ATP's new doubles 'upgrades' are harshly criticized by fans

The ATP is trying out controversial new doubles rules for 'better player and fan experience'
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The ATP is trying out "upgrades" for men's doubles to make doubles a "better player and fan experience." These upgrades were presented to fans by the ATP on social media as a video slideshow and are already being implemented at the Mutua Madrid Open.

The upgrades are seemingly geared toward reducing the duration of matches by removing some of the "dead" time between points and sets. Most notably, a reduced shot clock of 15 seconds between points after rallies of three or fewer shots and 25 seconds for rallies greater than four shots expedites play. Quicker changeovers are in store because players will not sit down or take a drink break at the first-set changeover, and mid-set changeovers will be abbreviated.

Another change is that fans can move around the venue during play except behind the baseline. Traditionally fans move to and from their seats during changeovers so players are not distracted.

Tennis fans were not happy with these changes

The reaction from social media tennis fans was quick and critical. One fan wondered if this was a belated "April Fools" joke. Others believe it degrades the doubles game to the point that we will no longer see doubles specialists like Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan if these temporary upgrades become permanent. Another group of fans thinks it is disrespectful to players to speed everything up and allow fans to mill about.

Remember when Major League Baseball implemented solutions to speed up the game? Those were met with criticism also but have eventually worked their way into the fibers of the game. There is a school of thought that the doubles matches should be abbreviated for multiple reasons. One is if singles players are being encouraged to play with larger draws, then something has to be done to minimize their court time in doubles because there may be occasions when singles players could play both singles and doubles matches on the same day in tournaments. Arguably, doubles players spend considerable time between points talking strategy, and those discussions could be boiled down to hand signals.

Purists of the game believe this could be the beginning of the end of doubles in major tournaments. Jamie Murray hinted that he had this concern long before these changes were implemented. Doubles players have not yet commented on the upgrades.

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