After Roger's loss in London the topic of conversation in his post match press conference somehow got onto the speed of the courts and once again he spoke about the need for speeding up the game. Damn right.
It's an easy fix. Just make quicker courts, then it's hard to defend attacking style is more important. It's only on this type of slow courts that you can defend the way we are all doing right now.
A couple of days later, Mardy Fish agreed with him:
Which is hardly surprising seen as though the Fish vs. Federer match in Cincinnati this year was pure exicitement from the word go and that court isn't even as fast as it could be!
All aboard the Moonball Gravy Train
For too long now the ATP have been slowing down courts across the world to the point where there's little variety, Miami, a hard court plays almost identically to a clay court. The grass at Wimbledon gets slower and so do the outdoor hard courts across the world year on year. That shouldn't happen.
In recent years we've seen the Australian Open move from the quick Rebound Ace surface to the slower Plexi Cushion. Tsonga blew Nadal off the court the last time Rebound Ace was in use, we're unlikely to see that again.
The US Open courts are getting slow year on year due to it being laid later in the year and more sand being used in the top coat. We're also noticing that Arthur Ashe is noticeably slower than than any of the other outside courts. Coincidence? Probably not.
Indoor carpet courts are now eradicated at ATP level and they were some of the quickest courts around ensuring tennis is played at it's purist. It's a sad state of affairs.
Like everything in the modern world it all stems down to money and the guys who run the game want to line their pockets as much as possible without really caring about the fans and especially not the players.
Slower courts invariably mean longer matches and that always translates to more money, fans are in the stadium longer buying more over priced food and drink and the TV broadcasts get longer meaning more air time and more ad revenue.
As Roger cleverly pointed out, slower courts often mean that the best players in the world make the later rounds; “You sort of protect the top guys really by doing that because you have the best possible chance to have them in the semis at this point, I think. But should that be the goal? I'm not sure.”
Again, that's all about money, those guys sell the tickets, they're who the TV broadcasters want to be contesting the finals. But should the courts be slowed down so that the top 4 guys always make the semi finals just because they can defend better and outlast their opponent? I'm not so sure.
As a Federer fan of course I want to see him make the latter stages of a slam, but if he loses to a rank outsider on a fast hard court I'm not going to be blaming the speed of the courts. The ATP and ITF should think of the players first, they're the guys who make the game what it is, not hot dog sales. No players should be protected by the speed of the courts, the seeded draw system is more than enough help.
Sadly, greed and internal politics gets in the way of the true meaning of the sport. It's not about how the game should be played, just how much money can be made off the back of it.
Faster Courts Give Lower Ranked Players a Punchers Chance
As we saw in Madrid there are certainly some players on the tour that only have their own interests at heart. Faster, varying courts present a threat to them and they know it; meaning they're quick to oppose any sort of change.
You only have to look at how the Blue Clay fiasco panned out with Nadal and Djokovic to realise they don't want variety in the game. It throws them out of sync and makes them more vulnerable to a loss.
Faster courts give outside players a much higher chance of winning. If they're able to catch fire in a match they might just be able to pull off the upset of a lifetime.
I for one believe that faster courts also make tennis more about skill and less about endurance. Skill is why I watch the sport, I'm not interested in which player can keep on running, those things can be trained or doped.
A prime example of this is the Rosol vs. Nadal match at Wimbledon this year, that match is undoubtedly one of the most entertaining of the year. All because on a reasonably quick grass court the gap between the top 4 and the top 100 gets closer. Rosol teed off and the better man on the day won. Endurance was't a factor, shot making and aggression were.
By saying this, Roger has shown that he knows and believes that nobody is bigger than the sport itself. He wants better distribution of prize money and he also wants the courts to be quicker to make the game more interesting. Both for the players and the fans.
Huge upsets, under dogs taking top seeds to the wire and aggressive shot making = excitement. Defensive, 45 shot rallies and 5 hour matches, do not.
Variety is the Spice of Life
I think some variety would be nice, some really slow stuff and then some really fast stuff, instead of trying to make everything sort of the same. What you don't want is that you hit 15 great shots and at the end, it ends up in an error,” he said. “So I think sometimes quicker courts do help the cause. I think it would help from time to time to move to something a bit faster. That would help to learn, as well, for many different players, different playing styles, to realize that coming to the net is a good thing, it's not a bad thing.
Like Roger says in his quote above, variety is needed across the year. I'm not suggesting that every court has to be lightening fast, the tour should be a mix – some hard courts should be fast, some should be slower. Some clay courts should be slow and others a little quicker. Grass of course should only ever be quick. That way we get to see a true test of a players ability, their adaptability and how they can handle different conditions and court speeds. It'll prove, are they just a product of endurance and racket technology; or are they the real deal? Do they deserve to be mentioned in the same sentences as the Rod Laver's of the tennis world? Variety is the only way we'll find out.
It should never be the case that a player can play the exact same style on all 4 surfaces and still be successful and sadly that's the way tennis is going.
Why do I want faster courts?
Simply, because we'd see more matches like this:
In my eyes, the ATP have attempted to homogenise all 4 surfaces to the point where they're all practically identical.
Attacking tennis no longer reaps the rewards it deserves and the sport has become one of endurance rather than skill, and as a fan of tennis, not just Federer, I want to see that change.
What do you think? Should the ATP make the courts faster on the whole presenting variety across the year?
Photo Credit: Nathan E Photography