Why

Why

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

GET SHORTY - EXPERIMENTS WITH TENNIS

                Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt face each other in 2015 for an experimental match       Photo Courtesy: News.au
The trend to get smarter, slimmer and compact keeping in view of the times and the time is catching up with tennis as well. While there have been changes implemented steadily, tennis fans worldwide would now soon be served with the fast food version of 'tennis'.

Starting this November, there will be two premier international tournaments held in different cities across Asia. The format is compact and the organisers have taken a certain degree of liberty to make it interesting and equally exciting.

In 2015, Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt will face each other (January 12) in Sydney for an exhibition match. This is no ordinary match and will certainly be different than the previous 27 games they played against each other.

THE INGREDIENTS
Forget the long hours waiting with baited breath, heart rate pumping as the final set goes on and on. Every point became agonisingly painful if you happen to support a player and is losing. In this experimental match, there is no slow death for a player; instead it is quick, precise and to an extent time bound. The format of the game will have four modifications to the conventional tennis rules.

a. No advantage scoring - Its 'deuce' and one error on either player's part, the game is gone. The pressure is intense on the player to hold the serve at deuce. This rule is a time saver.

b. No service lets - Let, first service. Now, how many times in a game does one hear this call? Without service lets, a lot of time can be saved.

c. Tie breakers at three games all - Match is poised at 3-3 and spectators have just warmed up. It's time for a tie breaker. To me, I believe just having six games before having to decide the set by a tie-breaker is too quick for my liking. Instead, I would go for a tie-breaker at 6-6 with first to reach 4 points taking the set. For now, I choose to be open-minded and participate as a spectator in this experiment.

d. Sets to first-four games - Whoever breaks the serve has the momentum as long as he holds the serve in the set. This is too quick for my liking and like I mentioned in the above point - I will wait, watch and then give my opinion.

IS THERE A NEED?
Though I belong to a group of traditional tennis lovers, I do see a point as to why there is an emphasis to have a shorter format of tennis. Cricket too underwent this change in the past decade and since, the shorter format has been commercially successful. The point which will be debated - Will we miss out on watching epic battles which test the skills, stamina and a lot more from the players before a winner is decided while there are 'quickie' tournaments where everything is clockwork and the game can be wrapped up under two hours.Which will appeal in the longer run?

In an era where people are content with mere headlines than the content that follows it, the shorter version of tennis, if approved by the International Tennis Federation will have commercial advantages and make a fantastic product for TV audiences. The question remains as to how will you integrate this format in today's tennis world. Will you have age-restrictions? or do you create a parallel tournament with a possibility of having shorter formats of the four major Grand Slam tournaments? Will there be a separate Davis Cup for shorter and longer formats? or will the tennis as a whole be truncated for the sake of time saving practices and taking the excess load out of tennis players? 

The ATP and WTA tour operators will be monitoring this closely as they would be quick to jump to the shorter format if there is more money to be made. Or will the idea remain rooted only at the club and social events?

ON A FINAL NOTE

Shorter format of tennis will reduce the time while basics of playing tennis would remain the same. The International leagues namely International Premier Tennis League (by Mahesh Bhupathi) and Champions Tennis League by Vijay Amrtitaj have big names on their rooster and have rules amended to suit the nature of this business-cum-sport venture. How will this and the exhibition match in January would impact the rule changes needs to be seen. It is too early to make an definitive opinion - however going by the trend in world of sports, shorter format of tennis is here to stay - whether one likes it or not.