It’s not easy to make changes happen in tennis. It took more than 40 years for Open tennis to come to life. Players resisted the tie-breaker. Replay technology was initially questioned.
So it’s quite encouraging to hear about the many experiments the ATP World Tour will be conducting this fall at its Next Gen ATP Finals, a 21-and-under tournament that will be played in Milan November 7-11. Here are the new rules that will be in effect and a brief thought on each:
• Each match will be the best-of-five sets – but each set only played up to four games, with No-Ad scoring and a Tie-Break at 3-all.
o Worth a shot just to see how it plays out – both in the short term and over the long haul.
• A shorter warmup, with matches starting five minutes from the minute the players walk on to the court.
o Absolutely. Players usually hit earlier in the day anyway, so let’s get down to business sooner.
• Shot clock on the court – only 25 seconds between points
o Fantastic and will add nice elements of drama. Will be interesting to see if players buy time by retracting serve tosses.
• No-Let Rule on serves
o Ambivalent. While I see why this was done in college matches to eliminate cheating, I’ve never been convinced it speeds up a match by any significant amount of time. Still, worth the experiment just to see how players react to it.
• Free movement by fans throughout the stands (except behind the baseline).
o Love this. Enough with having to wait for two games to get to a seat.
• Coaching from the stands at certain points in the match.
o Strongly opposed. Let the players figure things out themselves. Competitive self-reliance is one of tennis’ most distinctive factors.
Of all of these news ideas, I’m most intrigued by the shortened set format. At first glance, that format appears to favor players who start quickly. Then again, as such competitive venues as World Team Tennis have proven, in time, the better players merely adjust and, soon enough, the cream rises to the top. Most of all, it’s refreshing to see an organization try something new – and if I can find a willing accomplice, I’m going to play a practice match this way. Why not?
Read more articles by Joel Drucker
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