08. Tennis

Billy-Jean King at White City, Sydney

Billy-Jean King at White City, Sydney

I’ve been a tennis fan for many years, watching it on television and going down to the courts when the ATP and WTA tours came to Sydney. Recently, I was going through a box of old B&W negatives and found this shot, among others, on a roll taken at White City, the home of the NSW Open before the Sydney Olympic Tennis Centre was built at Homebush Bay. The collection also included shots of Sue Barker, Hana Mandlikova, Virginia Rusici, Helena Sukova and a very young Steffi Graf.

I have, however, a bone to pick with Tennis Australia and Tennis NSW. Besides photography, tennis is another passion of mine; and I like to photograph tennis players in action. Since the 1960s, I have been going to tennis tournaments in Australia (whenever time permits) and taking photographs but in the last few years, the organisers of ATP and Grand Slam tournaments in Australia have imposed a maximum 200mm lens constraint on spectators. I have written to Tennis NSW to ask why this restriction has been imposed but they did not reply to my email. I can think of only two possible reasons why this limit has been imposed: (a) they feel that larger lenses might pose a danger (or inconvenience) to other spectators; and/or (b) they want to protect the professional photographers from amateurs who might sell their images for less.  From my point of view, neither of these reasons is defensable. I have friends whose 200mm lenses are larger than my 300mm lens, yet they are allowed to bring them into the tournament and I am not; and with regards to the second point, I would gladly pay extra for the opportunity to sit where the professionals sit. I find that a telephoto up to 300mm is the minimum required for a small stadium like the Sydney International Tennis Centre; whereas Melbourne Park, home of the Australian Open, requires an even longer lens from the stands.

In 2008, I travelled with my wife and son to Tokyo to watch the Japan Open. During one of the matches I took the photograph below.  The photographer was a spectator, like me; and the lens was much longer than 200mm, yet at no time was I, nor presumably he, restricted to an impossibly short (for the purpose) focal length. Not surprisingly, the most prolific camera producing nation in the world has a more enlightened approach than Australia tennis authorities to the use of the equipment.

Amateur Photographer at the Japan Open, 2008

Amateur Photographer at the Japan Open, 2008

More tennis shots to come when I can find the time

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