Next Gen ATP Finals Showcases Potential Rule Changes After Controversial Draw Ceremony
The Next Gen ATP Finals tournament in Milan last week "delivered on its promise to be different from tennis as usual," but whether that is "for the better or worse is still up for debate," according to Ben Rothenberg of the N.Y. TIMES. The event was created this year to "showcase young talent in men’s tennis" and the "lack of star power did not mar the event as much as its draw ceremony did." Instead of drawing chips from a bowl, organizers "instructed the young players to select a model who would then reveal a letter, A or B, on her body to determine each player’s group." The first model selected "hiked up her dress and pulled her garter to reveal the letter A," while another "instructed a player to remove her glove with his teeth." The tennis world "quickly expressed its disapproval at the crass sexualization of the event." The draw ceremony was "co-produced" by the ATP and sponsor Red Bull. They "issued a joint apology" for the ceremony. The players at the tournament "tested numerous innovations that have been discussed in tennis." The "most popular" was the automated line calling as there was "little arguing and second-guessing of calls." But the scoring system was "perhaps the sharpest deviation" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/10). In London, Kevin Mitchell reported the shot clock is "popular with many younger players, given that it urges the older slow-coaches they suspect of gamesmanship to get on with it" (GUARDIAN, 11/11).
THE REVIEWS ARE IN: A number of singles players expressed their views on the event. Alexander Zverev said, "I don't think many of the new innovations will transfer to the ATP World Tour. I think the automatic line calls will, I was positively surprised by that, and also the shot clock. That has potential and could be transferred." Dominic Thiem: "I don't like the scoring system, but I like the shot clock so everyone knows when a player needs to be ready again. It's not on the umpire to decide. That's a very good rule. Everything else should stay the same." Marin Cilic: "The shot clock is something I think can be introduced straight away in tennis." Grigor Dimitrov: "I'm not the biggest fan of changes. Tennis is such a traditional sport. It's been interesting to watch. My personal opinion is that I like the way the things are" (ATP). In London, Stuart Fraser reported a shot clock, in-match coaching and a reduction in the number of seeds from 32 to 16 are "among reforms to be discussed" by Wimbledon and the other three grand slam tournaments in London next week (LONDON TIMES, 11/10).