Tennis tries a new format with fast 4
A faster style of tennis was unveiled at Qantas Credit Union Arena on Monday night, when veterans Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt played an exhibition match under the "Fast4" format.
Enough of the big four already. The fast four has arrived.
While those in men’s tennis have spent much of the past five years wondering who can break the nexus created by the “big four” of the men’s game – Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray – marketing types have been pondering how to make the game a faster, and they hope better, spectacle.
A possible answer came at the Qantas Credit Union Arena on Monday night, when veterans Federer and Lleyton Hewitt played an exhibition match under the “Fast4” format.
In an era of smartphones and short attention spans it was an enjoyable, quick fix.
The format – in which sets finish at four games, there are no deuces and lets are allowed on serves – even caught the veterans out, both players propping on several occasions when the latter rule came into play.
The shorter breaks between the changes of ends certainly worked, speeding up the pace considerably.
And time these days, when it comes to sport, is very much of the essence.
Cricket cottoned on years ago, with the three-and-a-half hour Twenty20 format taking off.
In 12 years, it has arguably become the dominant format of the game, spawning the rich Indian Premier League and players who can earn rock star salaries in two months.
At this stage, tennis’ brave new world is a bit more fractured.
There’s the International Premier Tennis League, which started in November and featured teams of current male and female greats and past legends playing reduced one-set matches with modifications such as having some points worth double.
And there’s always the talk that the game should have just one serve.
While tennis doesn’t have a Test match equivalent, there have been plenty of clashes to suggest the sport could use some trimming around the edges.
There was the almost five-hour clash between Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis at the Australian Open in 2008 that kept spectators up until almost sunrise, a six-hour epic between Djokovic and Nadal four years later, and, nestled in between the two, a soporific 11-hour, five-minute match over three days between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010.
Sure, the Fast4 may be all forgotten by the time the Australian Open comes around but, as T20 has discovered, lasting memories don’t always the sport make.