One of the biggest problems for men’s tennis was on display at Wimbledon this week. That problem was several players retiring early in their first round matches. Alexander Dolgopolov retired after only 43 minutes on the court vs. Roger Federer and Martin Klizan quit in a similar fashion against Novak Djokovic. Even some of the top players got into the mix with Nick Kyrgios retiring in the third set of his first round match. In all, seven men retired in their first round matches. This had Wimbledon players and analysts alike scrambling to find a solution. Some suggestions included prize money re-distribution, changing to a 2 out of 3 set format, and most shocking of all, no ad scoring.
Players on the men’s side retiring is not a new problem in major tennis. As the year goes on, players get worn down by the arduous pro tour. By the time Wimbledon and the US Open roll around many have nagging injuries and would most likely be better served not playing at all. However, the key to the issue is the prize money. Even in a first round loss, a player in the draw banks $40,000 for singles competition. This prompts many players to show up for their match, retire once they are too hurt to play or even if they don’t feel like playing. Then they collect their check and go home.
A lot of times the players that aren’t in the top 25 need the money to help continue their career or pay for general expenses. This means that these retirements often take place on outside courts in matches that fans aren’t particularly invested in. This time however, it happened on the biggest stage at the most prestigious tournament.
In major tournaments, fans pay big money to see their favorite tennis players on the grandest venues. As a result, it came as a shock when both Djokjovic and Federer’s opponents retired after each playing less than two full sets of tennis. Fans expecting to watch hours of competitive tennis got to see less than an hour per match. These unfortunate back to back retirements on center court prompted many to call for changes to be made.
As reports of retirements continued to flood in, a flurry of potential solutions were discussed by the ESPN analysts. Some suggested paying players even if they withdraw before the tournament starts. This seems like it could lead to players purposefully withdrawing to collect a check without having to do anything. Pam Shriver chimed in saying that she believes the real reason for the retirements is that best three out of five sets is too grueling for the players. The ATP tour events are played in the form of best two out of three but the majors are known for their longer duration. When Chris Evert put forth the idea of no ad scoring in majors as a way to eliminate injuries and prevent early retirements several of the other analysts chuckled. However, what if it isn’t such a crazy idea?
How is No Ad Used In Tennis?
No ad scoring is used in world team tennis: the mixed gender, team based competition played on those multi colored courts. It has also found its way into Division I college tennis. The purpose of no ad is to speed up the game and eliminate the long back and forth deuce games. While no ad rubs most traditional players the wrong way, some praise it for making the game more exciting as each deuce point comes with more pressure.
Changing to no ad scoring would indeed make matches shorter. It would also most likely generate more parity and upsets as more games could be won on lucky points. This idea seems to fly in the face of pro tennis’ proud history. The sport is based on the best player coming out victorious in a physically demanding match. Going to no ad would eliminate some of the wear and tear. Unfortunately it would also eliminate the conditioning and endurance fact that makes the game challenging
It’s highly unlikely that any major scoring changes will take place at the four major tournaments any time soon. Tennis is a sport that generally prides itself in its tradition and only tampers with it when absolutely necessary. With a plethora of other solutions available to try, some changes may be coming. However, they most likely will not negatively impact the viewing experience of the fans.