WTA mulling controversial short format for singles games

"Our future audience, they're not looking to watch three hours of anything," said WTA chief Steve Simon of proposed changes to the game.

WTA mulling controversial short format for singles games
Etienne Oliveau Getty Images

Women's tennis boss Steve Simon said he's considering introducing super tie-breakers and no-ad scoring for singles matches in a radical move to shorten them and make them more TV-friendly.

The much-criticised season schedule is also in the crosshairs with plans to split the calendar into "premium" events and "pathway" tournaments and reduce the load on players, Simon told AFP.

"60-90 minute matches"

"To think that we don't need to adjust our format so we can play matches that are 60 to 90 minutes in length as opposed to three hours, I think is very short-sighted," he said in an interview at the Wuhan Open in China.

The WTA chief executive said he was mulling replacing third sets with super tie-breakers, already used in non-Grand Slam doubles, when matches are locked at one set each.

Doubles matches on the WTA and the men's ATP circuit also use no-ad scoring, which means when a game is at 40-40 it is decided by the next point rather than playing 'deuce' and 'advantage'.

Simon acknowledged that a shake-up in the scoring system is likely to ruffle feathers in a sport where traditions and origins are often held dear.

They would also make contests like Petra Kvitova's gripping three-and-a-half-hour win over world number one Angelique Kerber in Wuhan a thing of the past.

"These are the things [scoring systems] we have to evaluate. And that's where the traditionalists will go back, they will say 'Look at this epic match'," he said.

The scoring changes took a long time to be accepted in doubles and still remain unpopular amongst some players who have to switch to the old format at Grand Slams.

But the new rules also create shorter matches that are more predictable in length, making them easier for broadcasters and TV audiences.

"Our future audience, they're not looking to watch three hours of anything," said Simon, adding that he was committed to "fundamental change".

Changes to calendar

Simon said he also wants to reform the schedule to improve the viewing spectacle and reduce the wave of retirements and withdrawals that often hit late in the season.

"It's something that's very seriously being looked at because I think we have to evolve this," Simon said. "When we have withdrawals nothing good happens anywhere," he added. "It's not good for the athlete, they wanted to play. It's not good for the tournaments. It's not good for the fans. It hurts us with broadcasters."

After the US Open in September, the WTA tour migrates to Asia for a busy schedule that sees players zip between tournaments, many of them trying to collect points to reach the elite -- and lucrative -- season finale in Singapore.

No Serena in Asian swing

Serena Williams in Milan, not Wuhan.

For the last two years, American star Serena Williams has sat out the 'Asian swing' because of injuries picked up earlier in the season. The Wuhan Open has also been hit by a raft of mid-match retirements -- six this year and five last year, including in the final.

"We have to work on [the schedule] because the players are not healthy," said Simon, who moved from Indian Wells tournament director to the WTA last year.

He said the ideas being floated include dividing the tournaments according to players' rank. "There needs to be a clear definition of where the premium product is and where the pathway to the premium product is," Simon said.

"I would like to end up where you have a division in which you know that the best players that are available to play that week are playing in that event."