Tuesday, 7 March 2017


 A couple of years ago I wrote of the lack of variety when it comes to presenting the sport of tennis, it's all pretty much the same though I love the new doubles format.
To bring in short deuces and third set super tie breakers was a master stroke because it puts more emphasis on thinking and split second cut throat decision making as opposed to long drawn out matches that sometimes finish at 70-68 in the decider.
I don't really like cricket but I believe the way that they now tinker with the format is brilliant and the public has embraced the changes.
I don't begrudge anyone who has a personal dig at tennis because even though it has been my main sport for over 30 years I see flaws in the way it is presented. For a sport that is so well known for it's technical expertise there is an obvious flaw in the book of rules that I would love to see changed, if not just for a novelty tournament. 
Roger Federer is possibly the greatest technically correct player there has ever been, he is quite frankly a genius, he has even proven it OFF court.
There is a rather well played video of him serving a ball at an empty can of coke that was sitting on someone's head in a studio, it was a dare more than anything, Roger obliged, the can was sent flying. I don't care who you are and how close you are to someone set up like the 'William Tell' famous bow and arrow effort, the precision it took to knock that can off that person's head was nothing short of brilliant.
So why is it that tennis is a sport that requires two serves to start a point if everyone at the professional level is so technically sound ? What if golf followed the same lead as tennis ? Damn I hit it crooked, oh well I have another shot at it, grab me another ball thanks Mr Caddy, that first shot was a 'free swing' anyhow. Can you imagine it ? Every golfer would go for broke on the first shot, what would they have to lose except a ball that would be replaced within the allotted time between shots ?
So what is it with tennis that allows a player two chances to put the ball into play ? I am no expert at sports such as Table Tennis, Badminton or Squash but I have had a crack at all of them and from memory I only received one first serve, correct me if I am wrong.
As good as a server perhaps is at those above mentioned sports I doubt very much whether a match would be dominated by a good server due largely to pace or perhaps lack of it.
I have documented on more than one occasion my favourite tennis player Mats Wilander from Sweden and his rather incredible 97 per cent first service effort against Henri Leconte in the final of the French Open in 1988. In more simple terms Mats hit 73 of 75 first serves in, he basically started each of his serves with a delivery that wouldn't wake up a radar gun. He opted for a slow spinning serve that cleared the net with plenty of margin. For the record Mats won the match with ease.
So what of this tactic ? Well the Swede did his homework and realized that he was not going to win too many free points on his serve so he decided to conserve the energy for the rest of his game, a great tactic it turned out to be. The thing I liked so much about this particular match was that the return came back 99 per cent of the time, it was a spectacle, it came down to tactics, not brute strength.
If we fast forward to today's tennis it seems that serves are getting bigger as equipment becomes more advanced but how does a player keep up with this technology as far as their eyes are concerned ?
Your guess is as good as mine but returning a serve of Ivo Karlovic's surely will become even harder in the future as equipment becomes more advanced. How does a player see a serve of say 240 kms per hour let alone play it back into court ? It becomes almost a guessing game as to where it is going.
So what if guys like Karlovic and John Isner, another prolific server were told that they no longer had the luxury of two serves and were asked to develop a game more like the great Swede Mats Wilander ? Would that be more of a spectacle to a crowd of avid tennis fans wanting to witness a rally or two rather than them having to give the obligatory hand clap after another unplayable bomb that can send even the most seasoned spectator off to sleep ?
My answer is obvious and I believe that a tournament should be on the professional calendar that asks the ultimate question of each player 'are you only as good as your second serve'?
How good would it be to see a lack of aces hit, just about every return put back into court and the game of tennis being transformed back to a spectacle that saw a first serve as a 50/50 ball and not a raffle ticket ?
Now there is a game of tennis I would love to witness, a match that was full of rallies, a match that we could enjoy as a thought fest as opposed to a slug fest and one that would ask Ivo and Jonny to bring with them a plan B and C rather than just their usual plan A.
Could the powers of modern day tennis break from tradition and do what Jimmy Connors was asked to do in his Battle of The Sexes match with Martina Navratilova in 1992 and that was serve just ONE BALL ? It was brilliant. What made it even more interesting was the admission that Jimmy had a million dollars riding on not only the result but the score as well, fascinating.
I am all for tennis changing it's current format and I don't believe 'Fast 4' tennis even gets close to spicing the game up as 20/20 cricket does with it's new innovative format. I find today's format a little on the 'ho hum' side, it's a flawed scoring system that can at times award victory to a player who wins less points than their opponent. 
I reckon it's time for a change, just a thought.......

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