Sports | August 12, 2020 2:20 pm

Why Are Tennis Crowds Always So Quiet?

Silence among tennis spectators is a fairly strict tradition

Spectators watch South Korea's Chung Hyeon play Tennys Sandgren of the US during their men's singles quarter-finals match on day 10 of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 24, 2018.
South Korea's Chung Hyeon plays Tennys Sandgren of the U.S. in 2018.
ALLAN LEE/AFP via Getty Images

With the NBA, MLB and NHL back to playing but not allowing fans to attend, games are sorely lacking the roars and groans of a crowd despite some attempts to inject artificial noise into the equation.

Tennis has also resumed play, with the Top Seed Open currently taking place in Kentucky and the US Open set to begin later this month in New York. Crowds are not a part of those events either, which is a change, but a lack of crowd noise is not.

Though it is not an official regulation, silence among tennis spectators is a tradition that is fairly strictly followed during matches at venues around the world. 

The reasons for the unwritten rule are complicated, but they seem to be linked to early tennis matches being played for an audience of reserved British kings, queens and princes located in a small viewing area as opposed to bleachers full of the rowdy public, according to Atlas Obscura.

Though the audience of fans has obviously expanded and changed, the tradition of games being played in a semblance of silence has not.

“Pre-World War I, the U.S. looked to Britain as the model for behavior,” Rob Lake, a tennis historian and sociologist, told Atlas Obscura. “The British Empire was at its height and the aspirational middle-class American looked to Britain as a model not only for sport, but how they should behave.” 

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