Coming off a year that produced the lowest-ever ratings for a men's U.S. Open final, the sport of tennis could use a little added entertainment value. Though it might not be a sustainable method for driving television viewership in the future, organizers of the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand took a step in the right direction by turning a practice match between Venus Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova into a must-see event.
Why, you ask, would a meaningless exhibition in New Zealand qualify as compelling entertainment? Dogs. That's why.
Instead of going the normal route and using human beings to retrieve balls during the match, the tournament employed a rescued Bull Mastiff named Oscar, a Border Collie named Ted and a Jack Russell/Norfolk Terrier/Miniature Schnauzer mix named Super Teddy, who won the New Zealand Clever Canine Competition last year. Furry cuteness ensued.
Apparently, the dogs handled the task ably, which comes as no surprise. If ever there was a job in the sports industry suited for canines, this is it. Though I've never actually been part of the ball-boy selection process, I have to imagine that loyalty, sense of smell and dog breath are all highly sought-after characteristics in prospective candidates.