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Sat, March 23

Column: Small tweaks could help tennis continue to thrive

The game of tennis-in most regards-is doing pretty well with it's status of being one of few sports that's gaining in popularity with number of participants.

Yet, many of the antiquated rules of the game may be keeping it from doing even better than it is.

For the people who decide to take up the game for exercise, competition and a great social outlet, one of the first obstacles is keeping score. Love, 15, 30, 40, game, deuce, ad-in, ad-out, win by 2...


Each set is the first to six games, but if you tie at 6-6, you have to use a different scoring system called a tiebreak?

A tiebreak is the first to seven points, win by two, with the first server playing only one point and then after that you play two points, serving to the ad side first?

Then to begin the second set who serves first and from what side?

This scoring mayhem is confusing even for those who play tennis on a daily basis.

How about just streamlining each game-calling one point 1, two points 2 and keep it simple? The first person to four points wins that game. Shorten the sets to first to 5 games, win by 2, and a tiebreak at 5-5 in games.

A tiebreak would consist of each player serving two points at a time and switching sides every four points. The first player to reach seven points, win by one, would be the winner of that set.

Two out of three sets would make a match. The sudden death aspect does a couple things: It makes players concentrate more and keeps the spectators spellbound.

This plan would probably just be too simple and uniform for the tennis blue bloods, but man would it keep things a lot easier for people learning the game, kids and adults.

Many sports-minded folks watching tennis on television for the first time have trouble knowing what's what, and that doesn't help our sport grow enthusiasts.

There are some smaller items that could also be addressed:

*Drop the let cord rule on serves. If the serve hits the net and goes in the service box, the ball is in play. It's been done in World Team Tennis and men's college Division-I matches successfully.

During the point let cords are played, why not keep service lets and point lets the same?

*Change the rule to say if you toss the ball in the air, it counts as one of your two tries. Servers get two tries to get their serve in and currently can toss the ball as many times as they want to as long as they don't swing at it. This will get players practicing their toss more and keep it fair for the receivers who only get one chance to get it back.

*Change the time between the end of one point and the beginning of the next to 15 seconds. Keep play moving along.

*Change the serving rule to say that servers must keep one foot on the ground. Big servers take some of the fun away from the talent of playing the game of tennis. This would be a small change for the good of the game and some may remember it used to be a rule that was changed in the past.

*Professionally, have the chair umpires check all calls using Hawkeye. Why cheat any player on any calls when they have the technology to keep it totally honest? Also, keep the professional rules the same as the ones used by parks and recreation players.

*Only one injury time out per player per match. If you can't go on, you're done.

*The players know the rules. If they decide to throw their racquets, cuss, rant and rave and give lines-people undue grief- they're done. Poor sportsmanship could be cut out real quick.

Proper manners while still competing to the highest-level possible, isn't that the premise tennis was founded on?

Tennis is a great game and can be played in a manner that does so many positive things for the people who play it. Shouldn't it be brought in line with what would make it easier to learn and even more fun and exciting to indulge?

It's not the first time this question has been asked or pointed out to the tennis hierarchy, but will it truly be discussed in any type of earnest that just might make a significant difference in enhancing the sport of tennis in today's world?

-- Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 35 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-445-1331 or


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