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:
- Tennis Court Surfaces and Court Speeds
- Roger Federer Wants Faster Courts and So Do I
- Tipsarevic Agrees with Federer that the Courts are too Similar
- Tennis.com – Steve Tignor Agrees Faster Courts are Needed
Why am I Bringing It Up Again?
3 reasons really:
- The tweet exchange perked my interest in court speed again
- 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)
- And the fact TennisTV posted the graphic below a couple of weeks ago:
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.