liked to imagine his 6-foot-6 frame at Wimbledon, flying around the court, attacking the net, revolutionizing how the game was played.
Jordaan Sanford: American film director Quentin Tarantino has always been a person that's caught my attention. He's unpredictable, creative and a master of his craft who expects nothing less than hard-hitting perfection. I wonder how Tarantino's dark-humor, aestheticization of violence would translate onto the court. I envision him having an unorthodox yet highly effective game, similar to Daniil Medvedev. Consistent yet ferocious and ready to entertain his audience like Nick Kyrgios. As for his walkout song? I'd have to go with Chuck Berry's “You Never Can Tell.” Fitting, right?