simon barnes: in praise of style



Underhanded serves, moonballs, hitting the ball as hard as you can everytime — these are things that might get jeers from the spectators when done too much during a tennis match. Us fans don’t want to suffer through Winning Ugly when we’ve paid good money to see one-handed backhand winners and long rallies. But the offending player(s) couldn’t care less, of course; they’re just trying to get to the next round.

So, who’s in the right? Back in March, Simon Barnes addressed this dilemma.

His answer? We don’t need style, but it’s good to have around.

“We must accept that sport is only incidentally entertaining; that the only duty of the athlete is to struggle for victory with perfect sincerity; that when an athlete seeks to be an entertainer, he loses the sport in himself…

“Style may not be a moral imperative in sport, but sport is more amusing for its presence. To say that style doesn’t matter in sport does not mean that there is no style in sport.”

And it’s why I love players like Federer, Davenport, Rios, and Hingis — the players with great technique.

The same applies for clothing style, too. It’s not a moral imperative to dress nice to play (otherwise, Bethanie Mattek, Vince Spadea, and sometimes Dominik Hrbaty would need to reassess their careers), so I’m grateful that some athletes give their appearance more thought.