18 September 2019
| THE HEARTBEAT OF WOMEN'S SPORT

Wimbledon: Tracy Austin – how tennis has changed

July 7, 2015
Tracy-Austin

Tracy Austin is the youngest woman ever to win the US open title (1979), she went on to win three grand slam titles before becoming plagued by injury and retiring in 1994. Tracy has since become a sought after tennis commentator and pundit, here’s she talks to Sportsister’s Danielle Sellwood about how the game has changed during her years being involved in the game.

Tracy-Austin

Athletes

“The players  are much better athletes now, they are stronger and better equipped in all ways. There is so much more information available to them now and it’s not just about hitting the ball with skill, they need to be really fit and strong too. Many players will have strength and conditioning coaches travelling with them as they are a huge part of the athletes preparation now.

The biggest change in kit is the competition rackets, they now have a bigger head and are lighter so you can swing through quicker and give the shot more power. The strings have also been refined to give the players more control, they are able to create shots that weren’t possible a couple of decades ago.”

Technology

“Technology plays a huge part now and analysis is incredibly important – not just analysis of your own game, but your opponent too. In my day you could easily be playing someone that you knew nothing about, whereas now you can research everyone and prepare specifically to play that person. There is no excuse nowadays not to be fully prepared.

There are also so many statistics available, so you can find out all the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent and of course you can also improve your own game too.

This technology has also helped me in my role as commentator too, I can research any players that I am not familiar with and get my information and stats ready. I do a lot of TV commentary and there is a lot to keep track of – new players, coaches, injuries – you name it, I can find it all out!”

Competition scene

“It’s so different now. When I was growing up there were many more tournaments in America, now though, they are all over the world and the game has become so much more global. There are loads more tournaments in Asia in particular, and this means a lot more travel.

I think it’s a really good thing to have tennis at the Olympics, but it took a decade before it really became something that the players wanted to be part of. Now they really want to win the gold medal because the chance only comes every four years and it’s really unique.”

The three sets versus five sets debate

“For me it’s about entertainment, rather than how long the game is. Tennis is a business, it’s the entertainment business – if you go to a concert you don’t worry about how long the concert is or if one artists performs for longer – it’s all about the quality of the performance. Often I would rather watch two really great sets than a long drawn out five setter”

Future of Tennis

“Wheelchair tennis is really growing and it’s so dynamic. We are seeing a lot more recognition of these athletes now and in fact we recently saw Chantal Vandierendonck get inducted into the Tennis Hall Of Fame.”

Danielle Sellwood, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

Tracy Austin is part of the BBC’s Wimbledon line up. The tournament began on 29 June with full coverage across BBC TV, Radio and Online.

 

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