Cutting to the chase, allow me to just come right out and ask, “Can tennis be considered an art form?” I am like so sure that question has been asked and answered more times than there are art forms in its definition, but I just have to put in my two cents worth. Let’s begin with a somewhat condensed definition of art. This could get lengthy, but here it goes.
In not so artsy terms, art can be defined as a wide and varied array of human activities and the products of those activities which stir or bring about a flood of emotions and feelings when viewed or experienced.
When most of us think of art what comes to mind is the visual arts, which includes the creation of images in painting, print making, photography and other visual media, as well as the creation of objects in sculpture and architecture. Architecture can also be lumped in with decorative arts, which involves the creation of objects and their practical uses.
Obviously, my beloved tennis will never fall under these categories, nor will it be included in other categories not mentioned in this article (fine arts, literature, applied arts, etc.) So where does tennis fit in the art world? I feel in my heart, and mind, that tennis is a thriving member of the performing arts world. Performing arts are art forms in which artists use their body or voice to convey artistic expression. Performing arts include dance, music, opera, theatre, magic, spoken word, circus arts, and recitation. Artists who participate in performing arts in front of an audience are called performers, including actors, comedians, dancers, magicians, and singers. Performing artists are also supported by workers in their related fields, such as songwriting and stagecraft. Also, to enhance the effect of their craft, performers also adapt their appearance with costumes and stage makeup.
To drive home my point, let’s support the theory of tennis as a performing art by listing a few similarities by definition.
1) As tennis fans and players, have we not witnessed the likes of Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, and Serena Williams (just to name a few) use their voices to convey artistic expression? I would say yes, but some art critics would respond with a resounding “You cannot be serious!”
2) As tennis fans and players, have we not witnessed versions of dance as movement on European red clay, complete with sliding, stretching, and repetitive footwork in almost ritualistic patterns?
3) As tennis fans and players, have not witnessed our favorite players perform in front of huge audiences in every corner of the globe?
4) As tennis fans and players, have we not witnessed world class players entertain audiences through comedy between points, as well as feats of magic with racquets that substitute nicely for magic wands?
5) Also, is not true that the best players in the world surround themselves with others in related fields to enhance their performance; such as coaches, trainers, and agents?
6) Additionally, do we not witness players of all levels wear appropriate attire on tennis courts? The best of course, actually get paid for wearing tennis costumes made by the highest bidder.
7) And ultimately, as most art critics would demand, does tennis evoke and avalanche of emotions and feelings as we watch and pull for our favorite players? As a true tennis fan, I, like many others, feel admiration, anger, passion, nerves, and happiness during the course of a single match.
These seven points would be the meat of my argument, nevertheless, art scholars would no doubt disagree with my opinion no matter what. I’m pretty sure of that. But that doesn’t matter to me. All I know is that every time I walk onto a tennis court, I feel like an artist who has just stroked his brush across the canvas in front of him. And to most but not all art critics and scholars, I would simply shout out, “Chalk flew up!”