Hello and welcome to the sixth issue of Tennis inbox. In last week’s issue, we covered Patrick Mouratoglou’s Ultimate Tennis Showdown but were unable to report on the specifics of how the league’s scoring format would be different. We have that information for you in this issue.
More importantly, tennis’ governing bodies have finally announced schedules for tournaments around the world, all starting from August onwards. Read on to find out more.
The Ultimate Tennis Showdown’s scoring system is different, entertaining—but will the allure last?
The Ultimate Tennis Showdown kicked off this past weekend, and a couple days full of competition have allowed us to see exactly how the UTS is played. If you didn’t get the chance to stream any matches, get ready—it’s a little wild.
The UTS’ rules
- Points are played in four 10-minute quarters
- Players serve two points each for the entire quarter
- Whichever player has the most points at the end of a quarter wins the quarter
- If the quarter ends in a tie, competitors play a ‘sudden death’ point
- If a point is on while the clock runs out at the end of a quarter, the point is played to completion
- If a player wins the first three quarters (and effectively the match), the last quarter is still played out for set average purposes
- If players are tied at two quarters a piece at the end of the match, a fifth ‘sudden death’ quarter is played. The first player to win two consecutive points in this fifth quarter is the winner
The UTS has a few extra cards up its sleeves
Other than on-court coaching, the UTS also introduced a ‘UTS Card’ system, where players use special cards against their opponents for “2 points/1 turn of serve.”
These power-up style cards are picked before the start of the match, can be played once each quarter, and include:
- Winners x3: if you hit a winner, its worth three points
- -1 Serve: your opponent only has one serve, instead of the regular two
- Steal Serve: Steal your opponent’s turn to serve (you get to serve four times in a row)
- Win in 3 Shots Max: Your opponent has to win the point in three shots or less. If they play a fourth shot, they lose the point
The addition of these UTS Cards raises a few questions. For example, when your opponent plays a Winner x3 card, isn’t it a better idea to miss your shot on purpose than it is to allow them to hit a winner? The official Ultimate Tennis Showdown Twitter account asks that question, too. Also, how does the UTS decide if a player has missed a shot on purpose to ensure that their opponent doesn’t get three points? Does the umpire make that call?
The Ultimate Tennis Showdown is definitely entertaining. But we’re wondering if we’re just enchanted by the novelty of it right now. Watching players use their power-up cards, fight for points in time-based quarters, and decide matches in ‘sudden death’ exchanges is exciting and refreshing. It’s new.
But does the scoring format have enough to endure? Will it still be thought of as refreshing in its third or fourth year—or will it fade into irrelevance? Could some aspects of the UTS be eventually transferred to the tour? Mouratoglou has made it clear that he doesn’t see the UTS as a competition to the tour—he merely wants to try something different to attract younger fans to the game. But we can’t help but wonder.
What do you think? Can the ATP and the WTA learn anything from how the UTS is run? Or is the UTS just a gimmick—a distraction from the way our hallowed sport is played? Let us know in the comments.
Official tennis is back. The ATP, WTA, and ITF all release tournament calendars
Wednesday 17th June was a big day for press releases from tennis’ organizing bodies. The ATP, WTA, and ITF all released provisional tournament calendars and plans. It’s good news for tennis fans.
The ATP Tour returns on Friday 14th August with the Citi Open in Washington D.C. The US Open concludes play in North America (see below for a more detailed story), before the tour moves to Europe for a short clay season which leads up to the 2020 French Open.
The WTA has planned further ahead than the ATP, scheduling tournaments beyond the French Open all the way to the Guangzhou Open which starts on Monday 23rd November. The WTA kicks off again on Monday 3rd August at the Palermo Ladies Open.
ITF World Tennis Tour
The ITF World Tennis Tour is slated to return, too. This tour is essential for aspiring professionals who’re making their way up the rankings. The ITF is finalizing a provisional calendar, with events beginning on Monday 3rd August and ending on Sunday 27th September.
The US Open is a go (along with the Western & Southern Open). But who will show up?
So the 2020 US Open is going ahead. But you might be curious about how everything will actually work on the ground. On Wednesday 17th June, Sports Illustrated journalist Jon Wertheim published the protocol letter which was presumably sent to all eligible players and stakeholders.
It highlights that the Western & Southern Open, otherwise known as the Cincinnati Masters, will be held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center right before the 2020 US Open. The move is probably for logistical purposes so that international players are able to compete at two tournaments by only having to travel to one location.
Dates for events
- Western & Southern Open: Saturday 22nd August to Friday 28th August
- Western & Southern Open Qualifying: Thursday 20th August to Friday 21st August
- US Open: Monday 31st August to Sunday 13th September
One person no more
In last week’s issue, we also covered Novak Djokovic’s objection to the idea of being allowed only one member in his entourage. Well apparently Djokovic doesn’t have to worry about that anymore. The protocol letter states:
As planned today per local government approval, you will be permitted two hotel rooms. Each hotel room can have a maximum of two guests per room. As it stands today, we are exploring social distancing protocols on-site to determine numbers and locations.
That means players could bring up to three members in their entourages as opposed to the earlier suggestion of just one. However, the second room is not covered by the USTA and will be the responsibility of the player.
These are quite big changes. And they’re expected. The USTA has probably had to jump through many hoops to ensure that the Open goes ahead. But some of tennis’ top names—such as Ash Barty, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic— have been uncertain that they’ll show up to compete. Now that the protocols have been laid out, will they still feel the same?
These plans for a coronavirus-affected US Open could be a boon to lesser ranked players. We can be sure that not everyone who qualifies for a maindraw birth will be willing and able to make the trip to New York City. On the men’s side, could this be a year that someone outside of the Big 3 lifts a Grand Slam trophy?
Could the women’s side see a newcomer in the same way we witnessed Sofia Kenin lift the trophy in Melbourne? Serena Williams might have some issues with that idea—the American reportedly “cannot wait” to play in Flushing Meadows this year. In a press conference on Wednesday 17th June, Williams said: “I feel like the USTA is going to do a really good job of ensuring everything is amazing and everyone is safe.”