TWITTER: November 2022
TWITTER: WHAT FORMAT WON?
Want to improve your tennis?
Update. . Punctation. System.
Change it to make tennis a more exciting product. Change this to have a more predictable and appealing average match time. Change it to help lower tier tournaments attract more fans and become financially viable. Change it to better face the global onslaught of Pickleball, Padel and Beach Tennis. Change it because it’s a more exciting format.
Before you jump out of your seat and lose your ever-loving mind, I want you to take my hand and let me walk you through a head-to-head comparison between the 2021 NextGen editions and the ATP Finals. Both tournaments followed exactly the same round-robin format, starting with two groups of four players progressing to a knockout semi-final format. Both formats had 15 matches.
Reservation: I attended the NextGen and ATP finals last year and this year in Milan and Turin. I sat at the side of the court (great seats, thank you to the Italian Tennis Federation) for almost every match. I have experienced the two scoring formats first hand and there really is no comparison at the end of the day.
NEXT GENERATION FORMAT
NextGen plays from one to four games, ad-free, up to five sets. A seven-point tie-break was played with three games in each set.
ATP Finals Format
The best format of two out of three sets. Same as before.
Let’s start with this quote from Heraclitus.
“The only constant in life is change.”
I am in favor of the change as I believe the alternative has many improvements over the traditional format.
NEXTGEN vs ATP Finals
I collected data in seven specific areas. Let’s go through them one by one.
1: Maximum number of points played in the match
- 217 points NEXTGEN – Musetti def. Gaston 4-3(4), 4-3(6), 2-4, 3-4(7), 4-2
- 216 points ATP FINALS – Medvedev def. Zverev 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-6(6)
So the first argument against NextGen scoring is that you just don’t play enough tennis when you’re competing from first to four, to three sets won. It’s just not true. The longest match on NEXTGEN is 217 points. The longest game in the ATP Finals is 216 points. So both can go long.
2: Average match time
- NEXT GEN = 1 hour and 29 minutes.
- ATP FINALS = 1 hour and 43 minutes
- Difference = 14 minutes
The NEXTGEN scoring system ran an average of an hour and a half per match. If you’re the broadcaster, that’s a much more compelling number than a match that’s 14 minutes longer at 1:43.
3: Average points per game
- NEXTGEN = 132 points per game
- ATP FINALS = 144 points per game
- Difference = 12 points per game
The NEXTGEN format generated an average of 12 fewer points per game. So when you combine this data point with the one above (average match time), you’ll see that you play for an average of 12 extra points in a 14-minute period. That’s not a lot of points at this time. It’s pretty slow tennis.
4: Matches lasting less than 70 minutes
- NEXT GEN = 3 matches
- ATP FINALS = 3 matches
Now let’s look at short matches. You’d think NEXTGEN would have a lot more short matches, but that’s not true. Really short matches can be defined as 70 minutes or less. Both formats had three matches here.
5: Breakpoints generated
- NEXTGEN = 213 breakpoints (62%)
- ATP FINALS = 128 break points (38%)
- Difference = 85 breakpoints
This is where the rubber meets the road between the two formats. There is nothing more exciting and more convincing in a tennis match than the excitement of breakpoints. If you’re a fan, you absolutely put your iPhone down and watch those “king maker” scores that ultimately decide the outcome of the match. The NEXTGEN format accounted for 62% of all break points between the two tournaments. It’s day and night, really. NEXTGEN is a much better format when it comes to exciting moments in the game.
6: Matches generating more than 12 breakpoints
- NEXT GEN = 11/15 matches
- ATP FINALS = 1/15 break point
This is another very one-sided statistic that heavily favors the NEXTGEN format. Watching 12 or more break points in a match will keep fans engaged whether they are sitting on the pitch or watching TV. The NEXTGEN format had 73% (11/15) of matches containing more than 12 breakpoints. The ATP Finals had only 7% (1/15). One format is much better than creating excitement in a match.
7: Tie break
- NEXTGEN = 20 tie-breaks
- ATP FINALS = 9 tie-breaks
Tie-breaks are very energetic and attract a lot of attention from fans. The fact that the NEXTGEN format was more than double the size of the ATP Finals is another nail in the coffin for the traditional format.
Playing from one to four, ad-free, in five sets is the current scoring system in our sport. I think you can see above that it definitely creates more exciting moments in the match. That’s why I think it should be like this.
- Grand Slam events – stay the same. The best of five sets.
- Masters 1000 and ATP 500 – no change. The best of three sets.
- ATP 250 and below events – The perfect place to introduce the NEXTGEN format.
ATP 250 tournaments and Challenger level events all too often have financial problems. It’s not easy to make a living for a player or tournament at this level of entry into the World Top 100. As you can clearly see above, the NEXTGEN format provides fans with more excitement. It provides more valid points, more tie-breaks and more energy.
Let’s face it… a traditional six-man set has a lot of dead time early in the match. I was on the court for Rafael Nadal vs. Casper Ruud earlier this week in Turin. Nadal won 7-5, 7-5. Until each set hit 5-5, there were LOTS of people around me on their iPhones scrolling through social media. When the match went 5-5 and it got interesting, they finally put down their phones.
I think there is a lot of room in our sport to play in different formats. We’re already doing this with best-of-three sets versus best-of-five sets. At one point we didn’t play tie-breaks. Thank God we’re doing it now.
I invite you to open your mind to extending the NEXTGEN format. Why don’t you incorporate it into your own practices and see what it’s like. I’m waiting for your review!
All the best from Torino,