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Tennis and Tradition

by TN


I’ve read a few articles saying that tennis needs a change – first we had the Guardian asking whether it was time to abolish the second serve and in the end recommending it for a faster game and in Tennis Magazine we had regular columnist Peter Bodo saying that the world could do with a 5th slam and that slam could be Indian Wells. Bodo is not the only one in the fifth slam discussion as a simple search in Google will tell you.

My rational mind understand where this is coming from, but my tennis heart still thinks it’s rubbish.

Why do everything need to change? Isn’t there something beautiful with things staying the same, for once in life? Isn’t there a point to the second serve? Isn’t there a point to things taking time? Isn’t a slam a slam partly because of tradition?

Okay, okay, I understand hawk-eye wasn’t a part of a tradition, but actually a sensible way to make sure justice was made on the court (as far as possible) and although Federer for one was one of the greatest opponents of the technology and seemed to challenge it with each challenge, he got around to it, because it did make sense.

But for me, the second serve makes a whole lot of sense. A second serve creates extra drama, introduces another layer of strategy to the game and makes the service part of the game more interesting. The server should have advantage and with only one serve to start the point, the return would be the serve, kind of. Would this improve things? Not to my mind. It’s not like the second serve wastes oceans of time. I don’t agree with what the Guardian writes:

The second serve rewards failure, wastes time and means we all have to spend far longer watching Rafael Nadal towelling his face, fiddling with his headband and pulling his shorts out from between his butt-cheeks than is necessary.

One of the Guardian writers (Kevin Mitchell) takes a defensive stance and thinks doing so would prompt players to power down and make the return easier, a state of affairs that would result in even longer, more tedious baseline bashing.

“It would leave the sport with no serve-volley, no opportunity for variation, and a lot more biff from the back,” he says. “If you like attritional tennis, this is a cast-iron way to get more of it. No player is going to risk going for an ace if the penalty is dropping a point.”

Everyone who’s been around tennis for a long time and studied the game, knows it’s a game of minimizing the amount of errors, gaining confidence and going for broke at the right time. Few players would be so daring from the start (and few coaches would recommend it) that they would go for aces on an (only) first serve. The risk of losing the point would be too much.

And who thinks tennis is too slow? Yes, Nadal gets time violations and that’s fine because he does linger, but do we have other problems with the pace of the game? Don’t we enjoy a hard-fought three- or five-setter? Isn’t the time it takes a part of the drama? Do we want matches to flash by and hardly remember them?

That’s it about the second serve. Please comment what you think below! Is it old hat or a spicy ingredient to the game?

Regarding the Grand Slam I don’t think it’s as controversial, but I don’t see how adding another slam would add anything to the excitement on tour. The players are already playing too much, already breaking down too fast. The idea of adding another slam feels like it would take importance away from the four we have, which would be a great shame since the slam is such a vital and beautiful part of the game.

The Master Series are fine as they are and Indian Wells is doing great. Heck, tennis is doing great, as Bodo would say.

Should tennis maintain its traditions? Which and why? Please comment and have a nice day.

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