Ultimate Tennis Showdown Dares To Be Different

WASHINGTON, June 13, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Patrick Mouratoglou, who is best known as Serena Williams’s coach since 2012, is daring to be different. With the pro tennis tours grounded due to the global coronavirus pandemic since early March, the Greek-French coach and commentator feels it’s time for tennis to experiment. Nothing to lose, right?

Imagine this:

• Matches will be played in four quarters of 10 minutes each.

• Players serve twice alternately. The player with the most points at the end of each quarter wins the quarter.

• If the clock Runs out in the middle of a pint, the point goes on. If the quarter ends in a tie, a deciding point is played.

• If a player wins the first three quarters, the fourth quarter is still played for set average purposes.

• If both players are tied at two quarters apiece, a fifth quarter is played in a “sudden death” format.

• The player whose total points through the four quarters is higher chooses whether to serve or pick a side. Players serve once alternately, and the first player to win two points in a row wins the match.

Retro modern or just plain crazy? Well, starting Saturday for the next five weekends, through July 12, Mouratoglou will bring his vision for the future of tennis to the Ultimate Tennis Showdown, a 10-player exhibition tournament taking place at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy near Nice, France. Live streaming of the UTS will be available via UTSlive.tv.

Mouratoglou has assembled a pretty solid cast of players, including World No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece; World No. 8 Matteo Berrettini of Italy; World No. 10 David Goffin of Belgium; Benoit Paire, Richard Gasquet and Lucas Pouille, all from France; Dustin Brown of Germany; and Feliciano Lopez of Spain, who replaces injured Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada. World No. 3 Dominic Thiem from Austria was just added to the lineup on Thursday and will join UTS next weekend.

As the chairman and CEO of Ultimate Tennis Showdown, Mouratoglou said in a video posted on the UTS website:

Nowadays, the average fan of tennis is getting older and older. Ten years ago, the average age of the tennis fan was 51 years old. Today, it’s 61. In 10 years, it’s going to be 71. Because nothing changes, this just shows that the fans of tennis fell in love with tennis in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Tennis is not able to renew its fan base. That’s extremely scary for the future. In order to solve it, we need to reinvent tennis.

If we keep doing the same thing, obviously it doesn’t work to be attractive to the younger generation. The world has evolved in the last 10, 20 years. The way people consume videos, for example, has completely changed. Tennis has never changed. But if tennis is in trouble, I want tennis to survive. I want tennis to be stronger. I want tennis to be able to renew its fan base and grow and become the biggest sport possible. If we need to do some changes for that, I’m completely okay to do some changes. The traditionalists, the people who don’t want any change in the name of tradition for tennis, are saying that they do that because they love tennis. That’s not a good definition of love.

The best way to love tennis is to do everything for tennis to be stronger in terms of bringing more people to become fans. This is loving tennis. Tennis shouldn’t be scared of change. Tennis shouldn’t be scared of change. And if I make a parallel with professional tennis players, we all know that champions keep reinventing themselves during all their career. Tennis should have the same mentality. We need to make small changes day after day to be better, to adapt to a new world because the world is changing and we have to change at the same pace as the world. So these things are extremely important for the future of our game. As my very good friend Aryeh Bourkoff says: “Stagnation is decadence, but motion is value.”

Behind The Racquet – Mary Pierce

Hall of Famer Mary Pierce originally wanted to be a pediatrician. However, that all changed when she first picked up a tennis racquet. In a first-person essay published this week for the Instagram series Behind The Racquet, Pierce, born in Canada to a French mother and American father, wrote: “I looked like I had been playing for years so I felt that God had given me this gift to play tennis.”

Pierce, 45 and a born again Christian, started playing tennis at age 10 and turned professional at the tender age of 14.

“My did took me out of school and was my coach until I was 18,” she wrote. “During this time I played tennis because I had no choice. I had to win because if I didn’t, my dad would get abusive and I was afraid of what would happen. Fear was the driving emotion.”

Pierce eventual got a restraining order to protect her from her father’s abusive behavior and he was banned by the Women’s Tennis Council from attending her matches.

Meanwhile, Pierce wrote she was grateful she had her mom, who was her “pillar of support.” She also had her brother, who was her practice partner and later became her coach during two of her best years on tour, 2000 and 2005. Before he died, Pierce reconciled with her father.

“Looking back, I believe that my dad did the best he could. He loved me and wanted the best for me so he trained me to be tough. I would not have made it on tour without being mental and physically resilient. My childhood made me the person I am today. I would not want to repeat my childhood but I have no regrets.”

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To read Pierce’s entire essay, see BehindTheRacquet.com.

The Way Back Machine – Billie Jean King, 1983

What they’re saying

• Simon Cambers, British freelance tennis journalist: “Where is the social distancing?!”

• Nick McCarvel, #Tennis Tuesday co-host and freelance tennis writer and commentator: “The images coming from the Adria Cup are shocking.”

What they’re writing

Simon Briggs, The Telegraph of London tennis correspondent, from “Tennis has returned to being the problem child of international sport”:

There was a moment, a couple of months ago, when tennis seemed to be shaking off its reputation as the problem child of international sport, and building a concerted response to the pandemic.

Relief funds were assembled and calendars synchronized. “I’ve never seen so much co-operation from the two main tours,” said one impressed administrator.

In the last week, though, any such good vibes have evaporated. Even as golf prepared for Thursday’s revival of the PGA Tour, tennis professionals were arguing with each other – and the United States Tennis Association – over the return-to-play protocols required for August’s US Open.

The low point was a chaotic player briefing session on Wednesday, which found the players in outraged mood over the fact that the USTA – a body already in such financial trouble that it was forced to lay off 130 staff this week – was proposing to play them a mere $50m, give or take, for their attendance in New York.

What they’re podcasting

• Nobody tells a better story than Tennis Channel’s Mary Carillo, says Patrick McEnroe. He should know. McEnroe and his more famous brother John have known Mary since their childhood days growing up in Douglaston, in the borough of Queens, New York. Patrick recently caught up with the American tennis broadcaster for a lively conversation on his Holding Court With Patrick McEnroe podcast.

Françoise Abanda, a black Canadian who is currently ranked No. 298, guested on this week’s Match Point Canada podcast. She discussed racial injustice and her experience at a Black Lives Matter protest in her hometown Montreal.

Patrick Mouratoglou guests on this week’s NCR Tennis Podcast with host Ben Rothenberg. He says: “I think Serena will want to play [US Open] 100%, but I don’t know how she can go there with only one person. I don’t imagine her three weeks without her daughter, so maybe her daughter will coach her?

“I mean, she can only do better than me in Grand Slam finals.”

What they’re sharing on social media

Barbara Schett-Eagle / Catching up with Ana Ivanovic 

The Eurosport tennis presenter got together recently on her Instagram Live show, Hanging Out with Babsi, with Ana Ivanovic. The 2008 French Open champion shared thoughts on motherhood, reminisced about her tennis career – and her simple hope for “a better world.”

This summer, Schett-Eagle, who resides in Australia, has also hosted chats with Stefanos Tsitsipas, Dominic Thiem and Karen Khachanov. All of them are archived on Schett-Eagle’s Instagram page, babsschett.

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Talking about family, life, tennis and more in „Hanging out with Babsi“ on @eurosport Insta earlier @wta

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