Should the Grand Slams change to best-of-three format? – Match Points excerpt

Match Points is a talk show about tennis, hosted by Josh Cohen for Tennis Majors. In this episode, Josh asks the panel if the US Open and Roland-Garros should go to best-of-three for men’s singles in 2020 – and perhaps even beyond.

July 24, 2020
The figures

Our Match Points panel consists of former Wimbledon champion and world No. 7 Marion Bartoli, ATP world No. 225 Noah Rubin (founder of Behind the Racquet) and American journalist Ben Rothenberg.

In recent years, various people in the tennis world have been suggesting that men’s tennis should change from the best-of-five format at Grand Slams to best-of-three. Could these ever-changing times during the coronavirus pandemic present the perfect opportunity for such a transition? In episode #8 of Match Points, host Josh Cohen asks our guests if the best-of-five format should come to an end.

Rothenberg, who has always been one of the staunchest supporters for doing away with best-of-five, is predictably in favour of a change.

“I think it’s an amazing idea for 2020, and we can reevaluate for the future after that. I absolutely think this is the worst time to try to get guys to be playing best-of-five, for several reasons. They’re not in peak physical or mental health condition right now…. The schedule is so packed; they’re going to have to play Masters events the week before these Grand Slams, assuming the schedule all goes as planned. Physically, it’s way too much to ask for these guys.”

Rubin also thinks best-of-five matches are too physically demanding, especially given the current situation. He cites other factors, as well.

“I think tennis is going to have to move in that direction (to best-of-three), (in terms of) broadcasting rights. But I’m just looking at the players who have played exhibition tournaments. They’re already injured. Their bodies are not ready for [best-of-five]. This is too much to handle. I don’t want players getting injured and they’re missing the 2021 season.”

La finale de l'Open d'Australie 2012 est le plus grand match entre les deux champions.

“The best thing for men’s tennis is a new champion”

Bartoli, on the other hand, wants to keep the best-of-five tradition. She also thinks best-of-three would result in more early-round upsets, which tournament organisers would not want.

“I know for Roland-Garros, they won’t use it. You don’t want to have a top seed going out and losing 7-6, 7-6 to a big server. All of a sudden the one who is selling tickets is out of it and you don’t want to see that. All of a sudden you have nobody left in the draw…. I think we have to keep it the way it is. If someone [wins] a Grand Slam, they have to win it the way it has always been.”

Rothenberg, by contrast, would love to see more surprises with top players such as Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal bowing out early and paving the way to a new champion.

“The best thing for men’s tennis is new blood, a new champion. There hasn’t been a new men’s Grand Slam champion since 2014, which is crazy. Anything that tilts tennis in the direction of having some new champions, that puts Djokovic and the rest of the Big 3 more under fire, I’m all for. It’s not unfair for Djokovic; it just makes it tougher.”

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