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Friday, September 30, 2011

Three to Five: WTA Overzealous?

The WTA's Stacey Allaster made a bold statement yesterday when she spoke with Japanese publication, the Daily Yomiuri. The subject matter? Increasing women's grand slam matches from three to five sets.

What an interesting thought. Would the WTA athletes be able to endure five set battles? Of course. You have to remember that they are professional tennis players who live and breathe their sport, training as furiously and passionately as the men who already endure five set marathons. Longer matches would test both their physical and mental conditioning, and really, would make hoisting a grand slam trophy feel that much better.

But can they do that for seven matches in a row?

The tennis season is already the longest of any professional sport, pushing competitors to the brink of self-destruction. Injury, illness and fatigue already plague what has become an unpredictable field of athletes, so the increase in match length could be (and would probably be) disastrous. Do we need Sharapova to blow out her rotator cuff or sprain her ankle again? Do we want Clijsters, Ivanovic or Safina to ever fully recover? How about players like Serena, who make comebacks from long-term injuries? Would they be able to make impressive grand slam debuts when the match requires so much more of them?

Tennis is no longer a slow game of slice, spin and savvy volleying...It has evolved into a fast and physical baseline battle full of heavy hitting and dangerous slides. Demanding more of the players could result in more serious injuries, shorter careers and less interesting late-round matches (let's be honest... someone like Jankovic won't be as agile in the semifinals after lasting through five three-plus matches beforehand)

Though I love watching long matches, a five-set first round between Francesca Schiavone and the lucky no-name facing her isn't something that would catch my attention, let alone the error-fest out on court 17 between two qualifiers. A five-set championship between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, however, would keep fans on the edge of their seats. Is there a way to have three set matches for the first week, and five set matches for the second?

The subject is going to come down to priorities. Prove that the women are as strong as the men, or keep players fresh and healthy? The decision seems simple. No five set match is as epic as a long, tremendous career.

-Kedzie Teller, ITB Senior Editor


Romina said...

Completely agree with you. I mean, we all know that women are as capable as men to endure 5 set matches. But i think first comes health, considering all the injuries we had this season....
I would totally prefer to see a high quality 3 setter game!

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