Tuesday, January 3, 2012

REFLECTIONS: The TOWEL says it all

About ten years ago, tennis was thriving in this country. The pro circuit was ripe with new talent and heavily invested in legacy players who could be depended on for greatness. Rackets have changed, and strings have changed too. Balls have undergone their own scrutiny, and we've seen the addition of technology with the advent of the service line beep, the net chord chirp, and the challenge system that creates its own oohs and ahs from the crowd. But one thing has stood the test of time. The tennis towel. 
    Now it may have been relegated to a place of simple utility since it is used to wipe the sweat from the brow, hands, arms and racquet grips of players. But what other item is as important to a player on the court? Why do I know it is important? Just watch a match. After virtually every point, the pros on the ATP tour motion to a ball person to deliver the towel to their hand. And it is for good reason as no player wants to be impeded by a slipping grip or sting of sweat in the eyes while trying to deal with balls moving at 100mph. My only question is this: when did it become the ball person's job to have this towel on immediate standby? 
    I have watched tennis for over three decades, and I know that even as recently as the year 2000 the towel duties were the player's responsibility. Watch a match from a decade ago and see the players dealing with their own sweat rag whenever necessary. I've seen them dripping on the court from one rally to the next and not "going to the towel" for comfort. Has Rafael Nadal EVER had a rally without a towel being handed to him afterwards? I don't mean to pick on him as this seems to have become the norm. My question is WHY? Do these ball persons really want to be handling someone else's sweaty towel? Is it somehow a badge of honor? Do they believe the champion perspiration will seep into their pores? Or have the pros just come to expect this as part of the service?
    When players come onto the court, they are usually burdened with two bags to carry. I've always wondered why a ball person could not help them do the toting. Also, when leaving the court after a match (other than a final), I've seen players scampering to pack-up their goods without any assistance. If they can handle all that after three or four hours of play, I don't see why they cannot pick up and then drop off their own towel like they did even ten short years ago.
Prized possession under my tree

What made me think of towels? Look at the picture of my prized 2011 holiday gift and see why terry cloth and stitching are near and dear to my heart–unless I'm on the court. Then they are close to my brow, hands, arms and racquet grips just like the pros. The only difference is that I need to pick it up and throw it down on my own.

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