Tennis is Not Appealing for Millennials
Posted on August 22 2018
In recent years there have been many proposals banded around to make tennis more appealing for the modern world. Sets to four, sudden death deuce, shot clocks and eliminating 5 set matches have all been suggested as a way to appeal to a generation of millennials. This week has seen both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic weigh in on either side of the debate regarding 5 set matches.
Clearly the 3 vs 5 set format provides a bit of debate in men’s tennis, after all, the season is split between the Grand Slams which are best of 5, and the rest of the season’s tournaments which are played over 3 sets. Up until recently, the separate formats have existed in harmony, but lately, there’s been a lot of talk about adapting the game to suit the modern world, and the 5 set format is perhaps beginning to come under threat. In the not too distant future, 4 of tennis’ biggest stars will retire, so everyone is trying to figure out how to plug that gap. When it comes to 3 vs 5 sets, three of those big stars have recently had their say.
Novak Djokovic has told ESPN that he would “even have Grand Slams best of three,” as “ this new generation of tennis fans and millennials don’t have the great attention span.” While Djokovic’s understanding that tennis has to adapt with the times is correct, it seems like rather a blanket statement about the attention spans of millenials. Perhaps millennials do have short attention spans, but rather than change the whole format of Grand Slam tennis, can’t we use it to expand the minds of these people and use it as a tool for growth? Everyone is so eager to pander to the perceived short attention span of the millennials, but rather than changing tennis, why don’t we change the millennials? Tennis has always been a wonderful tool for learning, so why not continue in that fashion?
On the other side of the debate is Roger Federer, who recently said he’d like to see more 5 set matches on the tour. While anything Roger Federer says is going to carry some weight, this is extremely unlikely to happen. What makes the Grand Slams so special is that they are unique, they can get away with the longer format because they happen four times a year. Do 5 set matches produce more drama, do they allow the best players to showcase why they are champions? Perhaps. But they’re able to do that because they are rare events, if 5 set matches happened every other week they would lose their magic and just be long.
Andy Murray put it very well when he spoke to ESPN about his experience as a commentator “as a player, I really like best of five. It’s been good to me,” he continued, “but then when I sat and watched the match - - that Nadal - Del Potro in the commentary booth - - it was an amazing match, it was a brilliant match, but it was really really long to sit there as a spectator for the first time.” Undoubtedly a long five set match takes a lot of commitment to sit all the way through, but the majority of people watching are watching on TV. They can easily dip in and dip out as they please.
Personally I really think this is a case of ‘don’t fix what ain’t broke.’ At present we are blessed to have some excellent, competitive, 3 set tennis at Masters events, and then the magic of the 5 set Grand Slams four times a year. To change either way would take away some of the individuality of the tournaments, and surely not improve tennis.
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