If you’d asked me that question in 2005 my immediate answer would be “not at all”. That was the year I was told I was “un-patriotic” by a nameless stranger in a Melbourne bar after loudly and publicly supporting Andy Roddick against Lleyton Hewitt in the Australian Open semi final.
The comment didn’t bother me though.
I know that for a lot of people, the media has a role in who they support, as local players often receive more coverage than other players. And for example in Australia, due to the Australian Open series, the non-hard-core-tennis public is way more aware of tennis during January than during the rest of the year.
But for me, I found the comment annoying because, like a lot of serious tennis fans, I don’t pick which tennis players I support based on the country they are from.
Or so I used to think.
In 2005 I also supported Marat Safin in the final against Lleyton Hewitt, and was very disturbed that the pub in Sydney where I was watching the match turned the TV off at the end of play (before the trophy presentations), assuming that no one would want to watch it because Lleyton didn’t win.
I’ve always been proud to be Australian and support Australians but when it comes to tennis I pick players based on merit and personality.
Or so I used to think.
Then I realised that lately a lot of players that I support are Australian. Although I was never a fan of Lleyton early in his tennis career, these days I have nothing but respect and admiration for everything that he’s achieved and I love listening when he’s in the commentary box.
Pat Rafter is one of my all time legends of the game and Sam Stosur is my current favourite amongst the ladies.
Could that be a coincidence, or is their Aussie-ness more important than I realised?
I was prompted to think about this recently when I was asked to write articles for Tennis Grandstand while I’m at the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open later this year. We were discussing the topics I could write about and it was suggested that I could pick a few players and write about their progress at each tournament – so I suggested that I could follow all the Australian players.
What a great idea!
That’s something I would love to do and something I would be proud to do.
Then I got to thinking about why I loved that idea so much.
And now here we are, discussing the link between patriotism and which tennis player you support.
So I’ve shared my jumbled thoughts.
But we also need to consider Davis Cup and Fed Cup.
They should be a different story, right?
Because players are playing for their country.
But in a reverse of the above, I don’t think I could ever support an Australian player against Rafa, no matter how much I wanted Australia to win.
More jumbling of thoughts.
Maybe my growing tennis patriotism is an age thing.
And maybe now I appreciate my country’s commitment to tennis more than ever before.
And maybe it helps that there are a lot of support-worthy Australian tennis players on the scene right now.
To get broader input on the question, I checked with my Twitter peeps and here are the replies. The first one makes a great point!
@Komnene I would say not at all, but then somehow I became a Bernie Tomic fan, and patriotism’s the only explanation I’ve got for that… maybe patriotism’s the gateway? Makes you consider players you wouldn’t otherwise
I’m from the USA but it’s Rafa all the way!…. it depends on who Roddick.. Isner.. play.. really Rafas my Guy!!
for me it’s mostly about patriotism, especially as a Brit with the fab AM being our best player for 70+ years. I supported Tim Henman prior to that etc. But I’m also v taken by personality – I admired John McEnroe when he did his thing at Wimby at 18 and I’ve been seduced by the current crop of gorgeous and charming Spaniards such as D Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez, Rafa! But generally for me it’s a #Britwatch thing. Others have to be v special to get on my faves list! I remember being at the O2 and being genuinely shocked by the no of Brits cheering for Roger when he played Andy there in 2009 in the round robin match.
@caropaquin80 For me, it’s really only in DC/Olympics that it matters. Rest of time, if a player I like is Cdn, then it’s just a player I like, like all the other players I like. Doesn’t matter to me if he’s Canadian or not.
@Tennis_Wise Not a lot, I support whoever’s tennis style I prefer, and their personality comes into it too but that’s not as essential
@Mariska_1980 nothing… I am dutch but not a fan of dutch players…
@mettelli it doesn’t impact me. I like players based on their personality rather than where they are from. Aussie players as included.
@kirstlin I emigrated to Aus from UK when I was 12. Tim Henman always had my support but I love Murray……when he wins a Slam! the only Aussie I’ve ever really backed is Pat Rafter cause he is just gorg (inside and out).
@chelez17 unfortunately, no players in top 100 from my country so very rare chance to show patriotism.
And here’s another great question
Andy B @AndybPERTH Do you think players who become new citizens of a country are as patriotic as players who play for their country of origin?
What do you think?
Does patriotism have an impact on which tennis players you support?
Perhaps more than you realised…. or does it just make you wish you lived in Switzerland, Spain or Serbia?
And would you ever wear clothes representing a country other than your own (that you have no family ties with), in support of a tennis player?
Feel free to leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Grand Slam Gal
Very interesting topic!
I think that the answer is neither yes nor no.
I get annoyed with the commentators when they say things like only Spanish care if Rafa wins or smth like that. I also don´t understand why lots of people expect Rafa fans to like all the other Spanish players too just because a person is Rafa fan. I don´t think I am his fan cause he is Spanish though being Spanish is part of him. I love his accent, I love Spain as a country and Spanish people etc but I was drawn to Rafa because of his tennis, his fighting spirit above all and his personality, not his nationality.
At the same time, nationality affects which players we know if they are not the very top players. As an Estonian I know about some Estonian players, but knowing them does not mean that I am their fan. I think to become a fan there has to be more than nationality. I have known Kaia Kanepi since she was a junior but I think that I would be her fan even if she was not Estonian as I love her game. Though I might not even know her if she was not Estonian:)
At the same time, it shows how important is players nationality. If Kanepi was from US or UK, she would be so much more famous.. though its probably better for her not to have to put up with all the hype. Though she is very famous in Estonia, there is no hype nor hysteria here:)
I actually get annoyed when some players are mentioned because of their nationality all the time. Like why US players are not doing so well and how they are doing as a group etc. I understand it is because these are US websites, but as a tennis fan looking for tennis websites in English, it is annoying.
So to summarize my long rant, if Rafa plays against any Estonian, of course I am rooting for Rafa!:) As I rooted for my favourite Holland football team against Estonia among very patriotic Estonian crowd. I do not think I am less patriotic because of it:)
People are more patriotic in some countries than others. Australians are very patriotic (as people for UK), I am just curious if this sentiment will fall when there are some contreversial figures such as Tomic.
I guess time will tell. I hope Tomic will end his fights though and starts to play a proper tennis for the sake of his nation. Assuming he is patriotic 😉
Thanks for your comments MissxAmy, Jesse and Mark – it’s great to have some more opinions on the topic!
Mark @ Tennisopolis says
Great question. I have to agree with @Kanene who said that it is like a gateway. I am american but I root for Andy Murray among others. If they are from the US I may root a little harder than I would have. Like I’m not sure that I’d be a big McHale fan but suddenly I find that I like her game. Would have I even noticed if she was Czech or Ukranian? Probably not. 🙂
Jesse Pentecost says
It’s funny you should mention the AO 2005 Semifinal. I was at that match, with my wife. She was screaming ‘Go Andy’, and such is the piercing quality of her voice that it was even cutting through the patriotic white noise in the stadium. The crowd had already been whipped into a frenzy from watching Alicia Molik win the women’s doubles earlier, and Hewitt was in full lawnmower-starting gladiatorial mode. We drew our share of offended looks.
To answer the question, nationality matters slightly to me during Davis Cup, but rarely otherwise. Sometimes, when you’re there though, it’s hard not to get caught up. At this year’s AO I watched Tomic come back to beat Verdasco in 5. I don’t much care for Tomic, but the mood in RLA and around the grounds was exultant, and it was hard not to absorb some of it.
Still, no Australian numbers among my favourite players, and haven’t since Rafter retired.
“or does it just make you wish you lived in Switzerland, Spain or Serbia?”
There are times I wish I was from a different country the majority of my favourite players are from Spain or Argentina, I often find myself wishing i was from one of those countries so my dedication to those players would make more sense, I often think “I care so much for the players from these countries yet i cant stand a lot of the players from my own country, whats wrong with me?” I even go so far as to actively cheer against the player from my home country.
But then I have to reason that I dont really choose any player to follow based purely on their country of origin, I choose a player because their game style/personality appeals to me. I love clay court tennis so I think there is a reason a lot of my favourites are from the countries they are, for me it has more to do with being drawn into a player by their style and personality more then there nationality.
“And would you ever wear clothes representing a country other than your own (that you have no family ties with), in support of a tennis player”
I have an Argentine flag and i’ve had it signed by the majority of all the Argentine players in the top 100 but at times I feel as thought i shouldnt have it because after all im not from Argentina, the country doesnt represent who I am, i’ve not had to grow up there, I have no real connection to the country other then I stayed in Buenos Aires for a month. I know that i only have the flag in support of the player out on court but a countries flag feels like a very personal thing and sometimes i do feel wrong about having it and caring about it as much as i do.