ATP not throw­ing in the towel on tour changes

Pres­i­dent be­lieves Next Gen in­no­va­tions could be in­tro­duced in 2019

Sport360 - - News - By Reem Abulleil @reemab­ulleil edi­to­rial@sport360.com

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.

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