While tennis players are constantly complaining about the overloaded schedule of the season, the best of them just accepted to participate in a new competition as lucrative as crazy in Asia, called International Premier Tennis League. What other exhibitions could we possibly create to occupy their weeks during the winter break? The MAG tried to be inventive…
24h of tennis in teams
There are many auto racing events where a crowd of spectators seems to love watching cars going round in circles for hundreds and hundreds of rounds for a full day. Why not consider such a concept for tennis too? The principle: a match that would start at a specific time, many games, then sets would follow until stopping the clock after 24 hours. As it is humanly impossible to play tennis for so long, let's imagine a tournament in teams, three players who would take turns like at the 24h of Le Mans. The winning team would be the one who has accumulated the most winning sets at the end of the day. Imagine the possible scores: « Ladies and gentlemen, the team of Nadal, Sharapova and Del Potro winner of the team Djokovic, Tsonga and Azarenka by 16 sets to 14. Give them a huge round of applause and above all wish them good night!»
A smash contest
Like basketball where the public always love a good old dunk, free throw or three-point shots contest, it is perfectly conceivable to apply such a concept to tennis. Each player would have to perform smashes, taking into account the dexterity and the strength of the shots (and why not even artistic figures?). For service specialists, we could also imagine an ace contest with Jerzy Janowicz, Milos Raonic and John Isner as favourites. No doubt that Ivo Karlovic's record at 156mph, held since 2011, would be quickly beaten. Why not also imagine a competition between a player and a tennis ball machine at the other end of the court. The winner would be the one who returns the most balls. The show would obviously be animated by cheerleaders. And who knows, maybe it could even motivate a group of people to specialize in annual exhibitions, like the Harlem Globetrotters?
An All-Star Game
We know that Americans know how to combine sport and entertainment perfectly. The best example of this success is the All-Star Game, held each year by various American sports leagues like the NBA. A team of players from the Eastern Conference franchises faces its counterpart from the Western Conference. Applied to tennis, the distribution would be as follows: Europe against the rest of the world. Raonic, Nishikori, the Bryan Brothers, Serena Williams and Li Na ready to challenge Nadal, Djokovic, a pair Mahut-Federer, Azarenka and Radwanska, a pretty good looking poster. The organization would not be difficult as it would look a bit like the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, but mixing teams perfectly: a gentlemen’s match, followed by ladies’ match on the first day, two mixed doubles the next day and if necessary, two singles on the third day to separate the two teams.
The handicap game
Interdiction to smash or use the forehand, obligation to play with the bad hand or serve underarm, do all these possibilities seem absurd? Obviously, they are, and that is why they could raise the interest of the public, in perpetual search of entertainment. You just have to look at the success of exhibition matches of former tennis glories. So watch Djokovic - who is actually really funny - Nadal, Federer and Murray act like clowns, would probably work. The modus operandi could be the following: a match in one winner set and definition of the handicap during the pregame toss. A concept that could help discover some new "talents". The French Nicolas Rosenzweig (World 1108th), for example, has the particularity of being completely ambidextrous and to only hit... forehands.
Inspired by famous sentence saying that « Matter can neither be created nor destroyed but only transformed», the International Federation (ITF) would be tempted to look at Chess Boxing (tournament mixing boxing and chess) to create a completely crazy tournament: half-real, half-virtual. At each change of sides, the players would face each other in a video game like Top Spin 4 or Virtua Tennis for example. Their exploits, joystick in hand, would obviously be broadcasted on a giant screen. The interest? To entertain and attract potential talents who were until then perfectly happy to stay on their couch. The event would be played just before Christmas in Japan or in the U.S., the two countries of Gaming. The two countries also of Kei Nishikori, whose Bollettieri academy training was financed by Masaaki Morita, head of Sony and creator of the PlayStation.
Play it like Suzanne (Lenglen)
This project, let's be honest, is unlikely to ever happen. But at least it would allow tennis to reconnect with its glorious past and to confirm what Noah and Connors amongst others keep saying with nostalgia and can be summarized as follows: "We, even before a match, we knew how to have fun". So to prove that this generation also knows how to party, here’s an idea that would make everybody laugh (and drink) a little. Imagine a match where at each change of sides, to restore "balance" between the two protagonists, the best player would have to drink a shot of liquor, bottoms up! The main risk would be to see the players let a few games slip to wear off the alcohol. A concept, which, with a good hangover, would nonetheless help to address stonewalling in press conferences... The tournament could be called: bend it like Suzanne (Lenglen). The French, became famous in 1919, managed to defeat the British Dorothea Lambert Chambers in the final of Wimbledon thanks to the tonics her father gave her during the game. What was inside these little vials? Cognac...