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Tennis moves towards more team events

/ Author: Chris Osborne

Have you been watching the ATP Cup? We thought it was a great event, it was exciting and was great to see some of the world’s top tennis players represent their countries and battle for the inaugural title. The trend for team events is in response to the alarming decline in both participation and viewing figures for tennis events around the world.

Naturally, Wimbledon is always going to be hugely popular each year but maybe you have seen some of the empty stadiums at other events around the world and wondered why? The tennis season is long and moves around the globe. Different events each week and too much research show people just tuning in for a semi-final or final of a major tournament. Participation in tennis is also sadly declining, keep on reading to see the thoughts of the Ace Tennis team.


How can we get people back watching tennis?

Tennis is and always will be a gladiatorial individual sport, where great champions will dual against one another in the famous tennis arenas. However, this is not always bringing people to the game. The matches can be long and in this fast-paced world where people are often time-poor can they really carve out 4 hours plus to watch the best of five sets match. Tennis must evolve and I think the governing bodies behind tennis have recognised this. It has been highly recognised by the tennis community, in other sports that major sporting events such as football’s world cup bring in a huge section of society that perhaps does not follow football on a weekly or even monthly basis. The combination of sport and representing your country has a powerful appeal.

The two new team events in tennis, both the ATP Cup in Australia and Davis Cup in Madrid have been largely successful. The top players have supported the events and have genuinely been proud of representing their country. The fans have got behind their players and flag and it has created some great atmospheres and matches.

The traditional tennis fans have been intrigued by the new format, some supportive and some not so supportive. Our experience is that the younger tennis fans have got engaged with the format of team tennis, we know from our tennis camps that team competition is really popular, supporting each other through competition has long been discussed in tennis.

Perhaps this new experiment will galvanise tennis fans into clearing time in their busy lives to watch exciting team competitions. The players at both the ATP Cup and Davis Cup did a great job of interacting with the crowds and creating a role for crowds to play. Tennis will need to continue to develop new ideas to keep tennis relevant. The reaction of the Spanish team to winning the Davis Cup in Madrid in November was of genuine pride. You can read more about that particular event here: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/24/sports/tennis/spain-canada-davis-cup-nadal.html

No matter what happens in the 2020 tennis season, team events will be a hot topic and having just watched the finals of the ATP Cup in Sydney between Serbia and Spain it was clear the powers that be are going to continue growing the format. The Serbian team proved to be wonderful winners and Novak Djokovic was sublime in beating Rafa Nadal and then playing in a pivotal role in the deciding doubles. If you wish to learn more about the final of the ATP Cup you can here: https://www.tennis.com/pro-game/2020/01/atp-cup-serbia-novak-djokovic-spain-doubles-troicki-lopez-nadal/86792/

The structure of the ATP Cup, based in 3 different Australian cities meant the reach of the event was really far and wide. The Australian public really embraced the event, even though the terrible bushfires were proving to be a national tragedy.


Is the new team format good for doubles players?

Something that is absolutely brilliant about the new team events is the increased importance of doubles in the matches between nations. The format of two singles matches and a deciding doubles rubber means everything can ride on the doubles. For too long doubles tennis has been seen as the poor sibling of singles tennis. Sure, the prize money is hugely uneven at Grand Slam events between the singles and doubles competitors but so is the media coverage, the prestige and ultimately the exposure.

The team events put doubles players at the heart of the event, fans will become familiar with the entire team not just the superstar of the team. It is important for people to understand the specialism of skills that a world-class doubles players possess.


What is the downside to team events?

The professional tour has long been criticised for too many tennis events. The speed and intensity of modern tennis do take its toll and many events towards the end of the season have limped over the line. Adding two major team events to the line up will create more workload for the players. It is more than likely that the professional tour will make adjustments.

The traditional supporters of tennis are also a little concerned that the individual nature of tennis events is being compromised. This will more than likely be alleviated with the marketing and development of the events. 2020 is the first year of the new format so we must give it time to develop. Tennis remains unique because the players have to problem solve at the moment. Team events involve a Captain being on the court offering advice at the change of ends which we think adds to the drama and intrigue but does not fit with the traditional tennis event.

The new Davis Cup format although exciting and being held in Madrid did mean the Spanish had the considerable home advantage throughout the tournament. Many tennis fans did say the missed the excitement of the home and away tie. There were also comments about the cost of the travelling fan to follow their country through a week-long event.

The final of the ATP Cup was also a testament to this as there was a very strong Serbian representative in the crowd because of the Serbian community in Sydney. It made the final feel a home tie for Serbia, this is something Rafa was not thrilled about.


Is there a benefit to junior tennis?

Many young players are often intimated and daunted by their early experiences of tennis tournaments. There is, without doubt, an element of competition in tennis that sometimes will deter young players. Team tennis helps appease this and often makes competing for juniors much more fun. They immediately have a support network and it can be fun both playing for the team and supporting the team.

Each summer at Ace Tennis Camps, usually the Wednesday of each week of camps we host a team event for all the campers. They love being assigned their teams. Each coach is a Captain of a team and creates an identity for the team. They are split by levels and this helps create a balance. The coaches know exactly how to get the best out of each player. If you would like to know more about the coaching team at Ace Tennis you can read here: https://www.acetennis.co.uk/coaching

Team competition can assist with the self-esteem of young players and ultimately encourage them to stay within the sport for longer and arrest some of the participation decreases the sport is seeing. Opening up competition to more people can only be a good thing to grow the game of tennis. There is a growing movement in tennis to promote junior tennis as a much more fun event, simply because it is competing with so many other activities. It is very important tennis continues to address the issues as we enter this new decade. Ace Tennis Camps are looking to keep developing programs at all our events to make sure we can take advantage of any developments in the world of tennis.

Thank you for reading our thoughts and feel free to contact us if you have any thoughts of your own.

The Ace Tennis Team