Tennis is by no means the most popular sport in America. Very few people have Wimbledon viewing parties, and even the biggest tennis matches don’t have any performances by Katy Perry. But even though tennis might not be the most popular, it is the most classy. Here’s why:
1. The clothes
Most female professional athletes don’t compete in skirts and dresses, but it’s rare to see a professional women’s tennis player in shorts. Tennis fashion is talked about and regulated. At Wimbledon, players must wear all white. Venus Williams designs her own stuff, fashion designer Stella McCartney regularly creates pieces for Adidas tennis, Andy Roddick always wore Lacoste and tennis enthusiasts hold their breath to see what Maria Sharapova is going to don at the next Grand Slam.
Even the ball boys and girls are decked out in Ralph Lauren at the US Open. What other sport dresses its ball boys in clothes the average American can’t afford to wear? That spells classy.
2. The fans
When the queen comes, you know it’s big. The grass courts at Wimbledon are regularly graced with the presence of members of the royal family, from Kate Middleton to Queen Elizabeth. British prime minister David Cameron stops by occasionally, too.
The world’s fashion royalty also extends its love of tennis further than just outfitting the players. Designers often show up to see their work on the court and cheer on their favorite player. Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, is chummy with tennis star Roger Federer, and she’s a staple at the US Open. There are probably more people in designer suits at Wimbledon than at any other athletic event. It doesn’t get classier than fashion icons and actual queens.
3. The sponsors
As previously stated, Ralph Lauren helps sponsor the US Open annually. Other Grand Slam tournament sponsors include Evian mineral water, Rolex, Lacoste and Tiffany & Co. Mercedes-Benz, the primary sponsor of New York Fashion Week, also sponsors the fashion industry’s best friend, professional tennis.
The relationship goes both ways. These luxury brands not only sponsor tournaments, they also use tennis stars to sell their products. Professional tennis players don’t advertise McDonald’s; they advertise thousand-dollar watches and private jets. Maria Sharapova is a brand ambassador for Porsche, and Andy Roddick did commercials for Lacoste. The king of class Roger Federer appears in ads for Rolex, Mercedes-Benz, and NetJets. Tennis players go big when it comes to brand association.
4. The locations
There are four major tournaments each year in the professional tennis world called the Grand Slams. They are (in order of occurrence) the Australian Open, the French Open, the Championships at Wimbledon and the US Open. That’s right, they take place in Melbourne, Australia; Paris; London; and New York City. It’s a classy jet-setter’s dream.
5. The etiquette
Both tennis fans and tennis players are held to a certain standard of conduct during matches. Cheering is generally less raucous than at other sporting events, and there are no cheerleaders, bands or noisemakers.
Opponents warm up with each other, and they have to shake hands at the end of every match. Aside from the occasional John McEnroe/Serena William incident, players are generally fairly restrained.
And nothing says classy like John McEnroe’s hair, right?