31
Aug
11

Yawn, yawn, yawn…..it’s the first week of another Grand Slam!

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It’s the first boring week of yet another much-promoted Grand Slam event where the players everyone wants to see are matched against players whose names are unfamiliar to many of us, or are given free-rides into the later rounds. Nothing is as mind-numbing as having to watch Djokovic or Nadal play the best of five sets against a player who has no hope of winning anymore than a couple of fluky games in a three hour charade. But the Grand Slam format is a part of the tennis tradition, and will probably continue long into the future. It is one of the reasons why the sport is falling behind in popularity with young sports fans, and why, if it wasn’t for the increase in ticket prices, the Slams would be losing propositions.

I’m not qualified to offer advice, nor do I presume to be an expert on the game, except as a spectator and fan. As a fan, I enjoyed the ATP Finals in London, the round robin format, the high quality level of the tennis, and the simple pleasure of seeing match after match played by the very best players. I have to pose the question, why don’t we see more of this type of event?

Isn’t it a better test of tennis for a player such as Federer to be forced to play 4 matches against 4 ‘real’ opponents rather than to see him play 6 or 7 matches in a Grand Slam against just one or two worthy combatants?

From a fan’s perspective, and all the seats were sold out, there were no ‘garbage’ matches, no warm-ups for the top players at the fan’s expense, no walk-in-the-park offerings that give tennis its boring reputation, plus there is the additional benefit of a reduction in the court time for the players. Every match was a kin to a quarter or semi final, and the results reflected the competitiveness.

I’m all for dividing the ATP and WTA rankings into tiers of twenty players, and the individual players would move up or down according to their match results within their tier. Top two up, and bottom two down, just like Soccer, the Fed Cup or the Davis Cup.

Tennis is due for some changes to make it more fan friendly, the traditional 5- 6 hour matches of Grand Slams are boring until the end, TV schedules are often disrupted, and Tennis remains as an elite sport supported by a core of frustrated weekend players.

Remuneration for players outside of the top 30 is barely enough for them to be able to continue in their profession without sponsor support. A tiered tournament could be structured to increase the prize money for those players who win and move up, instead of he or she being defeated in the first round of a Grand Slam by a top ten player, and going home in debt.

With the sharp increase in injuries, the complaints from some players about the length of the season, and the separation of the top players from all the others, it is time to think about making some changes.

 

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