Patrick Mouratoglou’s new format of tennis, the Ultimate Tennis Showdown, is set to kick off tomorrow, Saturday 13th June in the first of five weekends of competition all behind closed doors at Mouratoglou’s academy in Nice but live-streamed on the subscription-based platform utslive.tv.
The first goal is to have people like it, A lot of people are going to be against it, but that's okay Patrick Mouratoglou’
It will be played in what is described as a ‘classic league format’ with the six highest scoring players progressing to the knockout stages (top two qualify automatically for the semi-finals and the other four playing in the quarter-finals).
At a video press conference the Frenchman, best known as Serena William’s coach, announced that Dominic Thiem, the world number three, will be joining the 10-man field which includes Stefanos Tstsipas, Matteo Berrettini and David Goffin for what he believes is an exciting innovation.
Thiem however, will not be playing this weekend, as he had committed to play at Novak Djokovic’s charity event in Serbia. Frenchman Elliot Benchetrit will be Thiem’s replacement for the opening two rounds.
“The first goal is to have people like it,” Mouratoglou told reporters adding that they are targeting 50,000 subscribers for the first season, admitting: “A lot of people are going to be against it, but that’s okay.”
That observation is very true for, having also announced the changes he is invoking, the reaction has not been that supportive.
Those involve the organisers being lenient with regard to players’ on-court behaviour with fans able to question them during changeovers.
Each match will have four 10-minute quarters, with a two-minute break between them and on court coaching.
The player with the most points will win the quarter and the player with the most wins, the match.
A 2-all tie will be settled by a decider.
The format will be like a traditional tiebreaker with each player having two consecutive serves before handing over the serve.
There will be no warm-up.
In addition, the organisers have introduced a ‘UTS Card’ which is the equivalent of the Community Chest in Monopoly!
Seven cards will be available but only four used during the match from which two will be drawn by the player’s coach.
The cards will provide additional instructions to improve the level of excitement, the organisers claim, like:
1. One Serve – your opponent gets one serve instead of two
2. Winners count times three – each of your points is tripled.
3. Next point is doubled – but only if you win it
4. Extra serve – server gets three serves instead of two
5. Serve and Volley – opponent must move to the net following his serve
6. Win in Three – opponent must win with 3 shots or less (serve or return, plus two shots)
7. Serve points in a row – player must serve consecutively an agreed number of times
In other innovations, coaches will be allowed one 30-second timeout per quarter and fans will be able to hear the coach-player conversation, which must be conducted in English.
The press reaction?
Stuart Fraser, The Times tennis correspondent wrote on Twitter: ‘June 13th will be remembered as the day that tennis was bastardised…’. The date of course, is the first day of the competition.
Australian broadcaster Craig Gabriel, a veteran of tennis journalism, wrote: ‘Give me a break. What a joke… Unfortunately it’s not even funny just a dumb one.’
Kris Soutar, a consultant at Tennis Scotland and the project manager of the Judy Murray Foundation, tweeted: ‘UTS – Ultimate Tennis Shitshow. I’m all for experiments within tennis and creating a show around the match but the scoring system in tennis is amazing. Create entertainment in other ways in my opinion.’
On the other side, USA Today reporter Dan Wolken was supportive. ‘This is wild. No wonder Patrick wouldn’t tell me much about the format. And they got Thiem to join the field. Will be a must watch if you like tennis,’ he commented.
‘The more I’ve thought about this, I’m really pumped to see this format. I’ve never considered the idea of tennis on a game clock.’
Time will tell!