When it was announced, right up to its planned start and even after it began, Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS) divided opinions on how it would work; and then, whether it did work. With twilight inching closer upon UTS’ first edition in the form of its conclusion, it has to be said that UTS and its idea have succeeded in becoming an event where the game of tennis has had the last word.
The format – much-debated as it was before – is clean to follow and the rules that seemed complicated to understand with the involvement of cards has made for an eyeball-catching addition. The latter aspect especially has brought out vividness during the latter stages of an already-shortened match where players are expected to use their acumen to outsmart their opponent.
Coaching is allowed but for the most part, the coaching time-outs have been used as outposts for venting by players who end up playing as they want, once play is resumed. Lastly, with regard to players speaking their minds, displays of temper tantrums were largely not out of the ordinary.
What to make of Ultimate Tennis Showdown's first edition?
And equally undeviating from the ordinary has been the display of tennis under UTS’ ambit despite the extraordinary circumstances leading to its conceptualisation.
In a manner of speaking, in being so usual, the myriad offerings touted as UTS’ unique selling propositions (USPs) have become appendages to the game itself, rather than a disparate trait pulling the showdown in two different and disjointed directions.
But this clarity aside, there is no one way to describe where and how UTS fits into the macro perspective of tennis. In fact, Dustin Brown, in his chat with the press, on the event’s side-lines also told TennisWorld USA that a comparison between UTS and tennis’ traditional formats could not be compared.
“…I think there will be people that will like the original format. There will be people like this – especially people that are new to tennis and I think that’s the idea behind it,” he explained.
Adding that the scoring system, too, made it easier for newer audiences to connect with UTS, Brown noted, “The scoring is simplified, and for people (who) don’t really know tennis or for people, who are starting out, it’s a really quick way (to follow the game)”.
Quick as UTS’ format is, not only with respect to scoring but also in terms of the matches themselves, the tournament’s weekend scheduling also has become a contributor of ingenuity to its’ offbeat appeal.
Thus, while the matches take place over Saturday-Sunday leaving a gap of five days between one set of action and another, the scheduling also handily serves up as continuity for the audiences not just to view the matches but also for its expectations – quirky as this may sound.
From this perspective, UTS’ ambitiousness to have a series of similar such showdowns also follows the narrative of extending this unconventional continuity. And players, too, including Stefanos Tsitsipas are eager to extend the progression of this event.
“(It is a) historical step towards something good,” the Greek said replying to TennisWorld USA, in his meet with the press. The world no. 6 also said – like others who played the first UTS edition – he wanted to play other editions of the event if he had the chance to do so.
There are still those who are unconvinced about Ultimate Tennis Showdown's viability. Not discounting them, with players wanting to make a return to it and to the type of competition it has propped up, at the end of its stipulated five weekends, it has yet been a road half-built for both UTS and its creator, Patrick Mouratoglou. Photo Credit: Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS)