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Tennis

Ten Most-Needed Changes in Professional Tennis

Now, there are many things that need to be changed in how professional tennis is operated. What I have here are the first ten changes. There is no rhyme or reason to the order per se, but these are the first ten alterations I would make.10. Unification of tennis’s three main governing bodies.

It is a wondrous thing that the ATP, WTA, and ITF have begun to work more in unison, but they need to be absolved into each other. It would be cheaper and more efficient, as well as create a single authority.

There is no doubt in my mind that much of the confusion surrounding the gambling rules in tennis stems from the fact that there are two different bodies running everything for men. At the same time, since there is an independent women’s association, there has been no serious investigation into gambling on the women’s side.

Do you really believe there are no people in the women’s game who have gambled on tennis?

Combine all three and you have a governing body running everything. Everything will then be so much easier to run. It is not that hard.

9. Ranking bonus for players who play doubles.

I’m writing this as I am watching Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka win the gold medal at the Olympic games in men’s doubles. Wouldn’t it be nice to see them win the U.S. Open or Wimbledon as well? If you create an incentive for players to play both, then they might be willing to take the extra toll on their body.

I say that any player who competes in both will receive a 20 percent increase to their ratings points for that tournament in both singles and doubles. For example, a player who earns 100 points in singles and 25 in doubles at one tournament will now get 120 in singles and 30 in doubles.

While that might not have as much of an affect in the top 5, it could be the difference over the course of a season of 20 or 30 spots in the ratings for someone rated in the middle of the top 100.

The main complaint against something like that is that it will hurt doubles specialists. Not if they also make another change.

8. 25 percent increase to the field size for all non-major doubles tournaments.

Generally, a doubles tournament is half as many rounds as its singles partner, but as each team has two players on the court, it has the same number of players.

It would be better for the game if the singles players also competed in doubles, but it would also hurt the doubles players and possibly keep them out of many fields. If you increase the field size by 25 percent, you can handle the extra singles players without as much of an impact on the doubles participants.

7. All grand slam finals, except juniors, should be best-of-five sets.

If women are going to make even money at all of the slams for their performance, should they not at least be asked to play five sets in the finals? It is not unprecedented, as the WTA Tour Championship finals was best-of-five from 1983 until 1998, and many of those finals were very competitive.

Right now, Wimbledon is the only major tournament that has gentlemen’s doubles go best-of-five, but they all should do so at least for the finals. And they should as well for ladies’ doubles and mixed doubles. It’s only fair, both for the competitors and the spectators.

6. Allow coaching from the coaches boxes.

This one is really simple. I know the WTA has experimented with it, but why should coaching not be allowed? The only reason I can extrapolated is that there is a fear that it will slow down the game, which should be handled with my next change.

5. Enforcement of 20 second service rule.

20 seconds is more than enough time to serve between points. It’s also the amount of time proscribed by the ATP, WTA, and ITF for competition. So why is it not enforced?

Of course, Rafael Nadal is the most high-profile offender, but he is not the only one. Heck, Novak Djokovic sometimes out-delays Nadal when the two go head-to-head. And yet, only when the opponent says anything does the chair umpire even consider issuing a warning.

I say that there should be a clock installed that after each point is started by one of the linesmen or the chair umpire, and, when it reaches 20 seconds, beeps. If it beeps, then the player is charged a fault. He  then has 15 seconds to serve again, as it would be his second serve. Simple.

4. Forfeit of prize money for people who play injured and withdraw during the first round.

This past year, there were more in-match withdrawals during the first round of both the gentlemens’ and ladies’ Wimbledon tournament than in the entire tournament in 2007. While some of these players might have suffered the injury during the match, the vast majority came in injured and tried to see if they could play.

In reality, all these players did was deny someone else who was healthy a spot in the field. They took the Lawn Tennis Association’s money and ran, giving up early or when they were down a set.

Now, I do recognize that some people do get injured during the match, but many others came having been injured in the weeks previously. And if Wimbledon deems that these people should not have competed, then it should take that prize money and redistribute it to the lucky losers who were denied entry.

3. Defending champion in every tournament automatically invited the following year.

I’m not sure how often this happens, but I know of at least one occasion.

In 2005, Wayne Arthurs held serve for every game after his first set of his first round match in the Tennis Channel Open, eventually winning his only ATP title over Mario Ancic, 7-5, 6-3. One year later, his ranking had fallen to the cusp of automatically getting in, but not quite there.

Instead of granting him a wild card as the defending champion, Arthurs was forced to go through qualifying, where he was defeated. But why?

Should not someone who was good enough to win the tournament the previous year at least get into the event the following season? It would make sense. And if I were in charge, it would be in place.

2. No more wild cards to players ranked outside of the top 200 to grand slams to pad host participation in the first round.

It’s bad enough when the Lawn Tennis Association finds some Brit ranked 197th and gives him or her an invite to Wimbledon, but it doesn’t stop there. All these people usually do is provide fodder for anyone they might draw, providing a mere exhibition match that’s both painful to watch and painfully unnecessary.

My idea? Well that is simple! Each host country can invite three men and three women from their country not automatically qualified. If all three are inside the top 200, then that country may invite a fourth person, regardless of his or her ranking. The other four or five wild cards cannot be awarded to anyone from that country or anyone else ranked below 200 unless that person meets one of the following criteria:

1.Former quarterfinalist at that slam, or
2.Former semifinalist at any slam, or
3.Defending junior singles champion at that slam, or
4.Player had a ranking of 40 or higher before missing significant time due to injury, this being the first of that particular slam in which that person has competed since returning.

Nothing is more patently unfair than someone getting into a major tennis tournament solely because he or she represents Great Britain, France, Australia, or the United States, when, in reality, they’re not good enough to even attempt to qualify.

1. No more final-set tiebreakers.

As unlikely as it is, it is possible for side of the court to affect who wins a major tournament. What if one side of the court is so remarkably better than the other and that side wins every point? As it rotates, the players will split the first two or four sets (depending on how many sets they are playing) and the player who gets the advantageous side will win the match. Complete luck should never even be possible in determining who wins a tennis match.

The third/fifth-set tiebreaker is the reason I don’t watch the U.S. Open religiously, sometimes not at all. It is not even tennis. It does not have the right to call itself that.

I can understand the non-major tournaments having it, even if I disagree with it, but the fact that the U.S. Open does is nothing short of an embarrassment and an insult to the sport. I’m ashamed of it.

By bsd987

I have written for SportsColumn.com since 2004 and was named a featured writer in 2006. I have been Co-Editor of the site since January 1, 2009. I also write for BleacherReport.com where I am a founding member of the Tennis Roundtable and one of the chief contributors to both the Tennis and Horse Racing sections.

I am "Stat Boy" for Sportscolumn.com's weekly podcast, Poor Man's PTI.

I am currently a Junior at Rice University majoring in History and Medieval Studies. My senior thesis will focus on the desegregation of football in Texas and its affect of racial relations.

Please direct all inquiries to [email protected]

Thanks,
Burton DeWitt
Co-Editor of Sportscolumn.com

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