During the Covid-19 pandemic, many professional tennis players were left to sitting at home, waiting for the season to resume. In lieu of the regular circuit, a number of tennis players opted to play in other tournaments to fill the gap in their schedule. One such initiative which began to take form was a scoring format which increased the amount of ball in play- and ultimately made for a more optimal playing experience. It’s name? Thirty30 tennis. This endeavour, described as the “twenty-20” of tennis, is a format which maintains the exact same set scoring as regular tennis. The twist? Sets take around 20 minutes to finish, because games commence at 30-30.
Unlike other exhibitions like Fast 4 tennis and the Next Gen Finals, Ad points are still played, each set ending play at 6 games (not 4), and the winner still needs to win two consecutive points to win a game. This endeavour, incredibly, ticks all the boxes while allowing for a more bite-size tennis experience for fans who may not be able to sit through best-of-5 matches, 10 months of the year. Alternatively, the Thirty30 tennis scoring format could be a game-changer, allowing for best-of-5 style tennis outside of grand slam season- without actually having to schedule a major tournament. Outside of the 4 grand slams,-when engagement in 250, 500 and Masters-level tournaments in minimal, Thirty30 scoring could be a massive drawcard for fans.
Tennis has for years maintained an outdated tennis schedule, where the majority of tournaments suffer from a lack of viewership. Tennis over the last couple of days has become quieter than a cemetery at midnight and a spate of ATP and WTA 250s are slated to fill the schedule right through to the end of February. Ultimately, tennis always seems to come to a screeching halt post-majors, and it has also come to a stage where a tough conversation must be had about what must be done about the tennis schedule.
If one was go and observe the tennis world over the next 4 weeks, it wouldn’t take long to notice the deafening silence which would be the tennis atmosphere during this period. Flagship tournaments for this and next week are the Lyon Open, Cordoba Open, Montpellier and Dallas Open. This offer a very worrying glimpse into the sport which is bipolar at best in it’s interest- and abysmally low in engagement at its worst. The unfortunate truth is that the majority of the general public couldn’t care less for tennis outside of grand slams- and this is something which needs fixing.
The most shocking element of this all is that tennis likely pulls worse numbers during the regular season than many other sport during their off-seasons. It is almost certain that the number of people watching off-season editions of shows such as Fox’s Undisputed with Skip and Shannon, trump the combined viewership of any tennis tournaments running this week. For most of the general public, naming a single WTA player outside of perhaps Serena Williams or Naomi Osaka, would be impossible. On the men’s side, if one was to conduct a survey of the general public, you would also be hard pressed to find anybody who could name any of the current men’s top 10 players, outside of perhaps Nadal or Djokovic.
So, all in all, do you believe a shake-up is necessary in tennis, especially with the scoring system, to engage viewers throughout the season?