WTA Finals 2016

Tennis: Women players cautious about planned new format

Angelique Kerber pumps her fist during the singles round robin match of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals against Madison Keys.
Angelique Kerber pumps her fist during the singles round robin match of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals against Madison Keys. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Traditional approach has strong support, but vision of WTA chief is not ruled out entirely

Keep our game traditional - that is the preference of some of the world's top women tennis players, including world No. 1 Angelique Kerber.

Recent remarks by Women's Tennis Association (WTA) chief executive officer Steve Simon hinted that the world governing body is considering changing the format to shorten matches and making them more TV-friendly. Some ideas include replacing the third set with super tie-breakers and introducing no-ad scoring for singles matches.

No-ad scoring, where games are decided by the next point at 40-40, is already used in doubles matches on the WTA tour and the Association of Tennis Professionals, the governing body for men's tennis.

However, Kerber, who is in the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, said: "How we play is traditional; we've played this way for years. I'm not sure about this change and if it will work well, but let's see what the future will give us.

"I prefer to have it the traditional way."

World No. 4 Simona Halep agreed. Speaking to The Straits Times last week, the Romanian added: "This is tennis and I love it as it is. I like the long matches; I feel ready for them and they are fun.

  • TODAY'S ORDER OF PLAY

    1.30pm

    Caroline Garcia/Kristina Mladenovic (Fra) v Lucie Safarova (Cze)/Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA)

    Not before 4pm

    Svetlana Kuznetsova (Rus) v Dominika Cibulkova (Svk)

    Not before 7.30pm

    Angelique Kerber (Ger) v Agnieszka Radwanska (Pol)

    Followed by

    Martina Hingis (Sui)/Sania Mirza (Ind) v Ekaterina Makarova/ Elena Vesnina (Rus)

MAKING HER PREFERENCE CLEAR

I'm not sure about this change and if it will work well, but let's see what the future will give us. I prefer to have it the traditional way.

ANGELIQUE KERBER, world No. 1, on how she views the proposed changes.

"Even if you lose, it means you have to get stronger. You know where you stand and maybe next time, you can be stronger than the opponent who beat you."

Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova, whose three round-robin matches at the WTA Finals all went to three sets, said making such huge changes would be "dangerous".

Asked if she thought the change was necessary, Kuznetsova, who has won 22 out of 31 three-set matches this year, said: "I think before making serious changes, we have to think and try this format at other events.

"I think it's a bit risky, so I don't know. I feel good playing three sets - you can see my record, so probably not."

Despite her preference for the traditional format, Kerber says she is open to playing events that use abbreviated forms of tennis, like the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) and Fast4, which were first played in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Said the German: "It's always a new experience, and a little bit different from tour life and normal tournaments. I think it's nice to have a few other things besides the normal tournaments to share with the other players."

Sixth-ranked Garbine Muguruza prefers to hold off judgment on Simon's proposed changes, saying: "I think tennis is one of the sports that actually hasn't changed much, but we have to bring something cool and new to it sometimes.

"I don't know what he's planning, so we'll see."

Also adopting a wait-and-see approach was fellow Spaniard and former tennis great Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario.

"I know that they are trying to make some changes, however, it takes time and we'll see what happens," said the four-time Grand Slam singles champion.

"But I think any change that is made has to be made for the better to continue the success of the game. It's too soon to talk about it now."

• Additional reporting by Alvin Chia and May

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2016, with the headline 'Women cautious on planned new format'. Print Edition | Subscribe