ATP not throwing in the towel on tour changes
President believes Next Gen innovations could be introduced in 2019
Some of the changes and innovations that are being tested at the Next Gen ATP Finals can be introduced to the main tour as early as next season, ATP president Chris Kermode told reporters in Rome.
The second edition of the 21-andunder end-of-season tournament will take place in Milan from November 6-10 and Kermode made some interesting revelations at the event’s launch on Tuesday.
Besides creating a chance to promote the younger generation of tennis players, the ATP is using the Next Gen Finals as a way to test several rule changes. The matches are played over best-of-five sets but with each set going up to four, with a tiebreak played at 3-all.
Shot clocks count down from 25 seconds on court to make sure players don’t exceed the allotted time between points, Hawk-Eye Live is used to make the line calls instead of line judges and headsets are used for on-court coaching sessions between players and their coaches.
Those are just some of the many ideas tested at the Milan showpiece and some of those changes may be applied on the ATP tour next season, according to Kermode.
“There are some ones that I think we could fast-track, 2019 or 2020 we can get in shot clocks and reduced warm-ups, I think that will happen and I think that’s a good thing,” Kermode said.
“I think we’ll look at reducing things like use of medical timeouts and toilet breaks and those sort of things, I think those will happen the quickest.
“The scoring will always take the longest, because things like deuce, advantage, no-lets, they do potentially change the outcome of the match and that’s why you’ve got to be more careful rather than rushing in.”
One new aspect to this year’s Next Gen Finals is the introduction of a towel rack placed at the back of the court, to remove the onus on ball kids to handle towels.
“We wanted to keep looking at little bits and pieces, some are dramatic like the scoring system, some are smaller like this. But let’s see, does this speed play up?” Kermode told Sport360ñ after the announcement.
“It could actually make it longer because they have to go back. Obviously they still have to play within 25 seconds but maybe they go up to the 25 seconds max each time, or maybe they actually skip using it as much and it speeds the whole play up. Let’s see.
“I think there’s also a perception issue as well, which I personally don’t like and I think it’s something we should try.”
The ATP’s research showed that the average match times at the Next Gen Finals were not so different from those of ATP tournaments.
Kermode still thinks the Fast-4 format is more enjoyable, even if it’s not shaving time off of matches.
“The advantage for me is the intensity of play right from the start,” said Kermode.
“So there were no down moments and that’s the thing I think we’ve got to look at for the next generation of fans.
“So people, old like me, 50 plus, we’re not the people to ask.
“Because if you’re going to do a survey with those people in my demographic, they’re all going to say ‘keep it exactly how it is, that’s why we watch the sport, we love it how it is’. And I get that, but I’m looking 10 years ahead.
“My kids are in their 20s, how they are consuming all types of media, entertainment and sports and everything is changing so quickly. Therefore what is going to be required for any sport or entertainment to survive, is that it’s got to be dynamic.
“It’s like cricket, the idea of watching a county cricket match now, you can see there’s three people in the stands. Twenty20, the Big Bash, awesome, it’s packed.”
We’ve got to look at the next generation [...] people, 50 plus like me, we’re not the ones to ask – Kermode
Back to the future: Chris Kermode (r), presenting the trophy to Next Gen winner Hyeon Chung last year, is confident the series will keep pushing the envelope.