Some smashing ideas to modernise tennis
I was disappointed to wake up early Monday morning to watch the Men’s Singles US Open tennis final, only to see “Play Suspended” on the TV screen. To pass time rather than watch the re re-replay of the Novac-Roger semi-final, a few stray thoughts entered my sleepy head.
Tennis is one sport that has remained at a standstill as others have evolved. Somehow the game of love, double-faults and deuces has changed little in its century and half of existence.
The few changes have been the strengthening of racket springs, the introduction of tie-breakers, the removal of amateur status, and the shortening of skirts.
So here are a few ideas to rationalise and modernise tennis.
Firstly, can anyone explain to a tennis ignoramus like me about the strange counting system in tennis? Why does it not start with 1, 2 and 3, but with love, and then proceeding to 15, 30, 40 and deuce?
Also, tennis is a sexist game — best-of-five sets for men and best-of-three for women. It should be best-of-three sets for women and men.
I especially enjoy women playing: perhaps there’s less power, but more grace and sparkle, especially when the Williams sisters strut on the court. But do some of the girls have to grunt and groan as if they are in a labour ward?
Like three strikes and you are out in baseball, three groans in a set and you lose a point (well, 15 points). You may roar after a point but grunts during play should be triple-faulted.
I am no expert, but the game of groans, deuces, aces and double-faults can do with injection of new ideas.
Let’s start with the service. It is either fast or super fast unless it’s faulty. Has anyone thought of a very slow serve as a surprise weapon? Your opponent is on the baseline expecting a 100 mph missive. But imagine his (her) shock when it drops near the net at 25 mph.
He rushes in to return it and you smash on the baseline. 15-love! Nothing illegal, drop shots are perfectly legitimate. Slow services are drop shots in disguise.
The slow serve should be a surprise weapon and be ideally executed only once or twice per set. But your opponent expects it more frequently and this puts him off the game. This is legal, like fast bowler Brett Lee delivering a slower one in cricket.
Also, why not try a tall service?
Can you imagine the ball touching the court from 50 metre height with a bang and bouncing beyond the reach of your opponent? Of course it needs practice to perfect it, but players are warned to select a spot away from airports!
If you serve a net cord, you have to serve again. But it is allowed during the course of play. So why not attempt deliberate net cords during a match? Although extremely difficult to execute, it is achievable if you practice night and day.
A tad unsporting perhaps, but not cheating as there is no rule against it. And your opponent can do the same. Also, who can tell whether a net cord is intentional or accidental?
Also tie-breaks should be allowed in the final set to avoid the marathon match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut during this year’s Wimbledon, which went on for eleven hours over three days. The final set of 138 games (70-68) is a world record. A tie-break would have avoided this colossal waste of time.
Are some of these ideas smashing or puerile, deuce or dunce?
Kersi is an author of 13 cricket books including The Waugh Twins, Cricket's Great All-rounders,Six Appeal and Nervous Nineties. He writes regularly for Inside Cricket and other publications. He has recently finished his new book on Cricket's Conflicts and Controversies, with a foreword by Greg Chappell.