Time for Tennis to Stand up to Speed up
The sport of tennis is well liked across the world. It is a sport with truly global proportions. It is also one of the major sports with strong traditions, and little changes in its evolution. I am satisfied with the state of tennis today but I am not sure about its immediate future. In the competitive world of professional sports, I believe tennis is failing to earn a new generation of young fans who are more attracted to basketball (NBA) and mixed martial arts (UFC) these days. Blame it on popular cultural trends or decreased attention span, it is what it is.
We live in a world that is ever changing, though, the current COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to take a pause and reflect. We don’t know how the world is going to look in 50 days or what will happen in the tennis world once the professional tour resumes. But I am sure there will be some significant changes, in our daily lives and on the tennis circuit.
One of the changes I would like to see is shortening the length of tennis matches. I strongly believe that a change is needed to make tennis more dynamic and more attractive to millennials and Generation Z. During every Grand Slam event, I see tennis fans debate tennis scoring and sets formats on Twitter and on different online forums. I know for a fact that, even the die-hard tennis fans do not have time or patience to watch every second of Best of Five matches that last 4 hours straight. It is time for tennis to stand up to speed up. Speeding up matches will work well to generate more excitement and help players to rest and recover faster. It will also attract a younger generation to tennis which is vital for any sports to grow, and to capitalise on.
There are often debates if men should play Best of Three or Best of Five at Grand Slams, though a lot of current solutions are to shorten sets in the first place. Some of the popular shorter tennis formats include Fast4 Tennis initiated by Tennis Australia and Tie Break Tens. But the format that I’ve tried and liked the most is Thirty30 Tennis, also known as T30 Tennis. Thirty30 Tennis starts every game at 30-all. So you play less points to complete a game. It sounds and feels like regular tennis with sets still going to 6 games. If a set is to reach a score of 6-6, a nine point tie-break, first to 5 points and sudden death at 4-4, is utilised. There is no final set tie-break in this format, hence in a situation where it is a close match, it will go on until the better player wins. With the format of Thirty30 Tennis, sets are estimated to take no longer than 20 minutes, so a Best of Three match can be
completed in an hour. This is a perfect length of time for a sporting event to play recreationally or to stream and enjoy from anywhere in the world.
The Thirty30 Tennis format is created by Scotland based Mr. Mark Milne who has played recreational tennis all his adult life. His format was discussed by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the governing body of tennis at their Rules of Tennis Committee meeting in Paris in 2017. The committee had decided not to put Thirty30 Tennis forward to the Board for consideration as their Rules already had enough alternative methods for shortening tennis matches. Milne has argued that the Thirty30 Tennis scoring method is possibly better than the ITF’s current alternative methods. He believes his format retains the traditions of tennis far better as sets still go to six games (lead by two), a tie-breaker is played at six games all and crucial advantage points are still played.
Milne has officially received support from Tennis Scotland. His format has been tried by many coaches, and he continues to earn support from players and coaches from all over the world (as seen at https://www.thirty30tennis.com/testimonials). He plans to approach the ITF again in the future.
Milne hopes to see Thirty30 Tennis being played at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics which I believe is not a far-fetched dream. I have seen how Twenty20 (T20) Cricket and the Indian Premier League (IPL) revolutionised the traditional sport of cricket in the last 12 years. Cricket used to be played only in the Commonwealth, but today, thanks to the faster and more attractive Twenty20 format, it has entered new territories and is generating unmatched revenues. The same can happen with tennis here. And who knows? Maybe Thirty30 Tennis is the answer!