Are setting racquet limits the best way to bring back variety in tennis?

junior74

G.O.A.T.
Watching all these old matches on Youtube and some of the replays on Tennis Channel has me feeling nostalgic for the 90's and to some extent early 2000s.

I miss a lot of the contrasts in the sport. I feel the Serve and Volleyer is almost extinct, we have less all court players and most are either power baseliners or aggressive counterpunchers (you'd don't really see any defensive counterpunchers). The guys today seem to have very similar games (and to some extent this makes sense because with the current style you can get a good level of success), no major weaknesses and don't need to be as creative as in the past.
You don't like the good tennis?
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
Maybe he wasn't, but we'd never know. What's for sure is that he'll be the last successful one. In a knee jerk reaction to the goat serve and volleyer, the atp and itf refused to do anything about undue spin (from what Sampras called Cheatilon) and let this happen.
I never heard him call it "Cheatilon", but if he said this I think he is absolutely correct. To me the strings and huge rackets have ruined the balance of tennis. You would think it gives the overall advantage to returners, because coming to the net now is suicide except when the returner is so out of position that he can't hit with any power, and half the time when that happens you don't even get a return. But with the extra spin on serves you have guys getting into the high 50s for percentage on 2nd serve, so return stats keep going down. It means that it's all or nothing on serves. Hit the serves so hard and spinny that they don't even come back (so you don't need to get to the net) or expect any weaker serve to come back at you dipping so hard and with such pace that it's like hitting bullets. Plus with even faster serves there is less time to get to the net.
 

beard

Legend
You think citing authorities is a way to support your argument? I guess the earth is flat, was formed in six days, and is the center of the Universe too
Those people live of tennis and certainly knows better compared to you or me what people want... Money they earn depend of their decisions... Can you imagine that none of those tournaments directors haven't thought of "bright" ideas ttw members have, and earn load of money...
 

beard

Legend
They are idiots. They are riding the wave of Fedalovic, and are lucky it's lasting so long.

Tennis is in for a rude awakening when these guys finally retire.
Yes, they are all idiots, who work all life in tennis, live and earn of tennis, and you are an genius, who probably never earned a dime in tennis... Sure, sure...
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
'greed mostly. I think a lot of his game was tailored around his stamina issues b/of thalassemia. This helped him on the fast and medium surfaces, but he couldn't find a "run-around" for the stamina issue on clay where that is one of the more important qualities for success. Unlike most, I think Pete had the game to win a French and be a consistent presence there. It was his stamina, and need to compensate for it, and inability to do so on clay that made him relatively unsuccessful there.
You are probably right. Any way, I loved watching Pete play. His winning his first USO and Becker's winning his first Wimbledon were two peak tennis events in my life. You put that together with young Edberg, then Hewitt, and you have to wonder if we'll ever see anyone like that again. Nadal's first RG was incredible too. I just can't imagine that happening again.
 

tonylg

Legend
I never heard him call it "Cheatilon", but if he said this I think he is absolutely correct. To me the strings and huge rackets have ruined the balance of tennis. You would think it gives the overall advantage to returners, because coming to the net now is suicide except when the returner is so out of position that he can't hit with any power, and half the time when that happens you don't even get a return. But with the extra spin on serves you have guys getting into the high 50s for percentage on 2nd serve, so return stats keep going down. It means that it's all or nothing on serves. Hit the serves so hard and spinny that they don't even come back (so you don't need to get to the net) or expect any weaker serve to come back at you dipping so hard and with such pace that it's like hitting bullets. Plus with even faster serves there is less time to get to the net.
He certainly did call it Cheatilon. Everyone knew it was the equivalent of spaghetti stringing, but was allowed specifically to thwart Sampras.

The problem was, even before Cheatilon Sampras didn't exactly have it all his own way. He had many, many epic matches with a certain young pirate baseliner. It would have taken a feather to tip the balance of those scales, but the atp used a battleship, a small island and a herd of elephants.

Then consider the likes of Cash, Edberg and even Rafter. Hell, you can add McEnroe to the list. None of them had the Sampras serve, nor his forehand. They had goat level net games, which these days would be rendered rendered virtually useless .. just to stop Sampras (who was near retirement anyway). If undue spin was allowed earlier, you'd have never heard of any of those great players.

Again, read my sig. Lendl with 98 square inches of poly would have been unstopable. Fedal would be on 20 slams and still fighting for second. Agassi would have as many as Djokovic and Muster and Courier would both be in double figures too.

This century has been the ultimate inflation era.
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
He certainly did call it Cheatilon. Everyone knew it was the equivalent of spaghetti stringing, but was allowed specifically to thwart Sampras.
I don't know how old you are. I remember what a stink it made when Nastase used the spaghetti strings, and why those strings were outlawed.
Then consider the likes of Cash, Edberg and even Rafter. Hell, you can add McEnroe to the list. None of them had the Sampras serve, nor his forehand. They had goat level net games, which these days would be rendered rendered virtually useless .. just to stop Sampras (who was near retirement anyway). If undue spin was allowed earlier, you'd have never heard of any of those great players.
Let's add something else, the effect it's had on height. Because of the spin, it was inevitable that the ball had to be slowed down when players could hit the ball so much harder. People forget that it's not just about how hard you can hit a ball, it's also about how likely that ball is to land in the court, and with increased spin more balls come down. If you have a racket that can hit the ball at more mph, even a little bit, and then strings that will put more spin in the ball, you have that extra insurance. That in my view is what is raising 2nd serve %. So you change the game so that you get more net clearance on all topspin shots and people can hit harder and harder on average in rallies, and more 2nd serves go in with more spin. The only way you can give players a chance to rally is to give them more time, and you do that with a higher bounce. That's more important than the amount of grit/skid. Higher bounce equals more time to set up, even when the horizontal movement is super fast. You've basically enlarged everything. The thing that was fastest about grass was not speed but almost zero reaction time with low bounces and weird bounces that demanded compact swings that could adjust at the last minute.

There's more. All this has changed how shorter people have lost the advantage they once had. You can assume that guys like Laver and Rosewall were just midgets because the whole world was suffering from malnutrition, and that tall, well coordinated people just did not exist. I think it's something else. I think there used to be really strong compensating advantages to being 6 foot or under, and I don't believe these really tall guys we have today with good return stats could have thrived in those conditions. At Wimbledon at times balls barely bounced. It was not so much fast as unpredictable, and you had to have lightning fast reactions to adjust. That's really most of what made grass fast. Then with different conditions and strings players had close to a 50/50 chance of winning points on 2nd serve, or a lot close to 50%. So even big guys with big serves could go dry on 1st serves and get broken. People won less games on serve and more on return.

I don't know about you, but it seems to me that most of us can learn to hit pretty good groundstrokes, especially on clay or HC. My weakness, when I was a player decades ago, was a the net. It seems to me that the net game is where you see really talented athletes shine. For most people what top players do a the net just can't be taught. Another thing that shows extreme talent in my book is the ability to stand in at the baseline and take balls really early, on the rise. I think that's one of the hardest things to do and almost unteachable. So in my mind the kind of grinding, baseline tennis we see today is more teachable and rewards training, discipline and hard work more than pure athletic talent.
 
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D

Deleted member 22147

Guest
Racket technology and string technology hasn't improved since the 90's.

Court surfaces in 2000 were varied and styles were varied, with the same standard of equipment.

Go figure
 

esm

Hall of Fame
1. Equal number of racquet brought to a match per player - no limitations on the headsize/string and tension setup.

2. No request to restring allowed during a match. If a player ran out of racquets, then sorry about that.

lol
 

beard

Legend
Your logic is short-sighted.
Your logic is not logic at all... ;)
Doctor can make a mistake, but I can't know medicine better than doctor. Although I can have my opinion I would most possibly kill a patient doing my medical practice ...
 

tonylg

Legend
Racket technology and string technology hasn't improved since the 90's.

Court surfaces in 2000 were varied and styles were varied, with the same standard of equipment.

Go figure
Year end number 1 in 2000 was the first top player to adopt poly, clay court baseliner Gustavo Kuerten. He beat two much better tennis players, Sampras and Agassi to win the year end Masters Cup on indoor hard court. They didn't have poly. The first pro to grow up playing with poly turned 14 in 2000. He won the French Open in 2005 and again this year.

Go figure.
 

California

Semi-Pro
To me variety has been killed by both poly and the court speeds, it isn't an either/or situation. The courts are slow, allowing baseliners to run down balls and hit them back. The slowness allows balls to sit up, right into the strike zones of the defensive players, letting them tee off on the balls. The poly allows the insane spin, which keeps balls in play, and also allows crazy movement and action on the ball.

This has given us, defensive, grind tennis. It is the best, most successful way to play today. It is also boring IMO. Variety is best, different styles, everyone has a chance to be successful. Speed up the courts, limit or ban poly, put some regulations on racquets. Do SOMETHING! The pain is coming when the Big 3 retire, let's see how healthy the game will be? Time will tell....
 
D

Deleted member 777746

Guest
Those people live of tennis and certainly knows better compared to you or me what people want... Money they earn depend of their decisions... Can you imagine that none of those tournaments directors haven't thought of "bright" ideas ttw members have, and earn load of money...
Sure, lets just accept what authority tells us about science, religion, philosophy, current events, government etc. I mean all these people's income depends on their decisions too - none of which are influenced by the desire to keep making that money. You do you.

Meanwhile the rest of us will keep thinking and coming up with bright ideas ;)
 

cortado

Professional
To play devil's advocate, is the effect of poly and racquets overstated? As somebody else mentioned, big racquets have been around for ages. Agassi with his 107 etc. Stiff strings have been around for ages too, either kevlar or syn gut strung really tight.
Could it be that players' technique and strategy just changed over time? How is Sampras supposed to hit a loopy topspin groundstroke with a racquet that weighs as much as a small tree? (Plus a groundstroke technique that has adapted/developed to use this heavy racquet).
Is the topspin effect of poly exaggerated in order to sell more poly? Courier was hitting a lot of spin with syn gut.
 

beard

Legend
Sure, lets just accept what authority tells us about science, religion, philosophy, current events, government etc. I mean all these people's income depends on their decisions too - none of which are influenced by the desire to keep making that money. You do you.

Meanwhile the rest of us will keep thinking and coming up with bright ideas ;)
Haha, you guys here see yourselves as some new Nicolaus Copernicus? Come on...:-D
 

tonylg

Legend
To me variety has been killed by both poly and the court speeds, it isn't an either/or situation. The courts are slow, allowing baseliners to run down balls and hit them back. The slowness allows balls to sit up, right into the strike zones of the defensive players, letting them tee off on the balls. The poly allows the insane spin, which keeps balls in play, and also allows crazy movement and action on the ball.

This has given us, defensive, grind tennis. It is the best, most successful way to play today. It is also boring IMO. Variety is best, different styles, everyone has a chance to be successful. Speed up the courts, limit or ban poly, put some regulations on racquets. Do SOMETHING! The pain is coming when the Big 3 retire, let's see how healthy the game will be? Time will tell....
Yep
 
Watching all these old matches on Youtube and some of the replays on Tennis Channel has me feeling nostalgic for the 90's and to some extent early 2000s.

I miss a lot of the contrasts in the sport. I feel the Serve and Volleyer is almost extinct, we have less all court players and most are either power baseliners or aggressive counterpunchers (you'd don't really see any defensive counterpunchers). The guys today seem to have very similar games (and to some extent this makes sense because with the current style you can get a good level of success), no major weaknesses and don't need to be as creative as in the past.

I think several factors play into the variety of the past.
1.) When you had a major weakness, you had to play your strength and not wait to be attacked. Guys like Becker and Edberg would be looking for the earliest opportunity to come in, knowing they wouldn't be winning long rallies. Guys of today seem to have minor weaknesses, so they can wait out longer to hit their big forehand. Guys like Lendl and Agassi set up the blueprint for today.
2.) I'm guessing many of the pros of the past were taught how to play the net. I'm certain players of today are trained at the net too, but not as a key focus or primary strategy. I wonder what would happen if some guys trained the net game twice as much as their ground game?
3.) Less distinction between surface speeds.
4.) Guys of today are more explosive/faster in general compared to the generations before. So this makes an offensive game more difficult, when the court is covered so well.
and
5.) Changes in equipment--more and more pros play with 98" or above and obviously poly.

Obviously, changing #1 and #4 would be a step backwards, kudos for the current generation to be pretty solid in technique (I might argue some might learn to hit a little flatter) and be up to speed on physical training.
Changing #2 is possible, but carries risk. With current tech and current competition, it seems going to the net would a be a high risk opition. But maybe if more were trained, we'd have enough numbers that someone would rise to the top to be competitive in the top 20.
Changing #3 to faster surfaces might help the all court player and SERVBOTs, but I still don't think it would bring back S and V.

So could changing #5 create more variety?
They've had oversized racquets for years, but still many pros stuck to 95 or below. Is this due to strings or just game evolution?
I'd love it if they limited racquet size to 95" and would be curious to see what would happen if they eliminated poly or allowed only hybrids?

If everything else was equal, would the Big 3 have captured as many titles if they could only play with 95" and gut?
Would Nadal be able to drive exploding forehands bounding above his opponents all day at Roland Garros or would it's bounce be diminished by smaller racquets and gut string?
Would Djoker find it difficulty to bash the ball for hours and have the same level of consistency without poly?
Would Fed's career have ended 2012ish without the aid of a bigger racquet and continued support of poly?

In general would we see success from more untraditional players with racuqet changes? Would Lopez have found more success if the rest of the field had less margin with their groundies? Could returners handle Isner, Roddick and Karlovic's serves so well without the bigger racquet and polys? If they could only bunt those big serves back, maybe the server would have time to come in?

If some guys can't bash their way from the baseline anymore, and start hitting more short balls, will more players have to become all court players to avoid losing from the baseline?
This same discussion has been happening for the last 10-15 years on the PGA Tour as EVERYONE drives the ball 300 yards now (on average). It sounds like they are actually going to “dial-back” the golf ball so it’s not such a super ball.
As someone who started playing in the early 80’s I think the three biggest changes are:
1) Polyester strings
2) The physical strength/fitness of the modern players
3) Children are taught from day one to swing out (when I had my first lesson in1981 the the teacher wanted us to use a continental grip....ha ha ha)
I hated the bulk of 90’s tennis (especially Wimbledon) as there were zero rallies. It was ace, service winner, ace etc.
Maybe the one thing they could try is dialing back the strings. For example, eliminate shaped poly and/or eliminate changing racquets every time new balls are introduced.
 

cortado

Professional
This same discussion has been happening for the last 10-15 years on the PGA Tour as EVERYONE drives the ball 300 yards now (on average). It sounds like they are actually going to “dial-back” the golf ball so it’s not such a super ball.
As someone who started playing in the early 80’s I think the three biggest changes are:
1) Polyester strings
2) The physical strength/fitness of the modern players
3) Children are taught from day one to swing out (when I had my first lesson in1981 the the teacher wanted us to use a continental grip....ha ha ha)
I hated the bulk of 90’s tennis (especially Wimbledon) as there were zero rallies. It was ace, service winner, ace etc.
Maybe the one thing they could try is dialing back the strings. For example, eliminate shaped poly and/or eliminate changing racquets every time new balls are introduced.
I think groundstroke technique has definitely changed, and this is independent of strings. You mention children being taught to swing out. Look at some 90s matches on youtube. The one-hand-backhand players don't follow all the way through like we do now. They have this abbreviated follow-through that stops early and looks a bit awkward, a bit like an amateur player. I wonder if this is partly due to pre-2000s players still using such heavy racquets. I wouldn't be able to follow all the way through on backhand with my arm turning over at the end if my racquet weighed 400g.
 

Robert F

Professional
To play devil's advocate, is the effect of poly and racquets overstated? As somebody else mentioned, big racquets have been around for ages. Agassi with his 107 etc. Stiff strings have been around for ages too, either kevlar or syn gut strung really tight.
Could it be that players' technique and strategy just changed over time? How is Sampras supposed to hit a loopy topspin groundstroke with a racquet that weighs as much as a small tree? (Plus a groundstroke technique that has adapted/developed to use this heavy racquet).
Is the topspin effect of poly exaggerated in order to sell more poly? Courier was hitting a lot of spin with syn gut.
My understanding is the poly does more than just provide a stiff string bed. If you tighten up gut, you get a lower angle of reflection off the string bed, hence making it go lower over the net and landing shorter hence tighter strings cause "control." The ball doesn't fly out. String looser with gut, the angle of reflection is bigger, so you get higher net clearance and typically deeper shots--creating a sense of more power. String too loose and the ball is lauching off your racquet because of the angle of reflection like a howitzer. So in this care spin isn't as much as the difference than angle of reflection with the strings of the past. I think this also applied to multis and kevlar.

But with poly, not only do you alter the angle of reflection, you enhance spin. I believe this has to do with the strings sliding back/snapping back so easily, whereas older string technologies did not do this. Amateurs like me would have my strings all distorted with syn gut, but when I have poly my strings seem to stay in place better and longer. And for some reason, looser polys can create even more spin. Maybe someone with more experience can say why polys create spin so easily.

I think less pros used oversized racquets before the 2000's because the benefit was pretty marginal. These guys had no issues generating power, but with the string tech back then, they needed control. Once you add poly, you got more control and could now reign in an oversized racquet. Hence more and more players went to them.

I don't think the effect of poly is overrated and I think poly has effected the way the current generation learned to hit and I think the physical abilities of the current generation allowed the bounds of poly to go even further.
 

DMP

Professional
I think the problem with all the suggestions is that they are one-off changes. As I pointed out before that will mean a short period of adjustment, when you might see a variety of styles, before it settles down again to a preferred style across the board. I cannot see the authorities/manufacturers/tournaments agreeing to perpetual changes in how tennis is played/organised etc.

The only way I could see to get a permanent variety of playing styles is to arrange for something like:

1/3 of all high value tournaments (ie. money and points) to be played on clay
1/3 to be played on slow/medium HC
1/3 to be played on fast (I mean really fast) HC

Grass can be considered a subset of fast HC. The season is so short no player is going to bother styling their game for grass alone, they will just hope that a style which works for fast HC will be good enough. That is pretty much what happened with Sampras.

For it to be effective it probably means that Wimbledon is the fast HC slam, the USO and AO are both on slow HC, but there are more fast HC Masters to compensate for the loss of the USO. The prestige of Wimbledon and more fast HC Masters is then counter-balanced by the greater number of slow HC slams with fewer slow HC Masters.

In this way there is equal incentive for different styles to emerge and stay permanently.

However I cannot see it happening because getting so many venues to agree will be like herding cats, and broadcasters will not like tournaments on fast surfaces with short points because it will create havoc with planning advertising slots.
 

tonylg

Legend
I think the problem with all the suggestions is that they are one-off changes. As I pointed out before that will mean a short period of adjustment, when you might see a variety of styles, before it settles down again to a preferred style across the board. I cannot see the authorities/manufacturers/tournaments agreeing to perpetual changes in how tennis is played/organised etc.

The only way I could see to get a permanent variety of playing styles is to arrange for something like:

1/3 of all high value tournaments (ie. money and points) to be played on clay
1/3 to be played on slow/medium HC
1/3 to be played on fast (I mean really fast) HC

Grass can be considered a subset of fast HC. The season is so short no player is going to bother styling their game for grass alone, they will just hope that a style which works for fast HC will be good enough. That is pretty much what happened with Sampras.

For it to be effective it probably means that Wimbledon is the fast HC slam, the USO and AO are both on slow HC, but there are more fast HC Masters to compensate for the loss of the USO. The prestige of Wimbledon and more fast HC Masters is then counter-balanced by the greater number of slow HC slams with fewer slow HC Masters.

In this way there is equal incentive for different styles to emerge and stay permanently.

However I cannot see it happening because getting so many venues to agree will be like herding cats, and broadcasters will not like tournaments on fast surfaces with short points because it will create havoc with planning advertising slots.
The problem being discussed here is equipment, not courts. Equipment is easy, limit racquet head size to 90 square inches and string stiffness to 120lb/in and you're done. As with all sports, this would drive innovation and you'd soon be getting new racquet and string tech, rather than the fairly stagnant procession of marketing the same old we've had for decades.

As for your suggestion that creating variety of court would need some consensus of dozens of tournaments, it wouldn't. Clay is clay, as much as I'd personally love to see it made faster, there is no change needed there. Both hard court slams are currently slow, so you'd only need to speed up one. Lead up tournaments would follow. Wimbledon isn't supposed to play like a hard court, so you're wrong there as well.

So, implement two sensible equipment standards and change two tournaments and you're done. Not hard at all.
 

Robert F

Professional
It's an interesting question that if you set limits to the racquets, wouldd training innovation find a way around it? So if we never allowed poly, would the tennis generation of 2050 be hitting similar shots of today with gut? Maybe.

In any system, once you start setting limits/rules, the experts in the field will find ways to innovate and maximize the limits of the rules. For years they played with wood racquets. In the wood era, there were big serves, topspin and even western grips. But that tech set a limit on how easy it was to hit winners from anywhere in the court or to repeatedly hit huge serves. I feel those limits were too strong (remember I like variety). Looking through history seemed to be a sweet spot with under 100" and maybe no poly. Guys could hit big shots but had to set it up/work the point.

I think creating more desparity in the surfaces would also help maintain variety and different styles. But I was wondering what would be a better limit on equipment--racquet size or eliminate poly?
 
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PMChambers

Hall of Fame
Simple solution, Natural Gut strings only.
No coatings, deemed to change the performance.

This will,
Reduce head size, there aren't and benefits going greater than 85-90 as a pro.
Reduces topspin generation. This will allow players to stand closer into the court. Allow net attack, reduce passing shots, reduce "heavy" ball.

The biggest issue with the game currently is the ease to hit a heavy ball. This forces players deep, increases safety, makes passing shots significantly easy.

I remember, barely, speggeti strings. These where banned because each string was effectively connected to the others, and deemed mechanical advantage. The reality is it was banned because ATP / ITF didn't want the outcome. We've got there through material science advantages. This is like motor racing standardising tyres.
 

tonylg

Legend
Simple solution, Natural Gut strings only.
No coatings, deemed to change the performance.

This will,
Reduce head size, there aren't and benefits going greater than 85-90 as a pro.
Reduces topspin generation. This will allow players to stand closer into the court. Allow net attack, reduce passing shots, reduce "heavy" ball.

The biggest issue with the game currently is the ease to hit a heavy ball. This forces players deep, increases safety, makes passing shots significantly easy.

I remember, barely, speggeti strings. These where banned because each string was effectively connected to the others, and deemed mechanical advantage. The reality is it was banned because ATP / ITF didn't want the outcome. We've got there through material science advantages. This is like motor racing standardising tyres.
You're right, of course.

Can't see that being too popular with the vegans though.
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
What is the use of talking about "solutions" that are just not going to happen? Does anyone think the tennis establishment is going to retroactively decrease head size? Change the rules in general for rackets? Outlaw poly?

To me it's not about what kind of tennis we like, because there seem to be many fans who love tennis as it is now.

To make my own view clear, I'd like to at least go back to the way things were in the late 80s or early 90s, but I just don't think that is going to happen.

What evidence is there that poly and modern rackets have anything to do with decreasing popularity in tennis? My friends don't want tennis. My family does not. I only personally know two people in the whole world who play tennis, watch tennis and who care about tennis. If it weren't for this forum, I'd never talk about it with anyone.

I think the main problem with tennis has nothing to do with rackets and strings. The world has changed. My brother and I both played. I played with many friends at college. My mom and dad and their friends played. This was in the late 60s and moving into the 70s. There was an explosion of interest in tennis.

Seems to me that ship has sailed a long time ago.
 
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socallefty

Hall of Fame
Tennis was an Anglocentric sport which was most popular in the U.K., US and Australia till a few decades ago and it is less popular there currently. However, participation and the fan base is booming in other parts of the world like South Europe, Eastern Europe and Asia Pacific where the tradition was not as strong previously. So, the tennis authorities are not going to change anything in terms of rules as long as global popularity and revenue is still increasing,

Is there anyone under the age of forty who is complaining that there is a lack of variety in tennis? Most young fans enjoy the baseline nature of the sport with long, fast-paced rallies and heavy shots with a premium on athletic fitness and strength. I don’t see higher ratings for doubles where there is more S/V tennis and I don’t see fans clamoring to see players like Feli Lopez and Mischa Zverev live at tournaments - everyone wants to see the top players who are all power baseliners.
 

tonylg

Legend
Tennis was an Anglocentric sport which was most popular in the U.K., US and Australia till a few decades ago and it is less popular there currently. However, participation and the fan base is booming in other parts of the world like South Europe, Eastern Europe and Asia Pacific where the tradition was not as strong previously. So, the tennis authorities are not going to change anything in terms of rules as long as global popularity and revenue is still increasing,

Is there anyone under the age of forty who is complaining that there is a lack of variety in tennis? Most young fans enjoy the baseline nature of the sport with long, fast-paced rallies and heavy shots with a premium on athletic fitness and strength. I don’t see higher ratings for doubles where there is more S/V tennis and I don’t see fans clamoring to see players like Feli Lopez and Mischa Zverev live at tournaments - everyone wants to see the top players who are all power baseliners.
The top players aren't popular because they are baseline bots, they are popular simply because they are the top players and people like to think they cheer for winners.

If (God forbid), Mischa Zverev had 17 slams, there'd be a tribe calling themselves Mischa-fam who'd start daily threads full of bogus stats to prove he was the best player evaaar.
 

WYK

Hall of Fame
'greed mostly. I think a lot of his game was tailored around his stamina issues b/of thalassemia. This helped him on the fast and medium surfaces, but he couldn't find a "run-around" for the stamina issue on clay where that is one of the more important qualities for success. Unlike most, I think Pete had the game to win a French and be a consistent presence there. It was his stamina, and need to compensate for it, and inability to do so on clay that made him relatively unsuccessful there.
This, and also I think moving up to a 95 Sq In stick and joining Guga using poly would have helped immensely on clay. Another advantage of clay for Pete is he could easily just cover up any vomiting he had done on it simply by swiping the clay with his foot.

As for variety, the simple fix is forcing grass courts to require people to use straight gut, and returning the speed of the grass. This is something simple to implement and enforce at the venue itself. No need for sweeping rules, and it might actually be welcomed by many. Clay is the same as it's always been. Hard courts were always a bit random. The heat of the Aussie and US opens alone makes them a unique challenge regardless of how much sand is in the paint.

There are a lot of folks here that blame serve bots for the change and say tennis is more popular than ever now. May be. But the serve botting was not the rule. It was just shocking when it happened. And one could simply go on and watch a different match if it bothered them. The option doesn't exist today. Although I have seen Isner bring the bot days back on occasion.

Tennis is somewhat popular outside of the US. In the US, it is a distant fourth, and soccer will eventually surpass it if the population growth continues to go the way it's goin stateside. For this American, what I see as popular sports in Europe seem to have more to do with pride and nationalism than the actual sport itself. Cricket, which even according to Cricket players themselves is a terrible game and not a sport, is hugely popular mainly because colonial countries see it as placing them on an even footing for competition with England, and each other. Is this a good reason to watch 5 days of the near exact same play? Well, a billion humans seem to agree. I mean, people watch Rugby, which is the exact same play over and over - the rules make it so purposefully. The same thing, over and over and over - and people seem to love that for some reason. So, if people can stomach that in order to shout for their favorite country they were born in even though they had no choice thereof, it's no surprise they enjoy the current style of rally tennis, no matter how monotonous, regardless of the venue. I mean, I've tried to explain baseball and American football (and the vast difference between the two due to one being nearly pastoral and the other being an analogue of war) to the locals I meet in Europe and their eyes just glaze over. Anything sport with variety, nuance, or complexity seems to be frowned upon. Which is odd seeing as they are more able for nuance and variety in their day-to-day lives and their politics, especially compared to Americans. I guess they take the 'past' bit in pastime seriously.

Americans see themselves more isolated when it comes to sports, without any care about what England or Europe or Japan or whomever may think. Americans are far more engrossed in competition(whether by sport from a very young age or by America's rather extreme version of capitalism). America's high school gyms and stadiums are larger than some professional venues in Europe. My high school had an Olympic sized pool. It made no sense to me, but such is the investment in sports in the US when they care. So the sport itself means a bit more from that competitive stance. Things such as a game ending in a tie is akin to wasting everyone's time since nothing was really accomplished as far as sport was concerned. Some American friends of mine go as far as to say a tie in soccer makes them feel like the players made money at the spectators expense. I remind them that this is always the case with soccer.

What's my point? Well, the world seems to like Tennis how it is, for better or worse. I wouldn't expect much change any time soon. I mean, they put a roof over Wimby and RG to make the surface and play more consistent as much as for the weather - so expect more gruelling rallying for years to come. Or even better yet - a means for them to end tennis matches with a tie.

 
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California

Semi-Pro
What is the use of talking about "solutions" that are just not going to happen? Does anyone think the tennis establishment is going to retroactively decrease head size? Change the rules in general for rackets? Outlaw poly?

To me it's not about what kind of tennis we like, because there seem to be many fans who love tennis as it is now.

I don't, to make my own view clear. I'd like to at least go back to the way things were in the late 80s or early 90s, but I just don't think that is going to happen.

What evidence is there that poly and modern rackets have anything to do with decreasing popularity in tennis? My friends don't want tennis. My family does not. I only personally know two people in the whole world who play tennis, watch tennis and who care about tennis. If it weren't for this forum, I'd never talk about it with anyone.

I think the main problem with tennis has nothing to do with rackets and strings. The world has changed. My brother and I both played. I played with many friends at college. My mom and dad and their friends played. This was in the late 60s and moving into the 70s. There was an explosion of interest in tennis.

Seems to me that ship has sailed a long time ago.
I agree, talking about these "solutions" are really pointless and unfortunately are not going to happen, so it really is just for fun. The powers in charge are making money and that is truly their main goal, only we care about the esthetics of the game. Plus regulations would be challenged by the equipment manufacturers, players, etc....

The only real change that can happen and would help is to speed up the courts. This could be easily, without a big fuss. Courts are so slow it gives baseliners time to set up and pass from anywhere on the court, even 10 feet behind the baseline! Speed it up and players would be rewarded for being aggressive both from the baseline and from serving and volleying. Which isn't happening now. That is why players aren't doing it much, risky with little reward.

It would be a good start and let's see what happens. I would bet you would see more aggressiveness and see some players adapt their games to take advantage of new conditions. Also would see more upsets so the results would be so predictable.
 

California

Semi-Pro
The top players aren't popular because they are baseline bots, they are popular simply because they are the top players and people like to think they cheer for winners.

If (God forbid), Mischa Zverev had 17 slams, there'd be a tribe calling themselves Mischa-fam who'd start daily threads full of bogus stats to prove he was the best player evaaar.
Spot on, people love to cheer for winners plain and simple. Frontrunners we call them in team sports. This is why you get New England Patriots fans all over the US, not just from New England. Same reasons why if they continue to lose, which looks likely those same "fans" will find another team.

Back to tennis, grinders like Nadal and Joker are popular now, it is because they win, not their style of play. People loved Becker and Edberg back in day and they played a completely different style. People are tied into winners, little else matters!
 

BGod

Legend
It speaks to the absolute embarrassment of the governing body racquet limitations are not more severe. Every other sport, basketball, football, hockey puts restrictions on equipment but not tennis.

Oversized racquets in the 90s were far less accurate so it was a tradeoff with higher contact but less accuracy. Agassi was a big exception.

Obviously the changes are simple and should be:
1. Only natural gut strings
2. Max square inch head size of 95 or 98.

But of course tennis the world over makes most money off equipment sales with heavy variety. So it won't happen.

And the fact Novak & Nadal used 100s.
 

Robert F

Professional
Some ask why discuss the possible changes that will never happen?

First, it's a tennis board and place to share thoughts/feelings about the sport. Like someone else mentioned. there aren't many people around me that want to wax poetic about tennis all day. So I use this venue to shoot the breeze about what could be. Mainly for fun and dreaming of the perfect tennis world.

And distantly second...if more and more fans think about solutions and those solutions become more and more popular they may effect change from the ground up. Doesn't happen often, but I can hope.

Interesting perspective regarding the popularity of tennis. Until COVID, I felt tennis has been on a downhill run for the past several years. Maybe COVID gave it a boost and I'll be curious to see how popular it remains post pandemic. I feel in the US, if you don't play/watch tennis, you have no idea who Novak Djokovic is. If you play tennis, you might know the top 5-10 men, the Williams and Osaka. From a US-centric viewpoint I wonder if tennis had more variety would more people watch. Many times when I've turned tennis on even at tennis clubs, many people have no idea who the players are and I have to explain the hype of the current match. I do think variety is only one aspect of tennis's dying fame in the US. I just think there is too much other stuff to do and watch to really appreciate tennis. Short attention spans make it hard to watch one match let alone 2 weeks worth of matches during a salm.

It is interesting to hear that it is growing in the rest of the world. Is that mainly play or also interest in the professional sport? I feel prior to COVID stadiums across the world have been more and more empty especially for the WTA. But if it is growing world wide at a phenomenal rate, then I can understand why those in charge wouldn't want to make major changes.
 

tonylg

Legend
I don't think tennis is growing here in Australia. Attendance might be up at AO, but that is for the social event that is a grand slam. The real test is the smaller tournaments, of which we have fewer and they are not as well attended as in the past.

TV coverage is poor. Free to air broadcasters used to pick up lots of tournaments, but now it's not much more than the slams and even then some are on SBS which is a community broadcaster than normally just get the scraps. That's where tennis is at.

It has been becoming increasingly difficult to get court time though. I'm not sure how much of that is more players and how much is less facilities. We have some nice big centres, but smaller ones have been disappearing for a long time.

What's really interesting is how much fans of the current baseline bots fear any conditions that don't immensely benefit their heroes. They talk for hours about how superior their hero is than any player ever before, but are racked with fear by the idea that they may have to take off the training wheels and play with some variety.
 

Clay lover

Hall of Fame
I don't think tennis is growing here in Australia. Attendance might be up at AO, but that is for the social event that is a grand slam. The real test is the smaller tournaments, of which we have fewer and they are not as well attended as in the past.

TV coverage is poor. Free to air broadcasters used to pick up lots of tournaments, but now it's not much more than the slams and even then some are on SBS which is a community broadcaster than normally just get the scraps. That's where tennis is at.

It has been becoming increasingly difficult to get court time though. I'm not sure how much of that is more players and how much is less facilities. We have some nice big centres, but smaller ones have been disappearing for a long time.

What's really interesting is how much fans of the current baseline bots fear any conditions that don't immensely benefit their heroes. They talk for hours about how superior their hero is than any player ever before, but are racked with fear by the idea that they may have to take off the training wheels and play with some variety.
I think you can say the same about some past glory huggers. Fanatics of modern players want the game to be played their way just as some old timers want the game to be played their way. There's really no right and wrong. I'm never for putting thoughts and words into people's minds and mouths and even if we are right about our guesses it's just human nature. They want their heroes to do well because they like tennis this way and you love yours because you enjoy tennis that way.

At the end of the day it's about which brand of tennis benefits the greatest audience no matter how "silly" we think the majority's preference is.
 

tonylg

Legend
I think you can say the same about some past glory huggers. Fanatics of modern players want the game to be played their way just as some old timers want the game to be played their way.
The title of this thread isn't "Make everything FAST". It is "bring back VARIETY".

Thank you for highlighting how fans of slow tennis oppose any sensible change that might result in variety.
 

Clay lover

Hall of Fame
The title of this thread isn't "Make everything FAST". It is "bring back VARIETY".

Thank you for highlighting how fans of slow tennis oppose any sensible change that might result in variety.
But the same point still stands. People who had variety in the past certainly wouldn't survive in today's conditions just as baseliners now wouldn't survive in past conditions. There's nothing inherently better about having more subsets of skills than maximizing one set. Who's to decide what is wrong or right? And what about the majority's opinion?

The way you talk as if baseline-dominated tennis is inferior would only stand if fewer people supported it. But the truth is, we don't know. And straw-manning a bunch of modern tennis lovers regarding their insecurities won't make the case for variety any stronger.

I don't even have to be a defender of baseline tennis to make this point.
 

tonylg

Legend
There were baseline-bots in the past, they survived. Some of them won a lot. They just didn't win EVERYTHING.

Just like McEnroe nor Becker nor Edberg nor Sampras ever won the french.
 

blablavla

Legend
The way you talk as if baseline-dominated tennis is inferior would only stand if fewer people supported it. But the truth is, we don't know. And straw-manning a bunch of modern tennis lovers regarding their insecurities won't make the case for variety any stronger.
baseline-dominated tennis isn't inferior, it is boring. Just like serve-bot dominated tennis, or S&V dominated tennis where 90 players in top 100 do the same thing at every tournament 11 months per year.

biggest interest contributor in many sports, beyond the PR, is clash of styles.
that's what normally keeps the discussion and interest, not how many GS will Nadal or Djokovic win from the baseline.

But the same point still stands. People who had variety in the past certainly wouldn't survive in today's conditions just as baseliners now wouldn't survive in past conditions. There's nothing inherently better about having more subsets of skills than maximizing one set. Who's to decide what is wrong or right? And what about the majority's opinion?
they wouldn't survive because:
technology allows undue spin
the balls were adjusted
and on top of that surfaces were adjsuted:
- carpet eliminated
- W grass is much more baseline friendly than at any time in the past

in other words, just like the serve-bots had advantage in the 90s, it was flipped and now the defense bots have advantage.

keep in mind that we are talking about a game with very thin margins.
the difference between winning 52% of points and 50% of points is equivalent of being in top 10, potentially in top 5, or being outside of top 30, hoping to be in top 50 in the ranking.

but, on the other side, if ATP + ITF brings back some fast surface in the mix, they will not only survive, but they will be top 30 / top 20 / top 10 players and we will see some clash of styles:
attack vs defense
first strike tennis vs running the baseline and retrieving everything back till the opponent makes a mistake
 

zagor

Bionic Poster
No need to get rid of poly. Just speed up surfaces/use lighter balls and you'll see more variety, simples.
 

zagor

Bionic Poster
There were baseline-bots in the past, they survived. Some of them won a lot. They just didn't win EVERYTHING.

Just like McEnroe nor Becker nor Edberg nor Sampras ever won the french.
Funny how those guys still attended FO (JMac was even close to winning) without whining non-stop about unfavourable conditions for their games unlike the brigade of CC specialists.
 

tonylg

Legend
Funny how those guys still attended FO (JMac was even close to winning) without whining non-stop about unfavourable conditions for their games unlike the brigade of CC specialists.
I didn't recall hearing a word of complaint from Lendl about Wimbledon either.
 

zagor

Bionic Poster
I actually think "undue spin" is a bigger problem than surface homogenisation.
Maybe but I'd like to see one of the big tourneys mixing up with faster conditions just to see the effect. The closest to that in recent times was 2017 AO and it had upsets and 5 setters galore, more forays to the net and flat winners too.
 

TennisD

Professional
This again?

Changes in equiments not only don't make pro tennis less interesting, but make tennis for amateur much easier and funnier.

Poly is the greatest invention in the last 20 year.

Gut is 50$, poly is 1/5. You judge.
This one. This is a hit and it needs to be played all the way to the cheap seats every time this thread comes up.

Another thing to consider: the equipment on the pro tour is already more or less standardized. There are a few outliers, of course, but by and large there aren't really that many different frames being used by players on either tour, and the pro stock stuff largely resembles frame styles, compositions, and setups similar to what you would have seen ~20 years ago. New-ish frames and tech do come in with younger players but in principle what they're using stays more or less the same, unlike what you see at retail.
 

snr

Semi-Pro
As someone mentioned already, think it is less the equipment but the Surface. Your tall guy while yes, he'll have help on his serve, isn't as good a mover. Fast courts will also mean that you expose their movement a bit more (harder to change direction etc.).

In this era of homogenization of surfaces, the tall player still has more speed but their lack of coverage isn't exposed as much.

Faster courts also promote variety in that the probability of success may finally make it worth it to go up.
Sometimes its just not worth it to go up with how well people can set up and rip winners. That setup time will diminish greatly.

There are time and places for slow surfaces such as clay where there are other challenges on top of court speed.
 

Swingmaster

Hall of Fame
Maybe analytics will improve things. I heard a guy on a podcast talking about how going to the net, being more aggressive, and using more variety are proven by analytics to be successful tactics, but players either don’t know it or don’t believe it. Without the numbers laid out in front of them, they are content to stay back and do what they think is less risky. Analytics also reveals people’s weaknesses, which could maybe result in more overall aggression. He said that only a few guys on tour actually use it. I have no idea why.
 
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