What one rule would you change in tennis?

Tennis Pilot

Thursday, December 5, 2019 10:31 AM UTC

Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019 10:31 AM UTC

There is one rule that has been unfair since the day the game of tennis began
<p>The Next Gen ATP Finals have been an interesting showcase of ‘modified tennis’, with their stated aim to make the game quicker and more exciting. In essence, they have increased the amount of key ‘pressure points’ and removed some of the slower elements of the game, such as using sudden death rather than standard deuce scoring.</p><p>Their interventions raise several questions, but most notably they bring into question what the game of tennis is all about. Faster, more exciting tennis is great for fans, but, almost by definition, changing the rules hurts the integrity of the game, so it seems like there has to be a good reason. What is important enough to change the rules?</p><p>There are a few potential answers. First, many will point out annoying features of the game, such as certain loud noises regularly made by certain individuals at every strike of the ball. There have even been calls to add a device to measure the decibel levels on court in order to counter the blood curdling shrieks of Sharapova et al. Second, there are people who would prefer the fast paced format of the Next Gen ATP Finals, arguing that it is, as intended, more exciting and entertaining.</p><p>For me, neither is enough to change the rules. I have to admit, the idea of measuring players' decibel levels is tempting at times, but, in reality, changing rules is a big deal and should only be done in situations where it is quite clearly better all things considered.</p><p>As it happens, there is one rule that has been unfair since the day the game of tennis began. The rule that I would change is the need to start every service game serving from the deuce court. What am I on about? It may sound silly, but this gives a clear advantage to left handers, for one very important reason. Left handed tennis players are naturally most effective in the ad court, and virtually all game or break points come in the ad court.</p><p>First, why are left handers more effective in the ad court? On average, one of the most effective and reliable serves in a player’s arsenal is the swinger out wide. For right handers this means the serve swinging out of the court on the deuce court, and for left handers it is the same serve but reversed for the ad court. If a right handed player meets a left handed player then their swinger will be especially effective as it is to a left handers backhand, and the same is true in reverse.</p><p>Second, why are virtually all game or break points in the ad court? There are 4 different scores after which a player can win a game: 40-0, 40-15, 40-30 and A-40. Of those, just 1 comes in the deuce court (40-15). In other words, on 3 of the possible 4 break point combinations (not including the infinite deuce possibilities) left handers will be able to employ one of their most reliable, most effective serves into a right handers backhand. Right handers, of course, do not have this luxury, as their best serve is in the deuce court.</p><p>The Fedal rivalry is probably the best example of this dynamic in play. Federer is not just a right hander, he also has a single handed backhand which is particularly vulnerable to the leftie swinger. Nadal is, of course, a leftie and employs this swinging serve to devastating effect on break points against Federer.</p><p>Across his career, Nadal has won 62.9% of service points and 60% of break points for a difference of 4.46%. In other words, he is 4.46% worse on break points compared to all service points. Against Federer, he has won 63.7% of service points and 63.2% of break points across 40 recorded matches since 2004. The difference is 0.785% meaning he is 5.68 times better at saving break points against Federer than he is in general.</p><p>Most of that is probably psychological as much as technical, especially given that Nadal tends to play against right handers anyway. Nonetheless, if you watch their matches I would argue that the break point bias is clear and, as mentioned, especially difficult for Federer given that he has a one handed backhand.</p><p>The remedy is very simple: allow players to choose which side they begin serving from. That way, a right hander could choose the ad court. All key points are then on his favourite side. The beauty of this change is that it has absolutely no impact on anything else. It simply removes the handedness bias. Some may laugh, thinking the impact is surely trivial. I can tell you from experience that it is not, particularly if your coach (and father) is a left hander. It is, in fact, very irritating for the right hander, and a rule I wish they would consider changing.</p><p><a href="http://a.oddsmarket.com/record/v?c=164&amp;a=f339dce1-88de-4994-ab6a-c24e019bdf3b&amp;f=3"><img alt src="https://cmscdn.staticcache.org/assets/image/0003/1348572/WHC_27064_Updated-In-Play-Tennis-Insurance_1280x480NEW.jpg" style="width:100%;height:38px" /></a></p>
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