GO THE DISTANCE - NO 5TH SET BREAKERS PLEASE
Feb 7, 2013, 7:43:28 AM | by
Are we really all becoming a bunch of wimps when we hear about a tennis match that lasted seven hours across five sets and think it is ridiculous and unnecessary? What the heck is going on? Immediately some people in...
Are we really all becoming a bunch of wimps when we hear about a tennis match that lasted seven hours across five sets and think it is ridiculous and unnecessary? What the heck is going on? Immediately some people in the media call for tiebreaks to be played in the fifth set. Oh get real people. These are professional athletes and they are playing for big bucks or they are playing for national pride if it is in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas. The sport has already seen too many traditions eroded away so let’s just stop with this nonsense. Nonsense, in that as soon as we experience a tennis match that has gone for a much greater period of time than expected, we call for things to be shortened. How many matches played across three sets or how many matches played across five sets with a tiebreak in the final set can you really and genuinely rave on about? Me? I can remember one otherwise they all roll into one. The one I remember was last year in the final of the Shanghai Rolex Masters (yup I declare my interest in that I am the media manager of the event as well) as it was the longest three set final of 2012 and on top of that just a fantastic match between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. The sport remembers and applauds those epic battles that have become folklore for our sport. Did players like Laver, Gonzalez, Savitt, Newcombe, McEnroe, Wilander and company complain when matches they were involved in stretched out for oh such a long time? No they did not and nor do, I believe, the vast majority of current players have a gripe with it. These are wars of attrition and with all the new types of training and the diets and what not the players should be able to stand up to the pressures. The guys of the past never had access to what the players of today have and yet they were able to handle the situation. I’m not suggesting the new players can’t, but what I am saying is those on the sidelines should just pipe down. The bitching comes from the “observers” of the game. They are the ones who are suggesting the matches should be shortened. What a load of hogwash! The passion with which these players are playing with should be enough to erase such thoughts in the minds of those suggesting matches be shortened. Would John Isner and Nicolas Mahut enter the pages of tennis history if it were not for THAT match on Court 18 at Wimbledon? Other than ardent tennis followers and his family, how many would recognise the name Mahut? Zippo baby! The final of the 2012 Australian Open between Djokovic and Rafa Nadal was the longest Grand Slam final in history and people now rave about the match, but really other than the final set which was fantastic tennis, it was nothing to write home about. But it has, in the minds of fans, become a classic match because of the length of the match. John McEnroe and Mats Wilander are incredibly proud to have played what was the longest Davis Cup match in time, going over six hours 20 minutes. That record was held until the past weekend in the first round of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas when Lukas Rosol and Tomas Berdych overcame Marco Chiudinelli and Stanislas Wawrinka 24-22 in the fifth set in seven hours one minute. Rosol now has a bigger point to be remembered for than just being a one hit wonder (as some suggested at the time) for beating Nadal at Wimbledon. And if Marco Chiudinelli is to be remembered for his tennis exploits then it will be for playing such a match. Berdych said: “Even if somebody beats this record in the future I will have this experience which I can share with anybody. These kinds of experiences are what this competition is all about. That’s why it keeps me coming back. “You play the tennis for the memories, and once you’ve achieved something, the memories are something which nobody can steal from you.” I remember being in Porec, Croatia in 2009 for the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas tie between the Czechs and Croats and that first rubber when Radek Stepanek defeated Ivo Karlovic who served 78 aces, 16-14 in the fifth. Such passion and gripping drama would be lost if it had been a fifth set breaker. Do you honestly think that Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick would be as well remembered if it wasn’t for the nail-biting final set that ended 16-14? Not a chance. The drama as the match went on and on had the people around the Centre Court and the millions watching on TV in raptures. To be able to watch the heart and spirit of the two players finding just that bit more as completed games kept flashing up on the scoreboard, was remarkable. That fifth set, with no tiebreak, is what that match will be remembered for. A fifth set tiebreak probably would have relegated it to just another good match. And the year before, would tennis have still regarded the Federer-Nadal final at the All England the greatest match ever played if it hadn’t been for a fifth set advantage set? Maybe because it was sublime tennis from the first point but that final set, as darkness fell, took tennis into the stratosphere as it ended 9-7. I also believe that the final of all ATP Masters 1000 events should be five sets in an effort to distinguish them for the other events on the tour. Tennis needs moments like these, so to all those that canvas for a fifth set tiebreak, get off your high horses because history shows you have not got a saddle to sit in.