After the tremendous success of last year’s inaugural Next Generation ATP Finals tournament, this year’s edition is already generating a significant buzz around the tennis world. Despite what promises to be a very competitive field, much of the excitement and anticipation for the tournament is surrounding various rule changes that will be implemented and tested for a second straight year at this event.
Would these rule changes be too much?
Some of the rule changes trialed at last year’s tournament included the following: first to four games in a set as opposed to six, no advantage scoring on deuce, no service lets, reduced warmups and a 25-second serving shot clock.
While many of these changes are entertaining for a tournament like this, it would be hard to imagine them making their way to a Grand Slam in the near future. Tennis is a sport heavily steeped in tradition. Any changes that significantly alter the game and its scoring would be highly unlikely. Any changes that may occur will do so only after heavy deliberation and plenty of trials. It just wouldn’t seem right having Federer win Wimbledon with a score line of 4-1, 4-2, 4-0.
Tennis can be streamlined to make it easier to watch
However, the ATP does believe that some of these rule changes will increase the speed of the games without fundamentally altering the sport. Based on this, players can expect to face reduced warm-ups and the 25-second serving shot clock on tour as early as this year’s US Open.
Unsurprisingly, Rafael Nadal voiced his opposition to the shot clock stating that players are not machines and “if you want to play well, you have to let players breathe a little.” While the ATP certainly does not want to rush its players, actions need to be taken to cull some player’s obnoxious rituals and superstitions.
Some players have taken it too far
Spectators shouldn’t be forced to watch Nadal pick his shorts out from his bottom, tug at the shirt over his shoulders, tuck his non-existent hair behind his left ear, touch his nose, then tuck more non-existent hair behind his right ear, touch his nose again and finally wipe his forehead before every single one of his serves.
The shot clock would help to stop players like Murray and Sock from aimlessly receiving several identical balls and painfully deciding which they would like to use for that particular point. It would also get rid of the unnecessary towel breaks following each point. Players like Nadal, Raonic and Del Potro seem to towel down completely as if they just got out of a pool following each point. This can be exasperating to watch when the point was a quick service ace or one-shot rally.
With the shot clock in place, we could also finally stop having to watch players such as Djokovic and Cilic imitating NBA Point Guards as they bounce the ball 15+ times in front of them before serving. Players seem to be increasingly taking part in this exercise, which can work to slow points down immensely.
Speeding up tennis isn’t a bad thing
Overall, the incorporation of a shot clock will undoubtedly speed up the game and eliminate many of the rituals that so frequently slow down matches. It will certainly be a welcome addition to tour play in the coming years for many fans.
- Brenden brings THE SLICE from Waterloo, Canada. Follow him @brendendecker.