A few of you might know I have trouble sleeping at night. My doc calls it an overactive brain. Well here's what it's been working on for the past few evenings.
It's not Andy related at all...so Deb...if you feel it's out of place, feel free to lock or delete it. I'd much prefer debuting it here, in a friendly home, with people who can be serious about it.
TENNIS IS A WORLDWIDE SPORT
It's unlike any other major professional sport in that there aren’t ‘teams’ (WTT notwithstanding and we all see how successful that
is). Every week is sudden death – win or go home. The season is long, some/many say too long but it's that very nature that makes it complicated. It you're winning a lot, you're playing a lot...and making yourself suspect to fatigue and injury. If you're a fringe player, you'd like as many opportunities to 'play' as possible to increase your skill...and your pocketbook.
I’m not saying this proposal is better or worse and openly acknowledge that it generally just addresses the Big Boys and big tournaments. It's just different and tries to address some of the commonly identified problems (and probably introduces others).
I certainly don’t know enough about all the various lower tier tournaments or points and ranking systems for this to be a full-fledged proposal but I’m hoping it could be a beginning point of discussion.
I won’t try to defend it because I’m not saying this is the way it should be...merely a way it could be.
Break the calendar up into four mini-seasons:
- a two month Clay ‘season’,
- a two month Outdoor - Non-Clay ‘season’ (hereafter referred to as Hard Court),
- a two month Indoor ‘season’ with the surface being the choice of tournament organizers, and
- a one month ‘season’ rotating between Grass and Davis Cup.
In fact, all the ‘Slams’ would be rotated. The Clay Slam would move between RG and a new location in South America, probably in Argentina or Brazil. The Hard Court Slam would move between the USO and AO. The as-yet-unidentified Indoor ‘Slam’ would rotate between Europe and Asia. Wimbledon and Davis Cup would only be contested every other year. There would be no year-ending championship. #1 is an accumulation of points earned throughout the year.
A few brief points before moving on:
This creates a 7-month ‘season’...certainly on par with other sports like MLB, the NBA and the NHL. Should there be an overwhelming desire for an additional ‘month’...I’d propose something say in January: a one week wood racket tournament, a one week blind-draw doubles tournament and a two-week, double elimination tournament. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
While it doesn’t necessarily create an equal number of opportunities on each surface, the point structure could be so that clay/slow surfaces have the same number of total points available as hard/fast surfaces. Despite the distinct ‘seasons,’ the idea is still to encourage generalists rather than specialists.
While I like grass, and it is without doubt one of the most tradition filled surfaces, its importance to the game is clearly on the decline. It’s only a 3-week season as it is now. Davis Cup also is in need of some overhaul and playing it bi-annually might be a good approach. Again, the ‘points’ could encourage team participation...and success.
Most sports start each new season with a perfectly clean slate. Perhaps tennis should as well.
I propose only ‘seeding’ the top 8 players...from the prior week’s tournament. The guy who won it is #1, the runner-up is #2. The guy who lost to the eventual winner is #3 and the remaining semi-finalist is #4. Tournaments would use the much more classic #1 plays #4 and #2 plays #3 to ensure, that even if these four get to the semis the following week, we’d have different matchups.
The next four (or 12 if you think we should be seeding the first 16) could be placed by an accumulation of total points. Under this format, I believe...you’d have many ties and would need to resort to H2H or random luck-of-the-draw.
The rest of the field...should be luck of the draw.
If you win, you’ll be guaranteed the top spot the next week. Simple as that. You lose early, you play with the grubs just like everyone else.
And consider each ‘mini-season’ a grading period. Yes, a clean slate for each one although the initial tournament would use the prior ‘mini-season’s Slam results for the top 8 seedings. The defending Champ is always #1 (even if they don’t always play that way
). But as I mentioned earlier, total points would still be accumulated for the year-ending ranking.
A Bit More on the ‘Rotating’ Slams
Let’s face it, to shorten the season, but expand the geographic area of the fan base, something’s gotta give. And I think it’s up to the big boys to fold first but they...and their ‘area’ will need some sort of compensation.
Suppose the Hard Court Rotation looked like this:
warm-up tourney in the US
followed by three successive Masters Cup caliber tourneys all in North America
two warm-up tourneys in the Pacific
the two week-AO in Australia
one warm-up tourney in the Pacific
followed by three successive Masters Cup caliber tourneys all in the Pacific
two warm-up tourneys in North America
the two week USO
Now, this means that the ‘Calendar’ is not identical from year to year. So what? Many sports are quite familiar to the Home-and-Away concept...this year we play at my place, next year at yours. No reason those things can’t be worked out well in advance.
Withdrawals & Entry Fees: In other words...How to get everyone there
I think a shorter more clearly defined season will go a long way towards keeping the interest of the fans and players alike. I don’t like the practice of assessing fees to withdrawals but I understand their purpose. Perhaps I don’t know enough how big tournaments work...but for us hacks, we’ve got entry deadlines...and entry fees. And there’s not even a monetary prize for us at the end.
Horse breeders pay to enter their animals in a race.
Perhaps tennis players (or their sponsors) should too (they might already...I just don’t know how that works). I’d like to the think the entry fee could be based on a ranking/seeding (if you’ve got one) – that means you advanced sufficiently in the prior week’s tourney, received what is sometimes substantial prize money...and are most likely to be the kind of player the organizers want at their tournament. So, little guys pay a nominal fee, big guys pay bigger ones. It might not be ‘fair’ but in this particular case, I don’t mind a bit of inequity to put more pressure on the winning/marquee players to appear. It is, so to speak, putting your money where your mouth is. You’re only going to enter if you (or someone who believes in you) think(s) you have the chance of winning...or at least winning enough to cover expenses...and make a living.
When and Where
As for when what should be played, I’m inclined to believe the current general schedule might be a place to start:
- April & May for Clay,
- June for Grass/DC,
- July & August for Hard, and
- September & October for Indoor.
But I wouldn’t be adverse to swapping the Clay for later in the year. Do we treat it like fine wine, and work our way up
to speed...starting with clay, then indoor (because you’d likely have a mixture of slow and hard courts), then grass, then hard court. Or is prevailing weather a better, more crucial element to consider (obviously for the outdoor events)? And yes, Miami is awful in the summer...but Melbourne is no picnic either. Paris in the Spring can be cold and rainy...big deal. Organizers can do what the population does...move about in the early morning and late evening...and consider scoring modifications in the case of excessive postponements. While I don’t like them...AT ALL...playing lets, no ad-scoring and...gasp, a time limit could...should all be on the table.
Well, kids, that’s it for now. It’s been running around in my head for a few nights now. Don’t know why. Don’t really care but I thought I’d run it by other folks who have the same love of the game I do...and who hate to see how all the injuries and withdrawals hurt us all in the long-run.
Fire away...just don't expect me to try to justify my thoughts...just as I don't expect you to do with yours. You can make it opinion or just plain 'gut' calls. You can say you hate it; I won't be offended.
We can all say....
It'll never happen.