Since the days of John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg, there has been a strong current of masculinity in men’s professional tennis. Boys have long viewed these athletes as brotherly role models while women have appreciated them as icons of virility. Recently, with the rise of Latino and Mediterranean practitioners of the sport, that current has taken a decidedly sexual turn. Maybe this isn’t entirely coincidental. Indeed, the marketers behind “Big Tennis” have profited handsomely by using this new image to their commercial advantage. Far too often, today’s professional circuit is dominated by an unnecessarily pornographic tone, with players willingly embracing bare-chested photography and salacious advertising campaigns.
The danger of this trend is evidenced by its popularity amongst adherents of the same-sex lifestyle. For the teenage boys and young men who love tennis, this has the unpleasant effect of injecting radical politics into an everyday sport. It turns normal heroes into pin-up models for their erotic enticement. Sports should be wholesome entertainment. They should most certainly not serve as the training grounds for untested social experiments.
Simply put, tennis is an aggressive competition between two men with little more than catgut-strung rackets and a fuzzy ball. Spectators are seated within breathing distance of the action. Each moan and shout ripples through the crowd. These raw emissions of brute force are akin to sexual cries in the eyes and ears of the homosexual. They look upon these players with their bursting forearms and perfectly muscled chests pungent with a hard-won sweat and see something decidedly dangerous. These athletes with their olive-colored skin, their long manes of curly, pubic-like chesthair titillate them beyond relief.
Numerous gay blogs have caught on to this trend and file reports the second a player begins to roll up his damp shirt. They see in these figures an impossible manliness, an ideal of the dreams that failed to materialize in their own lives. Washboard firm abdomens, with those wisps of hair leading down to bellybuttons, are direct invitations to far deeper fantasies.
The trend started with Pete Sampras in the early 90s. His Grecian good looks were coupled with a hirsute frame that he was unequivocal about showing off in public. The hairy Greek even inspired his own types of pornographic films which young viewers purchased in droves. For Sampras’s fanbase, it was less about Grand Slams and more about a semi-nude celebrity. In the years that followed, men likes Patrick Rafter of Australia and Marat Safin of Russia attempted to cash on tennis’s new emphasis on sensual photography, combining chestiness with a longhaired, ethnic look.
Some of the most notorious players in this set-game-match of seduction include:
Andy Roddick brims with power, particularly when it comes to his lightning fast serves. The 6’2” player wrestled with many a Mediterranean in his day, before realizing the potential cash cow in shorts-only tennis games. Now, a simple internet search turns up hundreds of pictures of this man’s brunette-haired pectorals and breathless accounts from the lacivious fans who enjoy the view.
Rafael Nadal fancies himself a centerfold model and never seems to appear in a magazine wearing proper attire. He grew up in the arid regions of Spain and calls himself an agnostic. It is no surprise, then, that he prefers clay courts in all their murky grittiness. On these dirt-covered surfaces so reminiscent of his homeland, swarthy Nadal gallivants on the baseline like an erotic dancer, stuffing his tight shorts with millions in grimy earnings.
Roger Federer boasts the title of the greatest tennis player of all time, outgunning his rival Nadal both on the court and in the realm of chest hair. The man seems quite proud of this fact, unfurling many a Nike top to reveal an abundantly masculine forest from the peak of his sculpted clavicles to his explicit navel. No wonder confused young men can’t get enough of him.
Spaniard Feliciano López has amazingly broad shoulders and the smoky look of a latenight disco patron. His hair is notoriously unkempt, hiding those barbaric grimaces with drenched strands as he winds up for a backhand. Admirers seem to especially fetishize his shapely, firm buttocks region consistently outlined in tight, silky shorts.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a French-African, made a name for himself in the libertine city of Sydney, Australia and hasn’t looked back since. He is a bit offensive on the courts, dominating with his heavy forehand and crafty net play. In fashion magazines, he’s willing to go all the way to impress with the curvature of his disrobed physique.
Juan Mónaco, nicknamed “Pico, the strapping Argentine,” is a rising star on the circuit and counts German sports brand Adidas among his many sponsors. Surely they are getting their money’s worth, as men and women around the globe swoon over his arrogant, half-dressed ways, whether at Wimbledon or those South American beaches where he wears but a speedo and nothing else.
Fernando Verdasco is an up and coming player who sidelines as a Calvin Klein underwear model. Both enterprises seem to provide him a steady revenue stream, as he crosses over from a simple athlete to a fulltime feature on gay blogs from coast to coast.
Serbian Janko Tipsarevic is the newest tennis professional to thump many a rakish man’s heart. He thrills with a dark-hewn handsomeness as he hogs his balls and parades around with a look that mixes angst and exigency. Clearly, his video escapades only add to his earthy, raunchy allure.
For teens and young men today, such homoerotic displays may lead them to question their own hormonal intents. They may turn a scintilla of doubt into a full-blown affliction of desire. It’s only natural for youths to admire their sports heroes. However, rarely is such semi-nudity found in football or baseball. In tennis, it is so expected that fans quietly riot unless they get their photogenic fill. Young people may think it’s “cool” to take their fascination with these star athletes to the next level, proclaiming themselves full-fledged enthusiasts of these bristling, hearty men whether they’re on or off the courts. But when the game is over, they are left with a host of personal problems and radical beliefs that are entirely inconsistent with America’s politics and, most scandalous of all, with our most cherished pastimes.