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Mon, Feb. 24

My Point column: What would make tennis even better?

When it comes to the rules of tennis, there have been changes made throughout the life of the game to refine the essence of making it more fair, as well as more fun.

For instance, the court dimensions, height of the net, keeping your feet on the ground while serving, double-hit/carry rule, win each set by two-games, 3 out of 5 sets, tie-breaks, time given between the end of a point and beginning of the next, time given on change-overs, type of clothes players have to wear, color of the ball, no-ad scoring system, amateur/professional and now Open tournament system, Hawk-eye challenge system, regulation on size of the racquet and number of square inches the hitting surface can have. 

Except for the major tournaments where in singles the best of 5 sets is played by men and best of 3 for women, most all other tournaments play best of 3 for men and women with tie-breaks at 6-6 in games, while the doubles calls for best of 3 sets with no-ad scoring and a third set 10 point tie-break if needed.

Division 1 college men’s tennis play let serves, as does World Team Tennis.  Most college doubles play is no-ad scoring with third set tie-breaks to quicken what takes place. World Team Tennis has a whole different shortened version of game with scoring, substituting players, etc.

Rankings used to be within your own country and now they are local, by ability, state/section wide, nationally, and world-wide. And, the advent of the computer has given us resources never imagined.

So, what else might take place to help the game of tennis become even better than it is today?

There are debates of making all matches best of 3 sets in the professional ranks - even in major events.  The idea is to keep the men from hurting themselves with pulled muscles and other body racked problems caused by playing 5 sets. The flip side of playing only 2 of 3 sets is that maybe the best player doesn’t win, whereas in best of 5 the better player gets more time to come around.

Do longer matches bore spectators? I personally like the best of 5 sets, but find myself doing other things until each set gets down to crunch time. But I feel the same way with most other sports too. Is playing longer part of what shows in the training of each player, who has lasting power, physically and mentally? 

Wouldn’t it be more correct that when the server tosses the ball up to make contact it’s counted as one of their two tries? Currently a player can have a bad toss and catch it as many times as they’d like, which seems unfair to the receiver who gets only one chance to return it.

The excitement of playing let serves might enhance the game on all levels.

Is it fair that a 6-foot-6 player who’s serving stands at the same spot to serve that a 5-foot-6 player does?  Serving line modifications could be added to make the game a bit more fair.

Currently there’s a limit of challenges you can make in professional tennis. If the technology is in place, why not just use it and not have a challenge system? 

In USTA league play the better the level is the fewer the players you have to choose from - so maybe recommend that the 4.5 level (at least for doubles) includes anyone else who has a higher ranking (5.0/5.5) to join those ranks and call it a 4.5 plus league.

Good sportsmanship needs to be mandatory. Being competitive is one thing, being a jerk is another. If you are in a tournament and you reach the point of screaming and shouting, you should be disqualified right then and there and for a period of time to be determined. Players would think twice about going ballistic.

Weekend warriors have to be careful not to over-do the amount of play that takes place, so no-ad scoring and third set tie-breaks should be used, just because it’s smart.

Each change-over bench or seats should/could have a 90-second (cooking type) buzzer to set, that way players wouldn’t get caught up in taking 4 to 5 minutes each time they change sides. It could also be used for tournament 5- or 6-minute warm ups. 

Maybe you have some ideas of your own to add, so please shoot me an email and throw them this way. Who knows what might happen in the future to make the game of tennis that much better?

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry.  He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or

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