There was a time, during tennis’ early days, when the entire sport could be described as simple. Casual games were played between friends on country clubs’ grass courts during the weekends. They dressed in basic white shoes, wide legged pants, long sleeve button downs, or the occasional polo shirt, and tennis sweaters in the cooler weather. The competitive sphere was fragmented and difficult to make a living off of, which kept pro tennis is relative obscurity. And then in the early seventies, the sport experienced a major shift. The professional circuit became more organized as “The Open Era” was ushered in, allowing players to travel along the tour circuit and live off their tournament earnings. As tennis was legitimized, public interest in the sport rose sharply, and television networks began broadcasting matches.
These televised games introduced the modern tennis star to the American public and by the late seventies, tennis was dominated by players that were noteworthy not merely for their prowess on the court, but for their larger than life personalities. It was a time when players were unforgiving and unforgettable, when pros proudly wore Fila headbands, striped polos, long hair, and Nike sneakers as they won championships. Players such as John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg were idolized not only for their skill, but for their personalities as well. This was an era when audiences would sit on the edge of their seats, as games would come down to that final point. And then as that last hit would land just so, turning pro into champion, that player would fall to his knees and let out a defiant victory cry. It is those moments that define the golden years of tennis - extraordinary athletes playing the once simple game with legendary style.