Evolution is the name of the game with several sports trying to evolve and reinvent themselves to suit contemporary needs. Tennis, too, is among the ranks of such sports with its format undergoing changes: including the introduction of fifth-set tie-breaks in the Grand Slams.
Beyond the Majors, change in the tennis world is coming fast and furious among the exhibition events. These are seeking to push their reforms through to the professional rungs of the sport. Formats like Fast4 are quickly gaining ground.
And then, there is Thirty30, created by Scottish innovator Mark Milne. What is Thirty30, one could ask? For one, it’s a self-confessed attempt at bringing about a cricket-like equivalence – only in the shortened match duration – to tennis.
For another, it is a try-out of recreating a new format that is unlike any other, piquing curiosity for the same reason. What is Thirty30? The name is the first clue. As per the rules of the format, the score of the match would begin at 30-all instead of the scores starting at love-all.
But instead of the score being read out conventionally as 30-all, it will be read as thirty-thirty. More importantly, the match itself will be played as best-of-one, or best-of-three, or best-of-five sets. At six-all in a set, a nine-point tie-break will be played.
The first player to win five points in the tie-break, with sudden death at four-all will win the tie-break and the set. The tie-break rules are as per the International Tennis Federation (ITF) rules. However, there will not be any tie-break in the final set and to win the deciding set, a player must win by a two-game lead as in a regulation set.
Lastly, if a game goes to deuce, a sudden-death point will be played if the game extends beyond four deuces with the receiver opting to choose a side to receive. The serving pattern is also unique with each player serving alternate games, and changing ends after every two games, six games and 10 games.
Finally, each player will alternate between serving first in each set. Why Thirty30? Acceptance from those who play the game, its administrators and fans remains important, thereby laying a long road for the format. However, there is no denying there is a growing market for these formats.
Traditionalism has its place in the sport but for the younger viewers of tennis, this is perhaps a good way to go forward without the game without over-compensating on the entertainment value.