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T30 Blog: SportKlub Article by Saša Ozmo - Is Thirty30 the future (shorter faster format) of tennis?

A blog article in Serbian “Da li je Thirty30 budućnost tenisa?” (i.e. “Is Thirty30 the future (shorter faster-paced format) of tennis?“) by Saša Ozmo a full-time Sports Journalist, was published recently on the Sport Klub website.

Sport Klub is a leading sports media outlet in Serbia and other parts of the former Yugoslavia.

During his time with SportKlub, Saša has covered 15 Grand Slam tournaments (on-site) as well as the ATP Finals twice and ATP Cup in 2020 and Saša has conducted interviews with many top players including Novak Djokovic.

Click on the link below to see the article.

Da li je Thirty30 budućnost tenisa?

An English translation (google) is below.

Is Thirty30 the future of tennis?

"My great love for tennis began on a family vacation in Scarborough in July 1972, when I watched the Wimbledon final in five sets between Stan Smith and Elijah Nastase on a small black and white screen." Thus begins the relationship between tennis and Mark Milne. A Scot who believes he has in his hands a patent for the future of tennis called Thirty30.As we will see, it is not far from the truth.

Tennis is a conservative sport that sticks a lot to tradition - changes are usually difficult and slow, but nowadays they are inevitable. Stricter taking into account the time between points did not fulfill the basic purpose - speeding up matches. On the contrary, as Andy Murray stated, many planned to start the point, then look at the clock and give themselves a few more seconds of rest.

The best tennis player in the world, Novak Djokovic, spoke openly about his position that the Grand Slam tournaments should be played on two won sets, as well as that changes in the rules that would lead to shortening of matches should be discussed more freely. The goal - to attract a younger audience and make full use of the potential of tennis as a sport and as a product.

Of course, in all this, one should be careful and measured so as not to lose the spirit of the game, because everything is in vain if that happens. In previous years, several new formats have appeared that pretend to be more or less copied to a professional level.

Fast4 Tennis (Australian) - the rules of this format are already included in the ITF Rules, so it was played in three Next Gen final tournaments and these are the rules that are increasingly used. You can play in two or three won sets, but the winner of the set is the one who wins four games first (minimum two games difference), while with the result 3-3 in the set, the break is played up to five points won. Perhaps the biggest change is that there is no "advantage", but in the tie ("deuce") the game is won by the one who wins the next point (this can be seen in doubles on a professional level).

Tie-Break Tens - the match consists of one tie break, the winner is the one who first wins 10 points, with the necessary difference of two points.

Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS) - Patrick Mouratoglu tried the format during his pandemic break at his academy. The matches are divided into quarters (4 x 10 minutes), and the game is played similarly to the usual break (tennis players have two points on their serve).

If after four quarters the result is 2-2, something like a penalty shootout follows and the winner is the one who first wins two points in a row, which means that this "super tie break" can be completed in just two points. If someone wins the first three quarters, the fourth is also played due to a set of quotients. The allowed break between points is 15 seconds, and each tennis player is allowed one 30-second time-out per quarter for consultations with the coach.

For more excitement, Mouratoglu and his team added "UTS Cards", which are essentially jokers. Each player has six of these jokers (a maximum of two per quarter can be used), and they are examples - three consecutive serves, a clean winner is worth two points, a service volley is worth two points, etc., depending on the type of joker determined by the algorithm.

8 game Pro-set - it's not complicated, everything is like normal tennis, with up to eight games being played on one set won (minimum two game difference). At 8-8 in games, the break is played in which the first one is the first to reach 12 points (minimum two points difference).

And now Thirty30 tennis could enter the scene, a format devised by the aforementioned Mark Milne, a tennis fanatic from Arbroath, an hour south of Aberdeen and, as he likes to say, an hour from Dunblane, the homeland of his famous compatriot Andy Murray. His Thirty30 format is easiest to explain to you in the following way - imagine that everything is as it is now in tennis, and we will introduce you to the key differences:

1. Each game starts with a score of 30-30, so at the beginning of each game the referee says "thirty-thirty" and then the game continues as in traditional tennis.

2. If the result in games is 6-6, the set winner is decided by the 9-point tie-break given to the tennis player who first wins five points ('sudden-death' point played at 4-4).

3. At the beginning of every set, the players serve alternate games and only change ends initially after two games, and then after every four games until the end of the set.

4. Players take turns serving first at the beginning of the sets. In matches in two won sets, tennis player A serves first in the first and third sets, and in matches in three won sets, tennis player A serves first in the first, third and fifth sets.

5. In the deciding set (third or fifth) there is no tie-break, but the winner is the one who is the first to create a two game difference.

The average duration of a Thirty30 set is about twenty minutes - so matches of two sets won out of three would usually be over in 40-60 minutes, and of three sets won out of five in 60-90 minutes.

Thirty 30 looks, sounds and feels like traditional tennis

At first glance, you can see the basic advantages of the Thirty30 format in relation to the above-mentioned formats, which also seek to speed up the game. Compared to Fast4 Tennis, which is currently the most common abbreviated format, Thiry30 has more "big points" during the match (every other point is a game point!), While Fast4 with its rule of no "advantage" actually produces fewer big, important points. Also, the drama in the finish of the set comes faster, and it would be interesting to see the women play on the three won sets, which is more than feasible in the Thirty30 format.

In addition, the name of the format is recognizable for everyone who loves tennis, and the adaptation of the rules is such that practically no habituation would be needed for anyone - players, fans, media, sponsors. In addition, games often start from 30-30 in training, and Milne states that cricket has successfully adopted and applied its shortened version of "Twenty20".

Tie-Break Tens and 8 game Pro-Set are more like penalties and deviate too much from what tennis is, while Mouratoglu's UTS brings a rush of new rules and given how complicated it is at the start, it would be a bit harder to apply at any level tennis other than professional in which there are referees, advanced technology, etc.

"In a word - Thirty30 tennis looks, sounds and feels like traditional tennis, but every point is really important now. It is very important to me as well - tennis history must never be forgotten," he told Sport Klub, Milne, 57, Mechanical Engineer.

After watching the aforementioned Wimbledon final between Smith and Nastase, Mark went to the store and bought the cheapest balls and wooden rackets at the local store. He soon found himself on the field and - he was addicted for the rest of his life. When he returned home, he joined a club in his Arbroath ("for an abnormally expensive one-pound membership fee", he laughs) and for over 30 years he played in local leagues in tennis, but also in squash and badminton, and Bjorn Borg was his and remained an idol.

Not a replacement, but a supplement to traditional tennis

From the past we return to the present and continue the story of the Thirty30 format. One of the potential objections is that such a shortened format deprives tennis of what is now one of the main factors of success - the physical and mental capacity to win long, exhausting matches.

"My suggestion is to use Thirty30 as an alternative method, I emphasize 'alternative', whenever it is needed on a professional, amateur, national, club level, etc." The hope is that Thirty30 could further spice up tennis and encourage a new generation of players and fans who are now looking for shorter and more exciting action. "I repeat, the traditional system must remain and continue to provide the biggest test in tennis," Milne points out.

The ideal tennis fan from Scotland is that Thirty30 matches are played alongside traditional ITF, WTA and ATP tournaments.

"Given that Thirty30 matches are much shorter, it is possible to play significantly more matches in that format and thus create more opportunities for players and more combined men's and women's tournaments. Also, considering that shorter matches are physically less demanding, we would probably see top players play doubles more often. What I want to emphasize is that Thirty30 matches, although shorter, are still a very decent test of skill and ability, a better tennis player will win and the luck factor is minimal, which is crucial for any different scoring system to be universally accepted by players and fans," said Milne.

Volleyball has experienced a revolution with the abolition of "change", cricket has also done well with the Twenty20 format, and other sports are looking in that direction - rugby, netball, snooker, darts…

Milne devised the Thirty30 format in 2016. According to him, the idea was liked by the then executive director of the Tennis Association of Scotland, as well as Judy Murray, but so far it has not passed the ITF. As Mark points out, this is exactly his "holy grail", for the ITF to accept Thirty30 and test it first at the exhibition level, then at smaller official tournaments.

And then… Who knows? Based on all the above, it seems that Thirty30 has its future in tennis and that, of all the shorter formats known so far, it is the most suitable for serious involvement in the world of tennis.

Side 1: The TV problem still exists?

In terms of marketing, one of the main objections to traditional tennis is that the duration of matches cannot be determined exactly, which makes it difficult for television networks to plan their schemes. Thirty30 doesn't solve that problem either, but…

"I agree with that, but Thirty30 matches are still much shorter, the pace is faster and the changes in the scoreboard are much faster. Today's society is not willing to sit for a few hours to watch one match."

Side 2: Shorter matches - lower earnings? Not true!

Shorter matches do not necessarily mean less time spent on the court, but only that more matches can be played in the same period. For example, in a typical session at the largest stadiums in the US Open, the spectator sees a maximum of three matches, and in the same time interval with the Thirty30 rules, they will see five or six clashes.

"Tournaments that now exist only as men's or women's due to lack of court time can now become combined - that would be great for both the tournament and the players and fans. Also, with the Thirty30 format, one tennis player can play more than one match a day, so it is possible that some tournaments last only three days, which would reduce the costs of the organizers. These are just some examples, and what I want to say is that shorter matches provide tournaments with many new scenarios that were not possible before."

Rules of Thirty30 Tennis

Thirty30 Tennis - Have you tried it yet?

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