The aim of FAST4 Tennis is to have no match lasting longer than 75 minutes, with shorter sets, reduced chair breaks, and even changes to tiebreakers.
What seems like Tennis’ equivalent to Twenty20 Cricket, was unveiled to the world in Sydney this week with the help of Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt, Rafael Nadal, Mark Philippoussis, and Fernando Verdasco.
The creators, Tennis Australia, designed the new format with “the time-crunched player in mind” while still offering an exciting, thrilling way to enjoy a conventional match of tennis.
The tweaked rules see lets allowed. That is, if a serve clips the net and lands in the service box, it’s play-on, eliminating the time it would take a player to serve another one or two times.
No advantage scoring; When the point is on deuce, FAST4 Tennis has introduced the Power Point which is a sudden death point and allows the server to choose what side they wish to take the serve.
In doubles, the Power Point gives even more advantage to the serving team as they can choose who returns the point.
A set tied at three games all sees a mini tiebreaker, the first to five points takes the fourth game and the set, and a Power Point determines the winner at four points all.
Finally, the name suggests it all, but the first to four games is the winner of the set.
In the inaugural FAST4 match, Federer was too strong and too magical once again for Aussie veteran, Lleyton Hewitt.
Federer downed Hewitt in a five-set thriller, 4-3 (5-3), 2-4, 3-4 (3-5), 4-0, 4-2, but both players noted that concentration under pressure was the key to success in this new format.
“There are so many pressure points, because it is such a tight format. If you go down an early break in that set, the set is nearly over,” Hewitt said.
“With the no ad scoring as well, there are a lot of pressure points where you have to try and make a first serve to stay on top and hold your service games”.
Mastering the conventional Tennis, you would think there is not much else that could surprise Roger Federer, but he definitely seemed to enjoy his FAST4 debut.
“I thought it was very exciting. I definitely see a future in the junior game at least,” he said.
“It was definitely something special.”
Despite the glamour and flare of the new FAST4 format, in its opening week, there have already been criticisms towards Tennis Australia for its introduction.
Twenty20 Cricket was introduced because some people cannot stand Test Match Cricket spanning over five days and often ending in a draw.
One Day Cricket seemed to be the alternative to Test matches, but the recent success of the KFC Twenty20 Big Bash League and the Indian Premier League has proven that many would prefer Twenty20 over One Day Internationals.
In this sense, the introduction of Twenty20 Cricket around the world has been a major success as it is more exciting with a lot more action.
The query here with FAST4 Tennis is that, although many matches last for hours on end, can you really make a Tennis match more exciting than it already is?
Was there really a need for a new, shorter format or is it solely for financial gain?
Written by Michael Lorenzoni