I did a bit of consumer research this week out of curiosity as to how much these racquets are worth that the tantruming pros are so happy to smash into bits. About $400 it turns out.
Back in the day I used to play tennis with friends every Tuesday night on the old Odd St courts behind the Police Boys' Club. I had two racquets - a Wilson metal-framed 'Jimmy Connors', and an old bent wooden thing that was missing a couple of strings.
I used to play with the Wilson, of course, but then when things weren't going my way, when the frustration got the better of me - as it does with us elite players - I would flash over and grab the wooden racquet out of my bag and fling that one into the fence. It was a fairly thrifty way of being able to play tennis properly and I'd suggest that Djokovic and co. should probably be looking into utilising some version of it before they send themselves broke . . .
Which brings us to the momentus change in modern tennis that snuck fairly unheralded into the Australian Open amongst the various other considerations made in order to keep-the-show-on-the-road in the Corona situation.
I refer, of course, to the introduction, for the first time ever in a grand slam, of electronic line judging. With the need for minimal numbers in the stadium the linesmen were deemed an unnecessary luxury and so the computers were able to stage a quiet, bloodless coup. The whole thing went without a hitch too - even the players were happy with it (which, given the nature of that lot is saying a great deal) - and so you'd have to think that this is a thing that will be with us now to stay, gradually encroaching into the other majors and with Wimbledon, of course, being the last hold-out.
The question then, though, becomes: 'Is it really tennis if there isn't somebody carrying on like a pork chop over a line call?' And secondarily, 'Is anybody going to want to watch this new civilised version of the sport?' It's hard to say.
And now upon completion: 'Thank you... um...Thank you ballboys...' Not quite the same is it.
And while we're on the removal of humans from tennis stadia - I suppose everybody saw the footage of the disgruntled woman who, having had enough of Rafael Nadal's pre-service routine, yelled 'hurry up you OCD f***,' while giving him 'the bird', and so was consequently escorted from the premises.
"Why aren't I allowed to be a bit vocal?" she asked later, not entirely unreasonably. "I'm a spectator, I've paid for my ticket."
It was a colourful moment in a tournament where capped spectator numbers, and five days of matches being held without any fans at all, led to much talk, as has been the case with most other sports in the same boat, about the lack of 'atmosphere' once the spectators are no longer present.
Again, the conclusion has been arrived at that the people actually there watching this stuff are an integral part of the event. Fair enough. But the interesting thing about this conclusion is how it sits next to another modern phenomenon - this being how keen we now seem to be to throw the most enthusiastic punters out.
In this new environment the art of spectatorship has become an evolving beast amidst the shifting sands of acceptable behaviour. I mean, I suppose it's always been considered a little uncool to loudly swear at competitors at the tennis, but pretty much anything used to go everywhere else.
At the recent cricket test against India at the SCG six spectators were removed from the stadium amidst allegations that the Indian team had been subjected to racial abuse. Cricket Australia's report into the incident was a little confusing in that it confirmed that racial vilification had occurred while at the same time clearing the six ejectees of any wrongdoing.
One statement from CA stood out for me: 'The abuse of cricketers by crowd members is not acceptable.'
Really? Since when? I mean, fair enough on doing away with any tolerance for vile racial slurs, but abuse in general?
Surely crowds yelling derogatory stuff at members of the opposition is part of the larger sporting experience? Isn't it the difference between playing 'home' and 'away'?
I've been called things on sporting fields that are entirely unprintable - and that was just from members of the opposing team... What the people on the other side of the fence would be yelling was another level entirely. It went with the territory.
In America recently a couple were removed by security from an NBA Lakers' game after a verbal exchange with Lebron James. James said later, "I'm happy fans are back in the building. I miss that interaction; we as players need that interaction. I don't feel like it was warranted [for them] to be kicked out."
Big, noisy, unruly crowds; streakers at the cricket, barracking, goading, singing, chanting and carrying on... How far do you want to go towards turning them into the cardboard cutouts we saw at last year's NRL?
Sanitise at your peril I reckon.