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#71 Tennis

Posted May 4th, 2008 by Shaun · 24 Comments

Apparently Asians are into tennis. Although this writer is also an avid tennis player, he wasn’t aware of this recent phenomenon. To be honest, tennis has not been as prevalent a sport as badminton, table-tennis or World of Warcraft have been among the Asian community. Unlike those, tennis has not been ingrained into our minds as a traditionally ‘Asian activity.” Tennis originated in Europe in the 19th century, and that is where its popularity primarily still lies. Only recently has tennis hit Asian radars, mainly through significant inroads being made by Asian ladies in the past few years, and of course, the Chinese-American who started it all for Asians in tennis back in the late 80′s and early and mid 90′s ““ Michael Chang.

Let’s face it; if it were not for Michael Chang and the legacy he left on the sport, Asians in tennis would practically be non-existent. He is cited as being a significant driving influence for the Chinese assault on the sport in recent years. His tenacity, court speed, creativeness and all-round game were a joy to watch and set precedence for Asians to follow in his footsteps.

His coup de grace came in 1989 when he won at Roland Garros, becoming not only the youngest person to win a grand slam (at 17 years and 3 months), but also the first person of Asian heritage to win a Grand Slam singles tournament. Arguably, the most fantastic thing about Chang, was his competitive spirit, and his desire to succeed despite factors conspiring against him. As has been previously mentioned, Chang won the 1989 French Open, and on the way he defeated then World #1 Ivan Lendl against ridiculous odds and sheer physical pain. Check out one of the novel tactics he utilized to break down Lendl. So typically Asian!

However, on a purely social and recreational level, tennis is now especially popular among Asians. This is not necessarily due to increased exposure for the sport in the media, or because of the inroads being made by Asians on the professional stage. There are a few explanations for this occurrence that can be made regardless of those external factors. Firstly, tennis has always had a reputation to be a refined and somewhat sophisticated sport.

Back in the days, tennis would have been referred to as a sport for ‘gentlemen”, if you will. For example, at its most prestigious event, Wimbledon, there still lies a stringent ‘all white” dress code for competitors. Formality is paramount in certain circles of tennis, and hey, doesn’t that sound like a perfect activity for Asians? We have always wanted an excuse to feel elite and cultured, and tennis is a classy sport and provides an outlet there. The only way you could feel more cultured would be if you were to jump on a horse’s back, and play a touch of polo, if you don’t mind.

Also, there is the simple fact that tennis is a racket sport. Oh how Asians are known for their supposed prowess and cunning abilities, especially when it comes to hitting inanimate objects, which therefore includes racket sports in general. Heck, Asians have long been known to excel at miniature tennis (a.k.a. ‘table-tennis”/’ping-pong”/’ping-pang”), so surely that skill should be translated successfully when it comes to the real thing. Or not”¦

“¦Which now leads to the most relevant issue. The general performance of Asians on a professional level in the sport has not been particularly strong. How can tennis be a truly Asian sport if we, well, suck at it? Apart from the aforementioned Michael Chang, and that guy who eventually married the Canadian girl who became Miss Universe (callback to white girls, booyeah!!), there have been very few Asian males to have success in such a Western-dominated sport.

The women’s side is a different story, especially in China, as talented ladies are being churned out one after the other. Look out for names such as Li Na, Zheng Jie & Peng Shuai among others, to continue the progress they’ve made so far. However, this surge has happened only recently, as a decade ago, the Asian women’s outlook would have been even gloomier than the men’s.

So just like in badminton, Asians have been getting their butts handed to them in professional tennis for many a year now. However, with the recent influx of Asian talent in the sport, give it a few years and there’s a good chance that the next Roger Federer or Justine Henin will be an Asian.

P.S. I do know that the guy who married Miss Universe Natalie Glebova is Paradorn Srichapan (right), just thought it’d be better referring to him as ‘that guy who married Miss Universe”, since he’s past his playing peak, and that’s what he’s best known for nowadays. Furthermore, I never really liked Michael Chang during his playing days. I know, how very un-Asian of me! I always preferred ‘Pistol” Pete Sampras. Shows how un-Asian I really am…

Last 5 posts by Shaun

Tags: Activities · Culture · Customs · Environment · Famous · History · Hobbies · Sports

24 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ica // May 4, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    i disagree. shouldnt this be about stuff asian people ALREADY like? tennis is just not something that comes to mind..

  • 2 Justin // May 5, 2008 at 12:00 am

    i think it’s fairly popular…you should talk to more people. i was believed that tennis was a sport loved by asians growing up

  • 3 sy88 // May 5, 2008 at 12:15 am

    Oh it is relatively popular, it’s just that there are more popular ones as well… Here’s goes: badminton, ping-pong, judo, karate, taekwondo (or any martial art tbh), kendo, wushu, kabbadi, synchronized swimming (hehe), figure-skating, diving, that volleyball-like sport where you only use your feet (think that’s called “Sepak takraw”), basketball , baseball, snooker, football (by that I mean soccer) WoW & Counter-Strike… are all possibly more popular than tennis in Asia. Ah crap, with those last 2 I got mixed up with “sport” and “video games”. A lot of Asians I know can’t tell the difference :)

    Anywhoo, compared to many of those, tennis isn’t really THAT popular. But with mid-higher class Asians, now that’s another story, tennis is far more popular there.

    Wow, I really came up with a lot of ideas for articles there didn’t I? I’ll shut up now…

  • 4 Justin // May 5, 2008 at 12:20 am

    yeah what i meant was that even if tennis is popular at different levels at different places, it’s undeniable that it’s something Asians like and something worth noting

  • 5 sy88 // May 5, 2008 at 12:27 am

    ^^Yeah I know, I’m just being pedantic :)

  • 6 PH // May 5, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    I think tennis is the most popular sports activities for asian K-12ers in America. Asian parents love its upscale appeal and can showcase their own wealth based on which tennis club they send their kids to. In addition, the parents do at some point begin to worry about their kids getting too fat from sitting around all day doing homework or playing the piano and tennis provides cardio and some strength training in a “dignified” way.

  • 7 Shyulace // May 7, 2008 at 8:08 am

    Ha! I actually played a 4 hour game of tennis yesterday during finals week. Couldn’t resist :3
    But not all asians suck at it.. alot of top seeded players in my conference are asian.. weirdly nuff

  • 8 sy88 // May 7, 2008 at 8:31 am

    ^^Yeah actually in between writing this piece, ironically enough I had to go play tennis comp on the weekend.

    And obviously not all Asians suck at tennis, at a non-professional level there’s an abundance of Asians. It’s just that one step further in the professional level where Asians struggle compared to Europeans or Americans (North and South)…

  • 9 wildgift // May 11, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Tennis was the big Asian sport even before Chang broke out. I think it’s because Asians moved to the suburbs in the 1970s, when tennis courts became *the* thing to add to housing developments and public parks. Every suburb wanted tennis courts, and they started adding them in cities too.

    Asians could compete in tennis. You don’t have to be tall or heavy. You don’t even need mass social approval to compete.

    For the immigrants, the snob appeal really seems to do the trick. It’s not as plebian as the old-school Asian sport: Japanese American youth basketball leagues.

  • 10 Lin // May 16, 2008 at 9:45 am

    For my Spring Break, I spent EVERY SINGLE DAY playing tennis, for 2-3 hours. I still haven’t improved. That is SAD.

  • 11 citharadraconis // May 24, 2008 at 8:39 am

    the Chinese-American who started it all for Asians in tennis back in the late 80′s and early and mid 90′s

    Untrue. Indians have been big in tennis for much longer (e.g. Ramanathan Krishnan, who was ranked third in the world in the sixties).

  • 12 Linda Chen // Jun 10, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    Consider the huge population in Asian, Tennis isnt the game for asians. First of all most Asian people in Asia cant afford tennis, while you only need 2 euro to play table tennis as long as you want. Second of all, most Asians aren’t tall enough for the game. I know there are very a few Asian heroes in the past, but there aren’t enough number to persuade me that Asians love or good at tennis.

  • 13 gian // Jul 6, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    Here is the real problem with Asians not making it in tennis: The USTA. If you look at the junior rankings in every section and overall rankings, there are very many good Asian tennis players. Why don’t they become successful professionals? I was speaking with a tennis coach who came here from the Philippines to play in the US Open, but just used the ride to get here to the States. He told me that the USTA would remove the players personal coaches from them and assign them one. The coaches would then change the players style of play and ruin what was already good for them. Anything beyond this I wouldn’t know.

  • 14 random guy // Jul 13, 2008 at 2:41 am

    well… in my high skool, a huge group of smart asians play tennis… first of all, they play tennis because they find out that not much people play that sport, so which mean no white and black people and second of all, they can get into a better college with sport cirricular… well i don’t play tennis because when i was a freshman i didnt really care or know about college yet… i guess you can say I’m not smart…

  • 15 AsianKitty_ox // Aug 27, 2008 at 6:36 am

    Asians own at Badminton & Ping pong! All of my family have played or had tennis lessons at some point of their lifes and we all play badminton too. So I think its quite truee !

  • 16 Anonymous // Feb 15, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Heaps of good young players give it away when they realise the commitment neededtomake it profession.

  • 17 Hampton // Apr 19, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Holy mackerel, there are female asian tennis players? What the hell have I been doing with my life. I need to start playing tennis … in Indonesia.

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  • 18 J // Aug 4, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Heh, my brother is really into tennis. There aren’t too many professional asian tennis players though.

  • 19 ANN // Jan 21, 2010 at 9:25 pm


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  • 21 juicy couture // Jan 16, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    I like it a lot. This was a useful post

  • 22 giftflowersindia // Feb 7, 2011 at 4:02 am

    Tennis has made its way into asia nly recently.

  • 23 MsEastWest // Feb 10, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Though it may not rank in the top sports that interest Asians, within tennis itself, Asians seem to be the second most represented race/ethnicity, behind Caucasians. At least that’s the way it seems in my area, West coast.

    I agree with one of the other commenters, many Asian men who are more dimunitive than Caucasian or African-American men can compete more equally on a tennis court, as opposed to a basketball court or football field. Of course, the same could be said of baseball.

  • 24 plusme // May 31, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    asians also play tennis so they can put a sport in for their high school resume for colleges to see. Tennis also requires the least amount of physical effort as compared to others.

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