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Wed, Feb. 19

My Point: Should the game of tennis shorten its formats?

Suggestions on how to shorten the game of tennis from what it’s been in the past is starting to gain more and more traction and it may be warranted.

How often when you’re watching a tennis match on TV do you only superficially keep an eye on the early part of each set, and only really focus when it comes down to the last few games?

At the major events (Grand Slams) the men still play the best of five set matches in singles, and as of 2019 Wimbledon changed the fifth set for men and the 3rd set for women, where they had to win the last set by two games in the past, now at 12-12 in games play a tie break to seven points win by two.

But that can still take a very long time. Last year Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic final went 5 sets and the fifth set went to 12-12 in games where Djokovic won the tiebreaker for the match after 4 hours and 57 minutes, 7-3.

That’s a long time to watch a tennis match, but dang, “What a match!”

If all professional matches were shortened to two of three sets, would the outcomes be much different? Some people say yes. That the longer the better player gets to play the better the chance their talent will prevail.

The Olympics in 2020 will only be playing 2 of 3 sets for both men and women. The fairly new “Laver Cup” event goes one step further, with the format being two of three sets, but the third set a 10 point tie-break.

It not just about the players who end up with more injuries after playing super long matches, but the fan’s where the majority aren’t that hardcore, start getting bored...and that’s only good for the food and drink vendors.

Professional doubles has been playing no-ad tennis for years now, which has given the top singles players more thought to playing doubles as well because it doesn’t zap their energy for their singles play - and the no-ad scoring makes each point more important, which is exciting for the fans and the players.

Amateur tennis has also been giving attention to it’s players and the time frame for tournaments and matches.

Most tournaments are playing two of three sets with the third set a 10 point tie break in sanctioned and NTRP events.

In the old days if you were playing a full third set, it delayed the tournament schedule, and wore you out for a second and/or third event (doubles/mixed) - and you decided you just couldn’t do because it took too much out of you, not to mention the risk of injury.

An alternative system called “Thirty 30” is gaining popularity in clubs running tournaments that make you pay attention from start to finish.

Each game starts at 30-30 in points, with a nine point tie-break played at 6-6 in games. The first to five points first wins the tie-breaker and set.

A three set match takes about an hour to play and a five setter about 90 minutes.

I like the idea of playing NTRP tournaments with a round robin of eight entries per division, one no-ad set-tie break at 5-5, and all in one day.

So instead of having to spend your whole weekend playing tennis, you can opt to play doubles on Saturday, mixed on Sunday and singles on Monday.

With this format you only give up one day of your weekend unless you decide to play singles or mixed the following days.

Hard core players can and will play the full sanctioned weekend tournaments.

The future of the game is dependent on gaining new players, keeping interest, staying up with the time restraints of our modern world and the multitudes of choices in activities that are teasing us to try.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 50 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or choward4541@gmail.com.

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