Men’s tennis has enjoyed a miniature Renaissance on the back of the Federer-Nadal rivalry, but by and large, it’s still a flawed, semi-popular sport. Ever since the days of, say, Mark Philippoussis firing uncontested 140-mph serves by his opponent, men’s tennis has been largely devoid of the long, exciting volleys and rallies that still occur more often on the women’s circuit.
But perhaps the sheer power of self-amusement can bring some fans back to the game. To that end, fans of Sam Querrey - some of whom are old friends from high school - have termed themselves “The Samurai.” They don’t really have much in common with ninjas or anything, but they’re just fantastic at badgering opponents into frustrated submission.
YAHOO! SPORTS reported on the Samurai (no S; “samurai” is plural) and their spectacular devotion to both the player and the cause:
The club members wear Samurai headbands, Samurai pants and body paint that spells out – what else? – “SAMURAI.” Armed with sturdy vocal cords and a bongo, they are as loud as the 6-foot-6 Querrey is tall. In some cases, they’re as well known as Querrey, who entered the tournament here ranked No. 32 in the world […].
Two weeks ago, for example, tournament officials at an ATP stop in Indianapolis flew out five members of the Samurai to help enliven the event. Querrey’s posse passed out more than 400 Samurai headbands and dozens of T-shirts.
Oh, but this group of fans prides itself on one thing:
sportsmanship annoying the hell out of the opponent. One recent victim, for example, said they “just showed they have no class.” And perhaps they don’t. But they do have an inventive sense of humor, and that leads to truly awesome anecdotes like these:
At the 2006 L.A. Tennis Open, eight of Querrey’s high school classmates showed up for his first-round match against Vince Spadea with body paint that spelled out “SAMS CLUB.” They were determined to be seen – and heard. And so they were, being their now-typically loud, boisterous selves throughout the match.
“Spadea took a swing at a plant, he was so upset,” Dan Farrugia, 20 and one of the group’s ringleaders, recalled with a grin.
But when players start firing balls at them? Oh, now you’re just letting them win - and in most epic fashion:
This past week, […] the Samurai brought extra bodies, enabling them to spell THE SAMURAI and extend their creativity. Case in point: During Querrey’s second-round match against Ryan Sweeting, when Sweeting swatted a ball 20 rows into the grandstand seats in frustration, the Samurai members quickly shuffled positions and spelled out “AMATEURISH.”
You can’t see from there, but we’re standing up and applauding as hard as we can.
Tennis needs more of this, though, right? If it caters exclusively to the whitehairs and crickets, its fan base will, well, die off. With all due respect to those who enjoy the game, it’s becoming something of a relic. This is a way back in for fans, a way for them to get the same level of interaction and enjoyment that they get from bigger events like football and basketball. God forbid someone have some fun watching a tennis match, right?
So to that end, a little help for the guys. Since the “AMATEURISH” card - while spectacular in both design and execution - has been played, they may need a couple more anagrams for “THE SAMURAI.” Here’s a few.
I RUE ASTHMA: Perfect for raising awareness of this cruel disease. Limited utility for tennis.
HE IS TRAUMA: Kind of badass, although a little uncouth. Use this for when Querrey puts an overhand smash through an unlucky player’s chest cavity.
AIM US, HATER: If normal cheers are ineffective at producing a Sweeting-like reaction from a frustrated opponent, this direct (if grammatically incorrect) challenge may do the trick.
RAISE AT HUM: The Samurai begin to hum, at which every fan stands up and hums as well. You can’t tell me this wouldn’t be more than mildly disconcerting for an opponent.
MASH IT UREA: Now you’re just getting juvenile, guys. Avoid.