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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Attendance lingering at tennis matches

Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Mens doubles featuring Ravid Hazi and Geoff Embry of Arizona.
Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat Men’s doubles featuring Ravid Hazi and Geoff Embry of Arizona.

If a football or basketball game was free, there would be a line so long it would touch the horizon. Even now with ZonaZoo passes, students have to be turned away for tickets because games are sold out.

So now the question is this:  Why is LaNelle Robson Tennis Center, a state-of-the-art facility on the northeast side of campus, always relatively quiet on Arizona tennis game day, all despite the free-admission ticket?

It shouldn’t be.

Really, it’s easy to go watch. Walk through the gate, sit down on the covered bleachers and watch competitive tennis. And it’s not as if you have to worry about any time of extreme weather — it’s Arizona.

On top of that, college tennis is not like a professional match. It’s OK to yell and scream if you want to support the Wildcats. The team does it all the time. “”Let’s go ‘Cats!”” can always be heard from the players on the court, even when their teammates are in the middle of a point.

So far, every weekend, there seems to be a select few who come to watch the Wildcats defend their home court. Those people return because they find an enjoyable match on the court.

But there’s only so many seats the current fans can fill.

Those bleachers can be filled with a wild ZonaZoo.

“”It helps our girls tremendously when people are there to cheer them on but, at the same time, it’s our job to self-motivate and play tough for the team,”” said women’s head coach Vicky Maes, who played tennis at Arizona and graduated in 1999.

Recent successes and expectations should be something that can excite interested members of the student body and community. The women have the beginnings of a very promising season, especially after knocking off Intercollegiate Tennis Association then No. 4-ranked San Diego over the weekend. With that win last weekend, they have improved to 5-0.

Maes also said that as competition gets tougher, the stands start to fill up.

On the other side, the men are 2-1, with their only loss coming to Intercollegiate Tennis Association No. 19 Alabama. They have also posted a win against No. 28 Auburn and are ranked No. 23 in the nation with the potential to post one of the best seasons in men’s tennis history.

“”We would love to get more fans,”” said men’s head coach Tad Berkowitz. “”The guys deserve it. They put a good product on the court and it’d be nice for people to see that.””

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association actually hosts an “”Attendance Race”” ranking on its Web site, and some of the attendance figures are staggering.

Texas A&M is the school with the No. 1-ranked average attendance per game. The No. 36-ranked women top the men’s team with 525 students per match. The No. 17-ranked men averages 507 attendees per match.

Those figures are from January and February of last season.

It should be noted, however, that after the No. 1 spot in the attendance polls, there is a considerable drop-off. In the women’s category, No. 2 Baylor averages 163 fans, which pales in comparison to A&M’s first-place numbers.

Once Pacific 10 Conference games begin, Berkowitz estimated that about 100 fans come out, but during the beginning of the season, attendance is low.

“”When you’re on the court and when the match is close, you get that extra energy that the crowd can give you,”” said junior men’s player Borja Malo. “”It’s always an incentive to play with a crowd that can support you.””

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what creates the large difference in attendance numbers. Berkowitz said that it varies across the country, even with top-ranked teams. Maes thinks that when more success comes, the fans will follow in a “”If you build it, they will come”” type of theory.

“”We used to be a top-5 program and, at that time, our stands were always full,”” Maes said. “”I feel we will bring back a lot of that as our program gets stronger and stronger.””

While neither team is in the top 5, fans should still come out because this is not the type of tennis you watch on TV. It’s as pure as tennis can get.

And if nothing else, it’s free.

— Nathan Comerford is a pre-business freshman. He can be reached


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