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How To Speed Up the Courts

How To Make The ATP Speed Up The Courts?

Earlier today I picked up on a few tweets between @RobKoenigTennis and @ProdigyRep discussing court speed and how it continues to be slowed across the board.

It's long being a talking point for fans and I first wrote about it on the blog in 2012 on 4 separate occasions. If you fancy doing some background reading check out the posts below. They're all still as relevant as the day I wrote them, which is sad in a way as it shows there has been zero change, in fact they have gotten slower:

Why am I Bringing It Up Again?

3 reasons really:

  1. The tweet exchange perked my interest in court speed again
  2. Watching some of the Erste Bank Open in Vienna – it was so slow that it was dreadful viewing (it's played on Rebound Ace Syncpave which is Category 2 – Medium-Slow)
  3. And the fact TennisTV posted the graphic below a couple of weeks ago:

Court Page Average

The graphic is interesting because it's the first time I've ever seen something official posted that proves what many people have been saying: the courts are slow throughout the year.

I've already covered in previous posts why that is, it boils down to tournaments wanting to make as much money as possible, slower courts = longer matches. That means it's on TV longer, more sponsor exposure, more money paid for rights. Fans are in the stadium for extended periods spending more on food + drink. And finally the slower the surface, the less chance there is of an upset so you get the marquee players contesting the matches at the business end of things which sells the tickets.

So the purpose of this post is for you guys to help answer – assuming you want faster surfaces how would you make the ATP speed up the courts? I'm interested to see what suggestions we can come up with.

I've thought about it but aside from a Tournament Director taking a leap of faith and trying it or fans voting with their wallets and not attending I think it's very difficult to break the status quo and #maketennisgreatagain.

The only solution I can come up with is that the speed of the court at any given tournament is pre determined by an outside body and it can’t be changed by the tournament organisers. We have a Tennis Integrity Unit (their effectiveness is a whole other talking point of course) but why not have a Tennis Safeguard Unit that is tasked with leveling the playing field for players and ensuring that the game rewards all facets of the sport?

As an example, Indian Wells has to play at a set speed and it can’t drop below, or exceed an agreed speed threshold. There would be no more putting extra sand into the Plexipave mixture to make the surface rougher, it’d be made the exact same each year for all of the courts at the Tennis Garden.

By using that approach you’d be able to have a wide variety of court speeds on tour. With the right rules in place and planning it’d be possible to have courts ranging from one end of the spectrum to the other throughout the year (you could change speed allocations for tournaments in 2, 3 or 4 year cycles). Allowing players to be tested on a variety of surfaces of which some play super quick, some play in between, some bounce high, some bounce low and some play slowly. The key is variety and I think you will only get that with some kind of regulation in place.

What do you think? Let me know how you think the ATP can be pushed to speed up the courts in the comments. The floor is yours.

About Jonathan

Huge fan of Roger Federer - I'll pretty much try and watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or tweeting about tennis I play regularly myself and use this blog to share my thoughts on Fed and tennis in general.

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104 comments

  1. Finally a post!

  2. Yes Alex we missed the posts ;).

  3. Problem is everyoen want the same top player to reach late rounds hence they dont want to make the conditions much different.
    Crowd/TV also want same top players…

  4. I don’t think it will happen. Perhaps the players could lobby for it citing less injury to players throughout the year with shorter matches.

    Or maybe someone could convince Uncle Toni and he would have the influence to change the court speed.

    Super sad they are so slow. But money talks the loudest.

  5. Yr comments unfortunately emphasise the problem! Fans only want to watch the big names, tourneys don’t want to take risks with too many upsets and that ain’t going to go away.
    Can something be done with the balls?
    I too found Vienna unwatchable and Paris is just awful!
    I think the WTA finals court in Singapore was faster and lower bouncing than both… ironic! Certainly made for better tennis, exemplified by the winner/error count! Most rallies there were won by a winning shot! Most rallies in Austria ended on a tired error…..

    • Maybe they could alter the balls but these surfaces are so rough and sticky they get degraded so fast. New balls at 1,2,3,4 etc 😀

  6. Ah I thought you Jonathan has an influence to the tennis world?

    Slow court = tragedy, next to tennis without Fed.

  7. Surprised to see Shanghai is faster than Cincy?

    • Yeah although it has looked fairly quick in recent years. And they use those Srixon balls which were said to be quicker and less bounce. At least they did in 14 & 15. Dunno about this year.

  8. The articles where Federer talks about court are old. I am willing to bet there aren’t any many recent articles where Federer refers to court speeds after say early or mid 2014.

    • Elaborate…

    • Either that or it was no longer a concern for him. Now, Federer would just care about being on the court, period no matter the speed.

      • Wrong.

        Fed was not really talking about the speed of the courts for his own benefit. He was talking about it for the good of sport / players. He may profit from it but not necessarily as it increases the chance of an upset.

        So to say it’s no longer a concern for him without hearing otherwise is daft. So unless he’s done a complete u-turn it can only really be more of a concern for him, as it’s gotten slower.

      • Please stop. I am a big Fed fan. He hasn’t said anything court conditions or speed since 2014. Pretending to know why Federer talks about things or his motives is even more daft. Remember none of us knows Federer personally.

  9. I’m getting bored of slow courts. All of them are slow, in fact…

    Tennis is a ruined sport…

  10. You know it’s interesting how initially they slowed down the courts to gain more revenue from broadcasting, sponsors etc, when now they are constantly trying to try new methods to speed up matches. Scrap Fast4 and all those other proposed formats to shorten the length of tennis matches. Just quicken the hardcourts, especially those at the Australian Open and you won’t have matches finishing past midnight. Everyone is happy and not complaining about their ruined daily schedule. Yipee.

  11. 5W ATP Ranking site says that Fed will fall down to 16th position after 2 weeks.

    Sad

  12. Sidenote: go to tennis-warehouse and order the RF 2017 calendar.

  13. Ultimately it will up to the players to force ATP to change the court speeds. Unless they make a common stand, no change will occur. Spectators are irrelevant on this discussion. For each million who would signup a petition to speed up the courts, there are 10 other million who couldn’t care less and who would ensure the revenue. How many sports spectators are actually sports fans and *actually* care about the sport (whichever it is) ? 1%? Less?
    The problem is that sport “rules” are forced to trail on the groove of TV companies. They decide how much of, when, how segmented, etc, a sports event is to be shown. Examples abound: see the football world cup US’94: players were force to play under an inclement sun so that the matches were shown at prime time in Europe. Take basketball: when I was a kid, it was played over two 20 minute periods. Now it’s a commercial fest.
    Is anyone considering to counterbalance a possible faster game with the demand to have the ATP 500/1000 final matches played at 5 sets?… I would sign that petition.

  14. Hi all. .. on a completely different note. Mugrey is one match win away of becoming Number 1. As Novacaine Djokovic lost to Marin “Cough Syrup” Cilic earlier. Even though I don’t like Andy Murray I really despise Djokovic and it’s been long enough like watching paint dry with him being Number one.
    Please please please let him get dethroned.

    Anyway all have a happy and safe Bonfire night. Peace n harmony y’all.

  15. LOL Novak Dopeovic lost to Cilic….

    Hope Murray doesn’t CHOKE…

  16. So if Murray wins tomorrow then he is #1 for how long? Will he end up being the year end #1? When does the points from the WTF come into play?

    As much as I’m sick of Djokovic being #1, seems rough to be #1 all year and not get the title at the end.

    • I too get confused about how WTF points come to play.
      But if somehow Murray does really well in Paris and wtf then he would most probably be number 1 till June 2017 because Djokovic needs to defend pretty much everything while Murray lost a few times during that period.
      Come on Murray ,please win today 😂

      • Sid TheCookieThief

        Murray wins Paris, so the scenarios I’ve listed are now all valid. I want Murray to be No.1 too. Not exactly a big fan of his game, but he has worked so hard and definitely deserves to be year end No.1.

    • Sid TheCookieThief

      To answer Sue’s question: Djokovic sits at 10,780 points. Murray is currently at 10,785. If he wins the final, he adds 400 points and finishes with 11,185 point, giving him a head start of 405 points into the WTF.

      You get 200 points for every WTF group win, 400 for a semi final win, and another 500 to win it all. What that means is: –

      – Djokovic must make it to the semi final to have any chance to becoming No.1
      – Murray remains No.1 if Djokovic loses semi final after only two group wins
      – Djokovic guarantees No.1 by winning the WTF with no group loss (otherwise Murray can retain No.1 by reaching the final, with no group loss
      – Djokovic reaches No.1 by making semi with all group wins and Murray fails to win any group match.
      – Djokovic becomes No. 1 by reaching the final, and Murray does not make it to the semi final, or Murray loses semi final with only two wins in the group stage.

      Many scenarios. The great thing is, they can make their own destiny. A possible semi final or final showdown between these two would essentially be a year end No.1 shootout. I think I will watch that match.

      🙂

      • I will watch WTF for two reasons only.

        1- Murray and Djokovic fighting it out for #1 in the rankings

        2- Gael Monfils

      • Sid, so they present the trophy based on WTF results in the mix?

      • Sid TheCookieThief

        Yup. WTF points count towards the year end rankings. Potential of a final between these two for the No.1. Not sure when was the last time that happened.

      • Thank you Sid
        I was wrong ,Djoker still has a chance to end the year as number 1. I thought he had to defend 1300 points so he had no chance but 10780 points are after his deduction of 1300 points.
        It would be so amazing to see Djoker vs Murray at WTF.

  17. Murray is officially #1!

    Raonic didn’t even play the match. He retired.

    • Pathetic. Mind you, just as pathetic as Novak getting through all those rounds at the USO, so I guess it’s swings and roundabouts.

  18. fed wasted no time celebrating Murray’s new crown – or was it celebrating Novak’s dethronement?

    twitter: “[email protected] 9 minutes ago:
    We have a new 👑 in town. Congrats Sir @andy_murray”

  19. Neither Alb. Fed just showed his sportsmanship.

  20. Apparently Bercy this year was much faster than last year, going from slow to the top end of medium. It would be interesting to know how that change came about. With Shanghai being relatively fast it gave a serve-and-volley player like Mischa Zverev a chance to make his mark. Not only did he play a different kind of game but his opponents had to make changes, use more passing shots, lobs, etc. It made for some fun tennis.

    After so many years of one style of tennis prevailing I think a lot of fans do want to see more variety. If we keep telling members of the media this and encourage then to write about it maybe there is hope for change. Also, we hear there are problems with long matches, TV broadcasters not wanting to cover them, etc. So this may be a good time to advocate for a wider variety of court surfaces. I am going to contact one of the local tennis writers to see if this is an issue for him.

    If I were the dictator of tennis I would implement a fast court season to go along with the clay court season. There are 3 clay Masters and 1 Slam, so I would have medium fast courts at Washington, Toronto/Montreal, Cincy and the USO. There would still be plenty of other court speeds during the rest of the season.

    • I too was going to ask about this. Reports of Murray saying that Bercy was playing slicker than usual, and as we know the WTF is supposed to be played on the same surface as Bercy in order to avoid problems with transition … But WHY does it have to be the one year Fed isn’t playing?!

      OTOH, possibly some conspiracy theorists will suggest that with Fedal absent and presumably ticket sales to make up it was necessary to shake things up a bit to generate some interest, and making it less easy for Djokovic to win might do just that – especially with him and Andy battling it out for No. 1.

      Anyone know how far in advance the surface characteristics have to be specified? 🙂

      • I will say if the courts are faster when Fed ain’t playing then certainly ATP organization are scared of his dominance in fast courts…

        It is simple, fellow Fed fans. If we still played on fast courts, Fed would have still been #1, despite his age!

        I believe in THIS conspiracy theory because it makes sense.

        Why on earth would courts be faster when Fed ain’t there? ATP organization are the biggest chickens of all chickens…

  21. I have just read your earlier articles and have a question. Do we know where the information on the “2015-2016 Main Courts Average” chart comes from? Because it shows something very different from the list of tournaments and their court pace ranking. For example, the chart has Toronto and Cincy at medium-slow while they are called “Category 4: Medium-Fast” on the list. That is quite a difference!

  22. If we say that courts are faster this year it should be because Fed ain’t there.

    ATP wants to raise crowd attention because they know they will suffer without Fed.

  23. Sid TheCookieThief

    As someone pointed out too, and I’ll add to that. Quicker courts give players more opportunities to wins points by rewarding a variety of playing styles and skills. That’s going to cause upsets earlier in the tournament, something Federer has said is a good thing.

    But it’s not good for tournament profits.

    So, dream on. It’s not going to happen. Do tournament organizers really want Nadal or Djokovic to lose in the first few rounds?

  24. Hahahah the WTF groupings are a JOKE!

    Djokovic playing against an injured Raonic, an out of form and injured monfils, and an out of form Thiem. Might as well put him straight in the semis…

  25. Groups are a joke. Murray is #1 and gets tougher group compared to Djokovic.

    This Nole guy always gets easier groups.

    Tough luck for Murray, because Group 1 is always #1, #3, #5 and #7 and Group 2 is always #2, #4, #6, #8.

    Djokovic got the injured group. Let’s push him to the finals!

    Either ATP is sabotaging things, or I’m hallucinating.

  26. For who should I cheer for in WTF? I clearly have no idea, because everyone out there is SO LAME.

    Maybe I should permit myself to skip it. I won’t miss big thing, anyway.

  27. Is Berdych the reserve if Raonic pulls out, even more tragic why not shake it up and give Delpo or the player who has won their greatest comeback award a wild card. Muzz as number 1 should help ticket sales in his hometown. Magnus Norman tweeted how good the WTF is and how we should all come along, he never seems to be the pushy sales type so sales must be slack. Chris Kermode needs a full house to tell us what a good place tennis is in! Maybe a few Fed fans will buy a ticket to see If he gets the sportsman award again but really it seemed somewhat tired last year even with Fed there, another Djoko win might kill it.

  28. OTOH our expectations are so low it might just be good, let’s hope for this outcome and a crazy year ends with a new winner.

  29. I wish it is 2017.

  30. Sid TheCookieThief

    Donald J Trump!

    • MAGA!

      Had a feeling it was going to happen after brexit and it’s come good.

      Enjoying all this outrage on social media from the left and the uninformed 😆 they really haven’t got a clue.

      So far I think it is the right choice, good acceptance speech actually. Now to see if he can deliver on what he’s been talking about. It really starts here.

      I have a feeling he will do alright tbh, he’s been saying the same things since the late 80’s and early 90’s on his ideas which shows he has some level of consistency which is unheard of from anyone in politics. Looks like he will be able to work with Russia too which can only be a good thing. The media are saying he’s a danger to the world, but he might be the one to actually help sort it out.

      Not sure why people are being sentimental about Obama either, awww he plays basketball and ran around the whitehouse with LGBT flags! Yes, great, but he doubled national debt and was a disaster for foreign policy 😆

      • Sure he deserves chance now to see how it works out..especially with both house and senate majority(at least for two years)…

        Media isn’t wrong either pointing out some of his ridiculous claims he makes in his rallies…

        Its going to interesting years ahead….

      • Sid TheCookieThief

        Nambi, only 8 Senate Republican seats up for grabs in 2018 while Democrats have to defend 23 (so their majority might actually get better), and the House won’t change unless there’s a wave. That can happen only in 2020. So, a majority for four years at least.

      • “good acceptance speech actually. Now to see if he can deliver on what he’s been talking about. It really starts here.”

        Hmm, good acceptance speech totally at odds with the tone and content of much of the pre-election campaign, it seems to me. It indeed remains to be seen whether he can deliver on his promises – and if this “conciliatory” Trump is in fact the real thing. If he doesn’t do the former, and/or the latter is true, I foresee problems as people realise that what they thought they’d voted for isn’t what they’ve got, just as the UK is now suffering from strife because some people read more into the “Leave” on the referendum voting paper than was actually there.

      • Should he have gone out there and started saying yeah we defeated crooked hillary, let’s lock her up?

        I thought he came across as presidential. So I guess he can’t win, people want him to be more presidential, when he is then he still gets criticism. Anyway, he won. Whether you like how is kind of irrelevant now.

        Nobody knows if he’ll do well. But the same people who said he’d never win, are now saying he will be a terrible president. So my money is again going on the opposite.

        Regardless of what you think of the guy, he’s at least consistent in his views on the big issues. Take a look at that “This video will get Donald Trump elected” video on YouTube. He has been consistent in his views since the 80’s. That’s unheard of in politics. If he can get things done, without interference then I think he might be pretty good.

        Re brexit – the strife isn’t from people reading more into what leave meant. Leave means leave. It was a simple vote. The strife is caused by various individuals interfering and meddling with the process.

      • I’d disagree. There are a lot of people who are under the impression they voted for Brexit *plus* how it was going to be done, and are now upset because other people have different views on the how.

  31. Fan’s Favourite and Sportsmanship double again! How good is that?! How many times did you guys vote? I only voted about 15 times 🙂

    • Yea, a wonderful consolation. V around 20. A little less than last year, only because of other to do’s. And still he had more than 50% – so that means more than all others made together. Our true Hero!

    • The other fanbases were “salty” because they deluded themselves into their favorite was going to win either award. We see what those fanboyz really covet when these awards are handed each year. Fanboyz always covet what they can’t have.

    • I voted 10 times.😁
      He might be out of our sight but not out of our mind.
      We fed fans rock.😄

      By the way,it is good to see many federer fans becoming Murray fans on Facebook and other sites.

  32. Sid TheCookieThief

    Fed misses two slams and wins two awards? Crooked crazy Fed fans. Voting rigged! This is Yuge! Very sad!

  33. Sid, I will grant your wish.

    Crooked Hillary has done some very bad things! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

  34. Thiem got murdered by Djoko in the last two sets.

    0-6, 2-6.

  35. Sid TheCookieThief

    Three hours 21 minutes for a three set match, indoors? Unbelievable folks! Unbelievable!

  36. Finals are boring.

  37. Murray won. 2016 season is over. Fed says he feels like in his prime.

    If you know what I mean… 😀

  38. BTW, Fed’s low ranking is making him quite dangerous in 2017. He can do a lot of damage to the top guys.

    I think that his current position (16) puts him in a place that he can face #1 Murray somewhere around 4th round?

    If that is the case, Fed will have less pressure.

    Just look at last year WTF. Fed destroying Novak in the RR, but in the final Djokovic reigned.

    Will Fed actually play even better vs Djokovic and Murray because of less pressure of not being in the finals?

    • Sid TheCookieThief

      Good observation. Fed better plays into tournaments faster and there should be some interesting matchup’s.

    • By the time we get to Australia, Federer will be #17 (Dimitrov will pass him) and may meet Murray/Djokovic/Wawrinka as early as in the third round. Unless someone ranked higher pulls out.
      Djokovic could actually get this draw in Melbourne:
      1R: Del Potro
      2R: Verdasco
      3R: Federer
      4R: Nadal
      QF: Cilic
      SF: Wawrinka
      F: Murray
      Would be nice, wouldn’t it? 🙂

      • Wow…

        Still not sure if Dimitrov will pass him but I will have to do the calculations.

        Fed in 3rd round vs top players will be a nice thing to see.

      • Federer will loose 150 points from Brisbane (and will play the Hopman Cup this year instead, with no points to win). Dimitrov can only add to his tally (his points from Sydney will expire after the AO draw is made)

  39. Did anybody here watch this WTF final? Has Murray become that good, or is Djoko again sinking into this his other-half-year shadow of his former domination?

    • Murray played very well – apart from his serving – but for the first set and a half Djokovic was a shadow of the usual wall we know. He suddenly woke up halfway through set 2, at exactly the same time that Murray suddenly faltered, and I suspect that if Andy hadn’t taken it in 2 he might have run completely out of gas in the third, and even lost it. But 2015 Federer would have beaten this Djokovic, no problem.

      • Sid TheCookieThief

        How the heck did he win? He played for approximately 100 hours this week before the final?

        I’m not complaining. Lot’s of Federer records stand safer. Djokovic stays at 4 year end No.1 finishes (Fed on 6). Stays on 5 WTFs (Fed on 6). Stays at 226 weeks at No. 1 (Fed at 302).

        Well done, Andy! 😉

      • I actually watched a couple of murray matches and he surely has improved.I badly wanted murray to win it because deep down I am still afraid of Djokovic breaking Federer’s record.

        Murray beat world number 5,4,3,2 in a week which is commendable.

        Djokovic looks thin and skinny and in the final ,I never saw any emotions on his face,it was like he had already lost it.Something is surely not right with him

        Australian open would be super exciting ,Federer’s record would be surely intact if Djokovic loses it.

        Exciting times ahead.

      • Thank you guys, for comments about this final. I think everybody (except Rafa) look skinny compared with Andy’s heavy bulging arm-muscular appearance. If I didn’t believe in his absolute clean honesty, I might imagine it a bit chemic-trained. I wonder how he carries them along…Djoko has for a long time seemed somewhat tired in many starts of matches, giving his opponents hope, but suddenly like an old spider finding some extra gas and stung anyway. Maybe he really IS tired now from all this enormous fighting – ? And maybe his life-priority now is changing, too, finally(?) feeling love for other aspects than take matches?
        For our hero I don’t worry. His love for the tennis is obviously intact, as it is developed for many other life-dimensions as well.

      • Is it me or Fed seemed to have gained some weight? Is it the Nike shirt? 2014, Fed seemed a bit slim. 2015 and 2016, Fed seemed to have gained some weight.

        Whatever happens, Fed will always be a G.O.A.T contender. Remember that records are made to be beaten. 🙂

      • Pleased Muzza won. I didn’t really care who won WTF as long as it didn’t involve Djokovic getting back to YE No. 1, because I really didn’t think he deserved it.

    • Both were deceiving, to be honest. However, Murray was less deceiving that Djokovic, so Murray won.

      AO next season will be interesting to watch. Fed has to defend his semi-final there.Perhaps if he knocks out #1 or #2 seed, he could potentially push himself to the final.

      • Yeah, the usual vapid game from both. Murray-the-Moaner’s second service is a joke. The few times Djerk-o-Tronic was awake, he punished it. The other times, his shots had no depth. When he tried to push it in rallies, he conked out. The only surprise is how M-the-M hung up there after an exhausting SF against Clark-Kent-headed-Godzilla.
        Other than that, boring.

      • Well said mate!

  40. I know this is not related to Federer, but I would like to share something with you guys.

    I think I just found Raonic’s, Djokovic’s and Wawrinka’s personal Skype accounts….

    LOL

  41. At the moment I am in Australia. I had a chance to go to Melbourne Park and see the tennis grounds. They are presently doing renovations there. Exciting to see Rod Laver Arena, etc but it’s in the middle of the city and feels that way. Indian Wells is so much nicer. It truly is a garden.
    I met a guy from Paris living in Melbourne and he plays 3 times a week there for $70 per month. What a deal.

    Happy Murray won today. I feel it his his turn to have the crown. Djokovic is skinny…lost so much weight lately. What is going on with him? I haven’t watched the match yet, just the hi-lights.

    Happy for us Fed fans. Like Sid said, Feds records seem safer now.

  42. I couldn’t really tell, it was behind fencing.

    I think Jonathan has gone on a walk about.

  43. Just saw Rafa playing with a HEAD racquet??? If he gets a HEAD contract, then HEAD would probably become the racquet company with the most stars…

    Rafa with HEAD… Go figure that out… 😀

  44. Fed’s mentality will be very interesting next year.

    Remember when he was 2nd (2014-2015) he was so pressured to take the 1st place from Djokovic that I think he had faced more pressure than Djoko himself.

    Remember that when he was 2nd (2014-2015) and played slam finals vs Djoker he tended to overdo, exaggerate his play. Look at 2015 Wimbledon : Plays a monster match vs Murray (creative, simple but effective) and then vs Djoko in the finals the pressure handed him the misery (no creativity, way too complicated, bad tactics)
    Look at 2015 US Open : Has a great weekend, but vs Djoko in the finals he played BAD (no creativity, too complicate, bad tactics, no SABR which is actually effective)

    Now that he is 16th, he has NOTHING to lose, no one to chase, he has now become the underdog..

    I think the ranking can make a difference to his game.

    I hope it’s like that so we can see Fed at his best vs Murray and Djokovic…

    I hope to see more SABR because it is effective and who cares if it’s unfair? If Fed wins points because of SABR then tough luck for the opponent.

    The truth on the other hand is disturbing…

    Is it too late?

    I will continue my writing some other day….

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