Eugenie Bouchard is one of the fastest rising stars on the women’s tour.
The 2012 Wimbledon girls champion has beaten four top-20 players this year – two of them, Sloane Stephens and Jelena Jankovic, in Tokyo last week – and the Canadian, at No 36, is the highest placed teenager on the WTA rankings this week.
The 19-year-old Quebec native is being hailed as a future grand slam champion and her peers will certainly wish her a long career, but not many of them might want to see her become a tennis commissioner once her playing days are over.
In an interview with the Sports Illustrated’s Beyond the Baseline, she was asked what is the first thing she would change if she was a tennis commissioner.
“I would say letting fans in and out [of matches] whenever they want and letting them be louder,” she replied. “Fans in other sports can be more crazy. I know [tennis] fans have trouble with the fact that they can only go in after two games and have to be very quiet. It would be more fun for the fans if it was a little more crazy.”
Reading that, Ernests Gulbis must be shaking his head in disbelief. At the Canadian Open in August, the Latvian, who was jeered throughout his quarter-final loss to Milos Raonic, described the overenthusiastic spectators as “stupid”.
Supporters of Bouchard’s call might argue professional tennis players should just learn to live with the noise. It happens in practically every other sport, they will say. But tennis is a little different. And it is not about concentration alone. Balls, as they are tossed up for a serve, might get lost in all the movement behind in the stands; cricket uses a sight screen to avoid that.
And then there is the matter of fans imagining themselves as linesmen. At the Miami Masters last year, a fan’s shout of “out” cost Roger Federer his serve against Ryan Harrison. Federer was leading 6-2, 5-2, but trailing 15-40 at the time and had to spend another 25 minutes to close out the match.
At this year’s men’s US Open final, Rafael Nadal was forced to complain to the chair umpire as fans kept shouting out during the course of play.
So more noise from the stands might not necessarily be good. Any relaxation of the “silence” rule could potentially allow partisans to sabotage matches and that is not in the interest of tennis or its fans. Anyway, why fix it when it ain’t broke?