Shorter sets and shot clock to be trialled in ATP youth event trial in Milan
Shorter sets and a shot clock are among the innovative ideas to be trialled at a youth tennis tournament by the sport’s ruling body.
The ATP’s Under-21 version of the World Tour Finals in Milan in November will introduce first to four game sets, with a tie-break at three-all.
Reduced warm-ups, a no-let rule for serves and sudden death at deuce are other changes planned.
Tennis chiefs hope the move will attract new and younger fans.
What is planned?
Among the changes for the Next Gen ATP Finals, featuring eight of the world’s best Under-21 players, are:
- Shorter format: First to four game sets (rather than first to six) with a tie-break, if needed, at three-all. Best of five sets (previously best of three at this event). No more ‘advantage’ scoring, with a sudden-death deuce point where the receiver chooses which side their opponent serves from.
- Shorter Warm-Up: Matches will begin precisely five minutes, rather than 10 minutes, from the second player’s walk-on.
- Shot Clock: To be used in between points to ensure strict regulation of the rule which allows players 25 seconds to serve. The clock will also be used for the warm-up, during set breaks and medical time-outs – which will be limited to one per player per match.
- Lets: A no-let rule will apply to serves.
- Player coaching: Players and coaches will be able to communicate at certain points in the match (to be determined), although coaches will not be allowed on court.
- Spectators: Fans (except those behind the baselines) will be able to enter and leave the arena while matches take place.
Why are the changes being brought in?
The ATP said the aim of the changes was designed to create a “high-tempo, cutting-edge, and TV-friendly product”.
It wants to attract new and younger fans into into the sport, while at the same time retaining the sport’s traditional fan base.
ATP president Chris Kermode added: “We’re excited to be bringing something new to the table with this event.
“This event is not only about the next generation of players, but also about the next generation of fans.”
He stressed that the ATP remains “acutely aware of the traditions in our sport”.
“We will be sure to safeguard the integrity of our product when assessing if any changes should eventually be carried forward onto regular ATP World Tour events in the future,” he said.
BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller
The ATP’s president Chris Kermode has been clear for a while that tennis will have to change within the next 10 years. He says he is not worried where the next generation of players will come from, but has real concerns about the next generation of fans.
The television audience is ageing: so what will those in their 20s and 30s be prepared to sit down and (possibly pay to) watch in future?
A shorter format has served its purpose in cricket, but it is not just the time it takes: it is also about providing the entertainment which has made the Indian Premier League so popular in its first decade.
What have other sports tried?
Tennis is the latest sport to try a different format:
Cricket – Led the way with 20-over Twenty20 competition. A new eight-team, city-based T20 tournament is planned by the England and Wales Cricket Board, which it is hoped could rival the success of the Indian Premier League and Australia’s Big Bash.
Golf – Earlier this month, the European Tour staged its first Golf Sixes event where each of the six holes has a theme, including a long-drive contest, nearest to the pin and a 40-second shot clock. Much like T20, there was also pyrotechnics and music.
Athletics – The inaugural Nitro Athletics event in Melbourne in February included mixed relays and an elimination mile, where the last-placed runner was eliminated at the end of each of the first three laps of the track. During the meet, flame cannons shot fireballs into the air and there were dancers as pop music blared out.
Snooker – Shoot Out is a knockout tournament where each match is one frame, played with a shot clock, and fans are allowed to shout out encouragement. It controversially became a ranking event this year.