Kevin Anderson is serious about helping tennis get more green

International Blog – Michael Dickens

Michael Dickens

Michael Dickens

During a recent online Q & A with Sports Illustrated executive editor Jon Wertheim, one tennis fan raised a question not about the never-ending debate of who’s the greatest player of all time, but rather about tennis and the environment, asking: “When is tennis going to stop its environmentally unfriendly use of plastic?” Hmm …

Yes, there is a global outcry about how plastic is killing our oceans. Yet, when you look at the matter, it seems that tennis continues to use plastic, single-use water bottles, both by players on court and in what is sold to spectators at tournament concessions. Plus, there’s the matter of those single use see-through plastic bags, which newly-strung tennis racquets are wrapped in and immediately gets tossed in the garbage bin once a player pulls a new racquet out of his or her equipment bag during a match.

While change takes time – and, yes, there’s the matter of educating both players and tournament organizers – one wonders if there are any plans or initiatives on the drawing board that would make the ATP and WTA tours and the ITF Grand Slams more environmentally friendly?

It’s a challenging but excellent question and one worth a few moments of our time as the ATP and WTA tours come together to swing into spring this month at Indian Wells and Miami. Thankfully, at least one highly-recognizable player on the ATP Tour is taking the lead on this matter.

Wertheim’s response? “Great question. And who better to answer than tennis’ green czar and environmental thought leader, World No. 5 Kevin Anderson.” (Anderson’s current ranking has since dropped to No. 6).

In answering the fan’s question, Anderson, who takes the issue of environment seriously, put forth his own sustainability initiative:

“Reducing plastic pollution – and particularly keeping plastic waste out of the oceans – is one of my biggest passions. In fact, in December I hosted a charity event at home in Florida with a portion of the proceeds benefitting Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Alliance. Once your eyes are opened to the plastic pollution problem, it’s hard not to care about the consequences. I hope that tennis players can be leaders in this space to raise awareness and help make the public more mindful of reducing single-use plastics when possible.

“There are so many big opportunities on the ATP Tour alone to reduce our use of single-use plastics, and I’m encouraged by the fact that organizations and tournaments are taking steps – some small, but hopefully building into bigger ones – to make a change. We do have a long way to go, though.

“As a member of the ATP Player Council, I’ve been sharing my passion for this issue and last November, the ATP developed measures to reduce its negative impact on the environment at the Nitto ATP Finals in London. For the first time ever, players were given reusable bottles for on-court use, staff were given reusable bottles and encouraged to refill them at water stations, and fans were given reusable cups when they purchased drinks at The O2. There are many more things that can be done in the future, but I believe this was a great first step in the right direction.”

Afterward, Anderson received many positive responses via Twitter, including one asking about his interest in addressing an online @GreenSportsBlog audience and another about becoming part of a potential sustainability event connected to this summer’s Rogers Cup tournament in Montréal. He took to Twitter (@KAndersonATP) to thank Wertheim for the opportunity to address the fan’s question about tennis and the environment, tweeting:

Stay tuned.

A postscript: Kevin Anderson recently appeared on Jon Wertheim’s weekly “Behind the Baseline” podcast to further discuss the topic of “Sustainability in Tennis.”

You can listen to the podcast here.