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What if the (tennis) scoring format changes? The tempting variant of the “Thirty30” of a Scotsman

An article written by L’Equipe’s tennis journalist Julien Reboullet “What if the scoring format changes? The tempting variant of the “Thirty30” of a Scotsman” was recently published on the French L’Equipe website.

The article (in French and partly listed below) can be found here and an English ‘Google’ translation of the full article is also provided below.

English 'Google' Translation:

What if the scoring format changes? The tempting variant of the "Thirty30" of a Scotsman

Tennis-crazed Scottish engineer Mark Milne has been working hard for the past five years for an instance to officially test his scoring system, which preserves much of the lore (traditions) while starting every game at 30-all.

May 26, 2021

July 1972. On vacation with his parents on the English coast of the North Sea, Mark Milne, a nine-year-old Scottish boy, falls in love with tennis, glued to the TV set which broadcasts the men's Wimbledon final in black and white, won by Stan Smith, 7-5 in the fifth set, against Ilie Nastase.

Forty-four years later, after having passionately practiced all the racquet sports that were close at hand and having asked himself many questions about the different ways of counting points, the now engineer wakes up in the middle of one night in March 2016, because a clear dream has just roused him from sleep by showing him the light. He immediately decides to exploit this vision by codifying this scoring, which he will call “Thirty30” (Trente-30).

The basic principle is simple: we keep almost all of the traditional scoring, but each game starts at 30-all. There is nothing magical about the formula in itself, many coaches have used it in training because it only generates “important” points, requiring immediate and permanent involvement from apprentice competitors.

Change of sides is after the 2nd game and every fourth game.

But Milne goes further, detailing the entire system, for example with the introduction of the change of sides after the second game and then every four games, and also the alternation of the server at the start of each set, regardless of the identity of who served last in the previous set. Finally, at 6-6, the introduction of a tie-break in the “Best of 9” format, which will be won by the one who reaches 5 points first, without the need for the two point difference.

In "Thirty-30" mode, a set will almost never exceed twenty minutes. A five-set match won't last much more than an hour and a half. A well-cut "size" for a TV broadcast or a spectator with wandering attention. "Warning! warns Milne, there is no intention of wanting to replace the scoring that exists in the Grand Slams or Masters 1000. On the other hand, on some ATP or WTA 250, it might be worth trying. It is a system which also makes it entirely possible to play two matches on the same day, and therefore why not a tournament over an extended weekend, from Friday to Sunday; it could also allow players to play matches in five sets. I had the opportunity to chat with Steve Simon, the boss of the WTA, and the idea had not left him indifferent."

"When we do not evolve, we can be led to disappear" - Mark Milne

Mark Milne is not a nice enlightened man walking under his arm a coupadingue project. He is a lover of the game who, guided by his rationality as an engineer, wisely patented his "invention", in Europe as in the United States, "because I have no doubt that one day it will exist. Because when I was young, I spent the day at the club, playing sets with my friends, and you don't see that anymore, when with a shortened form ... Because tennis would run a too great danger not to evolve. When we do not evolve, we can be led to disappear. Table tennis, squash, badminton, volleyball: so many disciplines that have changed the way of counting points”.

He lacks the support of a great name.

This is where THE recurring question in tennis comes in: how to move this multi-headed pachyderm where the authorities (ITF, ATP, WTA, Grand Slam Committee ...) cooperate too rarely to move forward with the same step? The ITF certainly tried the “Fast4” (where it takes four games to win a set, with the “no let” and the “no ad” as a bonus) in the late Hopman Cup. The ATP organizes its NextGen Masters with this format, which also appears in the appendices of the rules of the International Federation, “but frankly, you are not a fan, when you hear that a match has been won 4-2, 4-3, asks Milne? I really like that Patrick Mouratoglou brings novelties, but the rules of his UTS, with timed matches, are complicated ..."

In 2017, after having exchanged with the Swede Stefan Fransson, ex-referee of Roland-Garros and then responsible for regulations at the ITF, Milne submitted a well-argued proposal for his method to appear in the official alternatives of the International Federation. He was told that with the arrival of the "Fast4", supported by the powerful Australian federation, the timing was not ideal. But he didn't give up.

For three and a half years, he has collected hundreds of testimonials from all over the world, from coaches and players who test and approve. He's missing a big name that would support the project. Former American players Tim Mayotte (7th ATP in 1988) and Jeff Tarango (42nd in 1992) like the idea. Mark Milne's dream? Let his compatriot Andy Murray take up the subject one day. He has already spoken with his mum, Judy, not closed but not completely willing to help just yet. “It must be said that the LTA (the British federation) has already applied the “Fast4” in some of its tournaments, regrets Milne, but in fact, the real question is: what would tennis have to lose, to try Thirty30?"

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