The tennis season is slowly coming to a close. Then it will be time for the off-season, which we can also call “exhibition season”, the moment where the top players scour the world playing very expensive (and lucrative) exhibition matches.
This also means that it will be time for year-end reviews, followed by (hopefully) a well-earned break from analysis and similar actions.
However, even if it is not completely finished, this tennis season, like every year, leaves me with a few wishes, usually the same wishes I’ve had for several years now. I simply decided to voice them.
My first wish: more variety in surface speeds
I am a tennis nut. This is a known fact. Still, the constant slowing down of the surfaces, the homogenisation of the surfaces, particularly the hard courts, and the predictability of results it often brings, has been annoying me for quite some time.
Not only does it increase the risk of injury to the players, it also alters the show in a way that is similar to what it was back in the days.
The reason for the slowing down of some of the fastest courts was to encourage rallying. That, in itself, is a commendable purpose.
However, what we are seeing now is the reverse of what it was back then. There are definitely more rallies, but those rallies are long, very long, and tend to favour endurance rather than the game in itself.
When rallies of 20 or more strokes become the norm, it makes the matches longer, but it also gives too much importance to physical condition rather than skill, a lot of the times. And despite the genial shots that some players can come up with, it makes the game a wee bit boring.
That is why, as a tennis nut, I prefer the Davis Cup to most Tour events. Because in Davis Cup, you see more variety, as some ties are played on clay, others on grass, and others on either medium-paced hard or very fast hard (what some players call ice).
For the sake of the show, perhaps having more variety in terms of surface speed would make things even better, cause more surprises, and see other styles prevailing.
When a clay-courter can play on hard like he plays on clay, we know there is a problem. We also know there is one when you see a majority of players fumbling at the net, or the near extinction of the serve-and-volleyers.
I’m not asking, here, for a return of three clear-cut types of court, only for more variety in the hard courts. It is not true, like we have been told no later than last week, that London was the same speed as Paris, for instance. Even players noticed that the surface was slower.
Having hard courts of different speeds, like Andy Roddick asked for a couple of years ago, would greatly save the show.