Do matches take too long, in turn hurting the product and turning potential spectators and players off to the sport? Does the calendar need to be modified or shortened?
These are questions that tennis fans, officials and commentators have long debated. And on Friday, speaking to reporters at the Wuhan Open in China, WTA CEO Steve Simon indicated that changes are absolutely necessary—and potentially on the way.
Simon wants matches to, ideally, last no longer than 60-90 minutes, and the solution might be to implement no-ad scoring and super tiebreaks (10-point tiebreakers that replace third sets).
“It will help us with broadcast,” Simon told reporters, according to Sport 360. “It will help us keep people in the seats. You’re much more likely to sit there and watch that match, [one] that’s going to have a lot more action points. The no-ad scoring creates drama in the middle of the sets … I think there’s a lot of things that we have to look at in our sport to continue building the interest.
“…The conversation should be held, and I’m sure the first conversation will be, ‘No, I don’t want to do that.’ But if we start doing that—maybe at the lower levels—and then it becomes normal and then you slowly begin phasing it in over generations, maybe it’s something that we could get to, and we’ll ultimately be in a better place.”
The newspaper reported that such changes likely wouldn’t go into effect until 2019 or 2020.
“The attention spans of the audience today is shrinking,” he told Sport 360. “Everybody wants it in very short nuggets, and to see somebody sit for two to three hours and watch anything anymore is getting harder and harder.”
As for the WTA calendar, Simon is interested in creating a structure similar to that of the ATP’s Masters series. There are currently nine Masters tournaments—Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome, Toronto, Cincinnati, Shanghai and Paris—on the men’s calendar. The WTA’s equivalent to the Masters events is the Premier Mandatory series, and there are only four of those such tournaments (Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Beijing).
“What I want to try to do is to clean up and create a better definition of what our tournaments are,” Simon said. “I think there’s a lot of confusion out there with respect to the differentiation of what type of event are you watching; What level of the event, and what is its relevance on the tour? And I think we have to better define that.
"And I also like to create a higher amount of events in which we deliver what I consider our premium product. I don’t think we provide it on enough frequency out there.”