The 2020 edition of the ATP Finals was an opportunity to ask numerous players what they thought of reducing the Grand Slam format and aligning them with the rest of the calendar (with the transition to two sets out of three).
While Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev showed their attachment to tradition, world number 1 Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev were more open to the possibility of changing the four major tournaments on the calendar. Television needs have been pushing in this direction for years, but the legends of this sport and many professionals have repeatedly stressed how the three out of five format represents the distinctive trait of the Slams compared to the other tournaments on the circuit.
In a video chat entitled 'Match Points', well-known New York Times reporter Ben Rothenberg endorsed Djokovic's idea, highlighting how the Serbian has no personal interest in changing a format that has brought him a lot of luck in the last decade (Nole has in fact won 17 Grand Slams).
Rothenberg and Bartoli on best-of-3 format
“I do think having Novak Djokovic be such a good best of five player and want best of three adds credibility to it,” Ben Rothenberg said. “I think it's unrealistic (for people to watch the whole thing).
I don't think tennis is popular because it's an endurance sport. That's not what drew me to tennis; I like seeing the craft, creativity, the talent and the skill. I don't think emphasizing the endurance side is important to the essence of tennis”.
Marion Bartoli, however, disagrees with Novak Djokovic’s argument for the shorter format. "To me we have to rethink the way tennis is broadcast,” Bartoli said. “You don't really feel like you're on court with a tennis player hitting a tennis ball.
Let's try to figure out a much better way to engage the fans”. Noah Rubin initially seemed more open to Novak Djokovic’s suggestion. The World No. 249 began by calling for best-of-3 matches in the first week of Majors, and best-of-5 at the business end.
"I agree that the first week should be three sets, the second week can be best of five,” Rubin said. “But in the pandemic, the Slams are the (only) ones who are doing well. I think this is kind of thing that's the last thing to (try to) change. I'd say keep best of five and let's worry about something else."