Tennis matches tend to take a very long time to complete.
At the highest professional level or simply a local club match, the scoring system is such that there can be a lot of breaks in momentum and matches can seem to go on forever.
This may be fun when you are in the moment playing a match, but it can actually cause a number of organizational issues.
First of all, not knowing exactly when a match will finish makes booking courts difficult at the recreational level.
This is even more of an issue at the professional level, as it is difficult for TV companies to schedule programming around matches with undetermined, and open, finishing times.
Also, the viewers for a 5-hour match may be limited to just hardcore tennis fans rather than a mass audience, which may limit the advertising revenue.
This ironically can limit the amount that tennis players can earn, especially compared to popular timed sports like soccer or basketball.
So, despite the fact that as tennis fans we love watching long, dramatic matches, having a bit more predictability in the sport could do it a favour!
There have been a few measures introduced into the professional game to try and speed matches up that have started to trickle down to the grassroots level.
The introduction of the Fast 4 scoring system shortens the game and has been introduced to premier events such as the Next Gen ATP Finals.
Sets are played to 4 games rather than 6 and tie-breaks are played to 5 points rather than 7. There are also no lets, so if the ball comes off the net tape on a serve and lands in the service box, it is in play!
Even the now very common Championship Tie-break was not always a permanent fixture in the world of tennis. It is now commonly used on the professional doubles circuit and at club level all around the world, speeding up matches by not playing a full deciding set.
The professional circuit has also now introduced a shot clock to keep players honest between points. The shot clock counts down the 25 seconds allowed between points.
At first, this was a controversial move, as it was argued that some discretion is needed when players have engaged in a long, gruelling point as this, for example, takes a lot more time to recover from than hitting an ace.
But, it seems to have integrated well into the tennis world and is now popular amongst both fans and the players themselves.
We have established that tennis matches can sometimes take a long time and given some insight into how the governing bodies have tried to shorten them.
But why do tennis matches last so long in the first place?
Well, let’s find out in Part 2 of this article.