LONDON • A shot clock, in-match coaching and a reduction in the number of seeds from 32 to 16 are among reforms to be discussed by the Wimbledon Championships and the other three Grand Slam tournaments in London next week.
As tennis embraces innovation, with the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) trying out new rules at the Next Gen Finals in Milan this week, there is a willingness from the All England Club to consider change at the Championships.
Amendments to the rulebook will be on the agenda at the Grand Slam board's year-end meeting, which will be attended by International Tennis Federation president David Haggerty, and representatives from the Australian Open, French Open and the US Open.
Some reforms could be introduced next season. Although there is a preference for consistency, new rules do not have to be adopted by all four tournaments.
The All England Club takes pride in maintaining tradition but has realised that it may fall behind the other Grand Slams if it refuses to adopt some innovations.
The US Open was the first to adopt the shot clock, experimenting with it in junior events last year and qualifying this year. The hope had been that this could be extended to main-draw matches within three years but the positive reaction has accelerated the process.
The time allowed between points may be increased to 25 seconds, to bring the Grand Slam tournaments in line with the limit at ATP events.
In-match coaching was also tested at the US Open, and could be extended. Coaches will not be allowed to come on the court, as they do on the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Tour, but will be permitted to communicate with the player from the courtside box.
A reduction in seeded players would have a significant impact on the draw. There is a belief that bringing the number of seeds down to 16 in a 128-player field would make for closer contests and more exciting television coverage in the first week.
For example, world No. 1 Rafael Nadal could potentially face the world No. 17 in the first round. Under the present system, that could only happen in the fourth round.
Several players have been told of the potential changes and many are in favour of the shot clock and coaching changes, in particular.
Chung Hyeon, who this morning (Singapore time) faced Russian Daniil Medvedev in the semi-finals of the Next Gen Finals, likes the shot clock because he knows exactly how long he gets to clean his spectacles.
The South Korean said: "I like shot clock, because sometimes I get a warning because I have to clean my glasses."
Russian Andrey Rublev and Croatia's Borna Coric competed in the other semi-final in Milan, where there are first-to-four-games sets, sudden-death deuce and no service lets.
ATP chief Chris Kermode believes his Milan experiment has a future.
"The big changes - best of five, first to four, is that going to happen in the next five years? No chance," the 52-year-old former professional told a group of reporters in the Fiera Milan hall hosting the sport's best players aged 21 and under. "In my opinion. Can it happen in 10 years?
"Yeah, I think it could."
Round-robin matches in Milan generally lasted around the same time as three-set duels but they felt more intense, with every point feeling crucial.
"It's not just reducing time," Kermode said. "It's about taking away the dead time, making more points matter."
THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS
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