The sign of a really good sports game is one that you find hugely enjoyable even when you're not a massive fan of the sport itself. Take the Virtua Tennis games. Despite only having a passing interest in the rising fortunes of teenage wunderkind Andy Murray, and despite watching a sum total of, ooh, two matches a year, as a videogame it's probably in my all-time top five. Few sports games have ever been so easy to pick up and play, yet had so much hidden depth. It sounds like the sort of tired hyperbole that you'd read in an excitable press release, but it's true.
The secret of AM3's success has always been to combine a simple, precise control system with spectacularly fluid animation. Everything after that falls into place and just works the way it should. Virtua Tennis 2, in particular, is one of the most beautifully instinctive videogames ever created for the simple reason that the game reads your shot input so precisely. Once you give that degree of control and flexibility to the player, you quickly zone out of even thinking about what you're doing any more. Played with someone of a similar level, it's almost a mind game where you're constantly having to second guess where the opponent is going to play their shot so you can run into the space and dictate the play.
It's one of the fastest, most competitive and challenging sporting titles out there, but one where you rarely ever curse the game when things don't go right for you. You'll lose because your position left you exposed, or you didn't time your shot properly, or maybe you just chose the wrong shot. It's one of those games where one more go is never enough, and one that even when you've mastered it will be kept alive in multiplayer forever.