Thirty30 Tennis Blog: Tennis Club Business Article - Tradition May Have to Take Back Seat
An interesting article ‘Tradition May Have to Take Back Seat’ by Rod Heckelman appeared in the December 2019 edition of the Tennis Club Business free monthly e-newsletter for tennis professionals edited by Rich Neher of Tennis Media Group.
The article can be found here or read below.
Tradition May Have to Take Back Seat By Rod Heckelman
At the upcoming Racquet and Paddle Conference in Orlando, January 23, the emphasis will be on presenting the many new available racquet sports. If you don't think these new sports have a chance to compete with the game of tennis, think again. Normally change is not well received and can be challenging, but if the change is practical, it will take place. In many cases, and for many people, moving from tennis to another racket sport will be very practical. This means that for us to continue to grow the game in a world a diversification, we may have to swallow our pride and discard some of our traditional tennis ways and replace them with new ideas and venues. To do this, let's start by understanding why these other racket sports are growing.
The obvious is two-fold. Many new racket sports are easier to learn, they also have shorter formats. The "easier to learn," issue may be addressed in tennis by the implementation of soft balls and less court usage, much like 10 & Under Tennis, short of that, tennis is a challenging sport with a long learning curve. In fact, it's that very nature of the sport that is so attractive and contributes to the addiction tennis enthusiast acquire.
The idea of a short format is another story, a story that may have already been in the works, but not quite part of our industry. In recent years tournaments have been using new formats, scoring has been abbreviated, events and activities are more consolidated into only a few days…in general, the tennis world is morphing into using shorter formats. The tradition of playing tennis with attrition being part of the equation, has taking a back seat to accommodating the mindset of people whose live styles are more hectic and demanding of their time. The bottom line, the general tennis participants, especially the younger crowd, just don't have that much leisure time.
The networks that broadcast may love these short formats, but this is a hard sell to the true tennis diehard. The idea of getting the ultimate workout through an enduring match, has always seemed to be aligned with finding out who is the real superior player that day. In fact, the trend with selling or booking court time expanded in the 60's and 70's from the normal one-hour play time to either an hour and fifteen minutes or an hour and a half. People wanted that long warm-up and plenty of time to try to squeeze in two, possibly three sets. Then the changes came, starting with the tiebreakers, pro sets of 8, and then no-ad scoring. This was very helpful for those running and organizing tournaments, you could now come closer to running a program or tournament on schedule. Even more lately is the addition of a 4-game set. Again, great for T.V., but doesn't seem to have taken a foothold with most club players.
What also disappeared with these short formats was the social venue. Hanging around waiting for a court to open, or just playing for a longer time with your friends provided a perfect couple of hours to talk about current events or other interest. But the tradition of these longer formats is in dispute with many organizers, especially those involved with league play. There are those who are being overwhelmed with the commitment of league schedules that can take up a major amount of time, not to mention a major amount of wear and tear on a player's body.
For a touring player, it's not uncommon for them to play 60 to 80 rigorous matches in a year. In fact, the better you are, the more matches you are likely to play as you progress further into the draw. Some say this is the main reason so many of our star players are injured or worn out by the time the finish playing in a major. So how can a recreational player, or the weekend warrior, take on playing sometimes over 200 matches in a year because of the multiple leagues that are now established? You could say that it's their choice, but any experience organizer knows, that choice is often driven more by the competition, ranking, rating or just trying to keep up with the others… which may be the real the reason for the excessive play at club level. Sadly, this excessive play is not part of the tradition of tennis, but rather the new model of creating income and profit for the organizers.
With all this in mind, it seems obvious that we will have to navigate into this new frontier with a balance of retaining some of the old, while injecting some of the new. If we lock ourselves into maintaining our traditional ways, we run risk of negatively impacting our industry, especially now that there are competitive racket sports. If we go the other way and suddenly shorten game play, we could easily alienate many of the established players. Like so many projects, there needs to be a balance, which means for most clubs they will base their programming on the nature of their membership. The real challenge will be engineering that balance and also staying on top of these trends to continue to slightly alter the game in an effort to answer any new demands.
Thirty30 (T30) Tennis
Thirty30 is the alternative shorter scoring format that unlike Fast4, does not upset the fundamental scoring system of tennis – sets are still played to 6 games (lead by 2) with a tiebreak at 6-6, the Ad points are still played out and players still need to win at least "2 points in a row" to win a game.
The Rules of Thirty30 are:
1. All games start from 30-30; announced “thirty-thirty”.
2. If a set reaches 6-6, a nine-point tiebreaker (first to five points) is played, with sudden death at 4-4.
3. No tiebreak in final set.
4. Change of ends after the first two games and then every four after that.
5. Alternate servers for the start of each set.
The game score ticks over more quickly, is more dynamic and a set takes no longer than a ‘bite-size’ 20 minutes to complete with a maximum number of three change of ends (or four if a tiebreak is required).
Match results still look like: 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 9-7 - i.e. identical to traditional tennis.
The transition from traditional tennis scoring to Thirty30 is seamless.