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Pre-match knock-ups should be scrapped

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Jonathan Overend | 08:46 UK time, Wednesday, 21 December 2011

This being the season of goodwill, I am willing to put on hold my friendly on-going argument with George Ciz, the ATP's ebullient marketing man.

Ciz is responsible for the big sound and light build up at the World Tour Finals, which is very good.

He thinks it's the best of the year (quite rightly, he's in charge of it) but I give it a room-for-improvement nine out of 10.

They do it even better at the Paris Indoors (10/10) where the visuals are faultlessly stunning.


Andy Murray (left) and John McEnroe both say that the knock-ups should be scrapped and players should go straight into a match without warming-up. Photo: Getty

And it's a live mix, lights perfectly choreographed and sound beat-mixed to allow a constant flow of energy in the build-up to matches.

This sort of stuff isn't everyone's cup of tea but it's a great way to keep the sport moving forward, exciting new audiences and hooking the kids. Paris and London lead the way.

So the lights are dancing, the speakers juddering, graphics, lasers, spots, intros... then... what happens?

Everything falls flat. It's time for the tennis knock-up - that most unfathomable waste of time.

I estimate I have lost several hours, if not an entire day, watching tennis knock-ups this year. An entire day (it could actually be more)! lost to the archaic splendour of the knock up. That makes me feel a little ill.

Let's all resolve this New Year - at the top level - to scrap this unnecessary and, let's admit it, inexplicable charade.

In how many other elite sports do opponents help each other warm-up?

Yes we need several attempts to get the ball over the net when we're at the local park, but shouldn't pros be properly prepared so they're ready from the start?

The majority already are. They just have to go through the motions because that's the way it always has been.

The argument in favour of the knock-up says players need to get a 'feel' for the ball, the strings and court.

This is understandable; they may look a bit average if they don't get their five minutes of forehand pampering. Egos will take a hit.

So what if it takes players a little longer than usual to develop their 'feel' and get into the match?

Brilliant! An extra element of intrigue is added to the opening exchanges.

Which player settles quicker? Who's looking a little rusty on serve? Suddenly the choice at the coin toss has more tactical relevance.

My guess is that at the top level, it would make no difference at all. These players are world class, they will be ready. They know how to serve.

The advantages are clear. It would speed up schedules and clear space for tournaments and television to get on with matches immediately.

It would make those big build-ups even sexier if the crescendo comes just as the first point is to be played.

Two (unofficial) ambassadors of this campaign are Andy Murray and John McEnroe. Mac says: "They should go out there like boxers - to huge applause and announcements - toss the coin and then, boom, first serve."

But chatting to another top player at a recent seasonal soirée, it's clear this would be a controversial move. "It's not like you can walk straight from the driving range to the first tee as in golf", she said.

Maybe Santa can provide a couple of swingballs for the locker rooms to solve this one.

I jest of course - and happy Christmas to you all by the way - but I do think this is a change which would be good for the tennis at the top level.

Tennis governing bodies have more important stuff on their plates at the moment, particularly the ATP which can't get key figures in the men's game to agree on a new chief executive from a rather short shortlist.

The knock-up is a sideshow of an argument - I'm not trying to pretend any different - but my guess is that the forward-thinking WTA will be first to trial a new system, possibly cutting from five minutes to three.

Only when it disappears completely will we wonder why it took us so long to dispose of one of sport's great irrelevancies.

And then, what to do with that extra day?


  • Comment number 1.

    and while we're at it, lets get rid of 2nd serves too! No, really. The serve preparation and delivery take too long and is as interesting as all those collapsing scrums we're having to watch this winter.

  • Comment number 2.

    this is such a ridiculous argument, is there any other sport in the world where you don't previously warm up for the match? Yes boxers will go through all their warm up in the changing rooms, but any other sport which uses balls or other equipment?

    Football, rugby, hockey...all come out and get a feel for the conditions before starting the match. Even cyclists will get on a stationary bike and warm up before the race.

    Seems an idiotic suggestion to me. Why do we have to rush through everything?

  • Comment number 3.

    I do not agree with this idea either at all.
    To me it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to scrap the warm-up, again Murray seems to be on the wrong path with his comments as so often this year.
    Every athlete knows that a warm up, albeit only a 5 minute one, is essential for a decent match afterwards.
    Anybody who argues against it either has never played the sport or is judging as a couch potatoe!

  • Comment number 4.

    Won't this just mean more disruption to play by people coming in late?

  • Comment number 5.

    The point is they can warm-up off screen and be ready when they come out into the arena.

  • Comment number 6.

    @3 "Anyone who argues against it either has never played the sport or is judging as a couch potato"

    So which of those are you saying applies to McEnroe and Murray?

  • Comment number 7.

    Jonathan you are spot on! Im sure that the players have done some form of warm up already, light jogging, stretching etc, For the big games they should use a spare court next door, in the same way that athletes do at the Olympics.

    I dont recall seeing Mo Farah doing a couple of practice laps before the 10,000m finalthis summer.

  • Comment number 8.

    Should be gotten rid of. They get announced, get ready, toss a coin and game-on. Deflects away some of the anticipation when they go and have a friendly knock around beforehand. All the other sports mentioned (e.g. golf) warm-up beforehand but they just don't do it on the course. At a place like Wimbledon, they all warm-up on the practice courts anyway before entering the match courts. Either they get rid of it or they are allowed out on the courts before they are announced like what happens in football.

  • Comment number 9.

    Mr. Overend, you are barking up the wrong tree. There are considerably more important things that should be looked into with today's tennis and this one is certainly not one of them. So what, if they knock the ball around for 5 minutes per match? Why don't you go and make yourself a cup of tea while they do it!!!!
    Let's talk about limiting improvements to racquet technology or in fact reversing some of the things that’s been done to racquets over the years that allows these guys hitting the ball at or above 200km/h consistently.

    Racquet technology has made today’s tennis an elite game only for those with the right physique. One needs to be at least 6ft 3in before they have a chance of even considering to join the pro tour.

    You even see the effect of racquet technology in clubs with people playing for fun. In the old days if one did not have the mechanics of tennis correctly they could not hit the ball over the net or generate power and speed, etc.. Today anyone who can swing the racquet any old way and get the ball over the net with power and speed.

    Today’s racquets have taken finesse out of tennis.

    So please put things into perspective and write about something that matters!

  • Comment number 10.

    But... getting rid of the "knock up" will prevent lengthy exposition on "...a similar match I saw in 1924 when another left hander was forced to serve into a slight westerly breeze..." and other nonsense that seems to get tennis commentators so excited. You'll have a strike on your hand in no time!

  • Comment number 11.

    Other than the obvious need to avoid injury, the knock-up just as in golf allows players to feel the conditions. As a paying spectator I want to see the highest quality of ball-striking and be entertained not only by the drama of the points but also the required skill. What I don't want to see is unavoidable injuries or sub-standard opening games. Just because everyone is forever in a rush doesn't mean tennis has to also.

  • Comment number 12.

    Holy Jesus, an idea from tennis? I agree. Warm up on the warm up court and then lets get on with it.

    Same for second serves. Lets face facts...its a matter of time before the second serve goes.

  • Comment number 13.

    I can't get particularly excited about this debate, but it's probably quite revealing that players and ex-players are amongst those recommending it. They obviously feel that whatever warm up they do before entering the court (whether or not that involves immediate prior access to a practice court) is sufficient to eliminate the risk of avoidable injury. If they do get rid of warm ups, a couple of players will probably pull a muscle in the first round of the next tournament (perhaps by coincidence), there would be an immediate outcry and then the change would be reversed.

    A more interesting debate is raised by culverhay (post 1) - that of getting rid of second serves. I always think that two serves is too many, and one serve is too few for the good of the game. Obviously there's no halfway house there, but with improvements in racquet strength and player conditioning, there's no doubt that a powerful serve is an increasingly potent weapon and watching two big servers hold serve time after time doesn't make for great sport (or great entertainment).

  • Comment number 14.

    I like #9 comments about racquets but then again, I've seen a lot of great tennis over the last few years. It isnt the Sampras era now. So maybe we should have a 'hold' on technology. Thats not gonna work though.

  • Comment number 15.

    @ 9 - I'm not a tennis mega-fan but read the blog as it looked interesting.

    You bring up a good point - the pro's or should I say the top pro's will always get the best (or approaching the best i.e. brand variation) kit however anyone say outside the top-16 seeds at a major tournament whether it be tennis, swimming, cycling - technical kit is starting to become a major factor in the winner - is technical equipment starting to become as bad as drugs? The best chemist was said to bring out the winner but is the best lab technician when it comes to bikes, kits etc. just as bad?

  • Comment number 16.

    The warm up allows us true sports fans the time to select a nice wine,tasty piece of cheese and time to urinate.
    Its probably the best part of any tennis match.

  • Comment number 17.

    Perhaps not something the top players require, but if an inexperienced player is due to play his opening Wimbledon match against Roger Federer on Centre Court, surely it is detrimental to their preparation and mentality to make them go on and start straight away?

  • Comment number 18.

    I'd rather get rid of lets. The knock-up is a good opportunity for tv to introduce the players, maybe limiting it to two minutes would be better?

    Lets are annoying and irrelevant - let's (sorry) think about the flow of the game rather than the pre-build up

  • Comment number 19.

    i am sure this topic comes about because its the end of the tennis season and poor andy still hasnt won a major and you want to keep him in the spotlight,just like when he was complaining abt schedule please ,mr murry isnt a top player he hasnt won any majors if you want the world to value his opinion go tell him to win at wimbledon or meadows or paris or down under then he can talk.please ask the fed man what he thinks

  • Comment number 20.

    surely the difference between not knowing whether you watched 84 or 288+ knock-ups (or more)! just shows how pointless this article is and its author

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    Absolutely ridiculous! With the entrance, toss and fluid and food intake players need to go through before starting a match, they would be cold and at risk of even more injuries by the time play starts!

    People seem to be forgetting the main point of this argument here.. SAFETY!

    Admittedly it is perfectly reasonable that they can warm-up outside and then get going straight away, but once the crowd settles down, the entrances are done and all manner of delays occur, it would be utterly stupid to remove the knock up.

    I also find it hard to believe that Murray does not want the knock up considering the amount he has fought for changes in schedule because of how many injuries people are picking up. And as for McEnroe... this is the guy that wants play to keep going after a net cord on a serve. PISH!

    Let's face it, the knock-up will be a part of the game for a long time. Even if you did remove it, you would have to remove plenty of other aspects (not necessarily of the game) before you did.

    General point being made is that this is a pointless argument! Knock-up stays!

  • Comment number 23.

    On another note.. #9 comments on restricting racket technology.. If I am not mistaken, Federer still uses the same racket that he won his first Wimbledon with nearly 9 years ago. A number of players still do this. The rackets are just painted to look like the newer models.

    #9 also mentions physiological characteristics.. The best players in the world aren't all 6'3.. Olivier Rochus, Fabrice Santoro, Ferrer, Robredo, Gasquet, Clement.. I could keep going!

    And a third point was that finesse is gone from the game? I won't even bother arguing with that silly point when Federer is still gracing the tennis court and winning big titles!

  • Comment number 24.

    Agree with negative comments here. Like you jonathan but think knock-up good thing. Maybe shorter good idea. Don't agree with 2nd serve argument. Though players must have least 70% first serve in. Must practice it enough!!

  • Comment number 25.

    If you took away the knock-up all the people who go down to see wimbledon each year wouldn't get as much time to buy all the overpriced food, drink and souvenirs they came for.

    Also @9, 6"3? Really? Federer and Nadal are both 6"1 and there are plenty of players on the tour not 6ft who can hit the ball just as hard as the Tomas Berdych's of this world. Although the idea of limiting racquet technology would be fair, similar to the restrictions on swim suits.

  • Comment number 26.

    The only thing I would like to see changing in the current tennis routines is to ban the use of towels after each point. It is so irritating to see players wiping their face when the only thing they do is to see a service ace or a service winner going pass them. I think the use of towels during a game should be disallowed, we can allow it only at the end of each game.

  • Comment number 27.

    #23, don’t how old you are but you obviously haven’t seen finesse on court when played with wooden racquets. I grant you that Federer might be an exception but until he did the same with a wooded racquet then it is only speculation.

    I am also baffled by your inside information about players and their racquets. So am I correct in assuming that racquet manufacturers coming out with new products and technologies, regularly with endorsements from various top players are all part of a scam?

    By the way from what I have read, Federer is on his sixth generation of the Wilson racquet which uses nanotechnology carbon fiber processing which surely cannot be 9 years old!

    Am I also correct in assuming that you are one of those on the court in your club who is able to whack the ball like a dead budgie and still manage to make a winner with your new shiny 9 year old racquet? I wonder if this is the reason why so many of you are so scared of not being able to use carbon fibre as opposed to wood.

  • Comment number 28.

    While we're at it why don't we insist that all journalists write their pieces without any editing either? After all, the players don't have the chance to to take shots again do they? I mean you wouldn't give them the chance to take a second serve would you....

  • Comment number 29.

    Always arguments for and against the warm up but if you think that the players won't already be warmed up, then you're being pretty naive. Most players spend at least 90 mins on the practice courts before their matches so will be pretty loose by the time they step on court. The only thing that could be said against this is the players not being used to 'the environment' from the off but to be honest, the top players are so focussed that it won't matter to them.

    Regarding the 2nd serve debate, I don't think this should be scrapped as serving and receiving 2nd serves are an important part of the game. At club level, there's usually a massive difference and facing 2nd serves changes the tactical approach to the game and allows the returner more chance to break, thus making it more interesting for players that don't have 'big' serves.

  • Comment number 30.

    People are getting mixed up between the players warm up and the knock up.

    These elite players have already done extensive warm ups before they come out for the knock up.

    The knock up is NOT their warm up. They will not face any increased risk of injury by scrapping the knock up.

    The only thing it may effect is the first couple of serves of the first game as they adjust to whatever wind etc is on the court.

    I'd be all for scrapping it. It is already almost pointless.

  • Comment number 31.

    You might be right from a live perspective, but I'm sure more people watch on TV than live, and for these watchers the warm up is a good occasion for the commentators to give the stats on the two players.

    From a players perspective they'd mostly like to play to as if the crowd weren't there. If Murray and Nadal have a private match this Christmas, would they have a knock up first? Of course they would.

  • Comment number 32.

    The commentators can just as easily give out players stats before the walk-on.

    Would Murray and Nadal have a knock in a private game? Who cares. We're not talking about private games. We're talking about making tournament matches more exciting, that all this blog is about, they've added entrance music, light shows, which the majority enjoy and then the atmosphere is sucked out by 5 minutes of players lobbing balls to each other to smash away (something they've been doing on the practice court with their own coaches for the previous hour - with much more method / regime)

  • Comment number 33.

    29 Weveallhadacoffee - at the moment the second serve gives a better chance of breaking, but if it were scrapped then the player gets the point as soon as the first serve doesn't make it in, so no need for a better chance. Also, the fact that a serve has to count as there's no second chance means the server has to decide to go all out for a big serve and risk loosing a point, or holding back a little to make sure the serve is good. In my opinion no second serves would give the receiver a better chance of breaking overall.

  • Comment number 34.

    Disagree with you here, Jonathan, I like watching the knock-up. Best part of the match sometimes.

  • Comment number 35.

    I can see points from both sides but I think, as in golf and snooker, they should come out, toss, small sip of drink BANG! No messin. So what if first game is dodgy, it proves their true ability and mental game. They will have been warming up 5 minutes ago. Whereas golfers wait about 10-15 mins as they have to walk over from practice tee, putting greens and collect their card, meet officials etc..

    Regarding more important things to talk about, i think there is but you aint never going to stop technology advancing 'Koenig'. What are you going to do, stop Karlovic playing cos he too tall or others cos they have advanced rackets....? No. Technology is always improving in every sport- keep with times, we dont want players playing a 70's match in 2012 do we?

    Second serve- Players would be more hesitant and just tap the ball over cos of fear of losing too many points if we got rid. But then some would say deal with it, again text of mental amd physical ability. I do think however they should scrap the let. If it hits the net and drops over so be it. If a golfer hit the ball and it hit a tree or someone elses ball and they gained an advantage, it stands. Like in snooker if a player hits the jaws through a poor shot and the ball travels 14 feet up the other end and drops in, it stands- why should tennis players be given another chance.

  • Comment number 36.

    I'd be all for scrapping the knock up. Talk of injuries etc is a moot point as this is not a warm up, the players are already warmed up before they enter the court.
    I'm willing to bet some players actually feel the warm up is deteremental to their first game or two as hitting the balls at low intensity does nothing to prepare them for what's to come.

    I'm also very much in favour of scrapping the let rule on serves. It doesn't apply at any other point and only slows the game down when the server gets a couple of lets in a row. I'd much rather watch 2 attempts at a serve and that's it than 3,4 even 5 when a few lets come into play.

  • Comment number 37.

    I read some of the comments here (Keonig) and wonder if there is an argument for a return to long trousers for men and hobble skirts for women. Heaven forbid that players take advantage of technological advances and training methods improve so that players today are faster, fitter and stronger and hit the ball harder than before. I think that tennis today is more compelling now than it has been for a long time (my first memories were the great battles between Borg and McEnroe).

    Sport, like everything, moves on, and if it doesn't it gets left behind and loses its audience. If this improves the spectacle then so be it, although it is one idea among many that could be considered...

    Oh for the days when I could have written my opinions on paper and posted them rather than using this new-fangled computer thingie, but that's the price of technology!!

  • Comment number 38.

    Pedro1972- lol, i love it. I have just sent this message via carrier pigeon. Love the idea of long trousers and skirts.... Why dont we all walk to games or come on horse back, then when we get there pay with gold and slaves....

    100% agree with you, Borg and Mcenroe- excellent but also Nadal and Federer- excellent. It moves on.

  • Comment number 39.

    Cant believe the TENNIS correspandant is this short sighted! haha!

    Would you go for a run without stretching off first? NO

    Regards helping each other warm up... Its kind of necessary really, otherwise your just knocking balls over the net to noone. Pointless. Just like this article.

  • Comment number 40.

    The knock up is largely pointless now, and I agree it would make for far more interesting opening games as players battle with nerves.

    I'd like to see more effort made in tournaments outside of Paris/London, although some of the crowds in the earlier rounds make it hard to justify the expense. More needs to be done to engage the crowds at smaller events and give people a reason to attend matches between lower ranked players.

  • Comment number 41.

    I disagree completely. Changing from a warm-up court to a stadium produces differences in ball flight due to air pressure and wind. Warming up is vital as pre-match introductions etc can take long enough to cool muscles down. Offering the argument that it might be more exciting if players aren't quite sure where to hit the ball just demonstrates a lack of appreciation for the game, as I find it more exciting when a player hits the line with an amazing shot than when they make unforced errors.

    I'd accept that five minutes might be too long, but doing away with the warm-up completely is simply a recipe for worse play and more injuries.

  • Comment number 42.

    To use the comparison with golf is nonsense. Hitting off grass is the same on the range as on the course. Yes you can judge weather conditions but only the conditions of the direction the range is pointing. It is not as though you can practice each hole before then playing them for real. Get rid of the knock up; get them to practice beforehand and then straight out, first serve, done!

    It’s not as though in snooker you get to have a warm up frame before starting for real.

  • Comment number 43.

    You do not need to scrap warm-ups!!! The Obvious solution which would help everyone (players, TV, fans and commentators) is no "remove" warm-ups from the match itself. This means, when the schedule says match begins at 11am , then the first serve should start at 11.00am. ALL the 5, 10, 15 or 30 mins before that could be used by players to warm-up if they want. So at around 10.50 or 10.55, the players would just briefly leave the court just so they can be announced back in!! Simples!

    This would also mean that when Roger finishes his match and he is giving on court interviews, Wozniacki can simply sneak in and begin warming up with ball kids while her opponent (S'Reena) is just chilling in the locker room finalising her make-up! haha

    Everyone would know the time the match actually BEGINS and die-hard fans may remain to watch Wozzy doing her warm-up routines or normal fans would rather go get a cup o tea. and TV can schedule to choose if they want to show the warm-ups or just resume for the first serve. Everybody wins!

    It would also help online fans easily follow the scores from the beginning instead of the normal practice of waiting at least 10 or 20 mins before logging on to live scores.

    I know how frustrating it is to rush home to catch the 7pm start only to then get there to first meet the announcing in, warm-ups, pictures, coin toss (or in the US Open, a whole pre-match presentation/charade)...... it dampens much of the excitement SOMETIMES!

  • Comment number 44.

    To my knowledge, every other racquet sport has scrapped the second serve. Of course, they've all adopted silly new scoring systems as well, so they're not necessarily always right, but it should surely be worth thinking about.

    It's impossible to reverse the march of racquet technology, and it would be foolish in my view to reduce the head size back to what was possible with wooden racquets. However, rewarding accurate and consistent serving by scrapping second serves would go some way to reducing the physical strength required to reach the top level of the game, while maintaining a requirement for fitness and skill.

    But this is all fantasy, tennis is one of the most popular individual sports in the world and won't be making any significant changes unless there is a dramatic dip in popularity.

  • Comment number 45.

    Again I read comments that baffle me. Do people not realise that players warm up before any game, and as for the argument that conditions change between warm up area and arena, really! Do they not change during the course of a game, or does wind speed and direction stay constant and the sun stay in the same place so it never becomes a factor either. These are elite players and any effect is both negligible and the same for both.

    I don't see players during the rugby 6Ns insisting on a 5 minute throw about after the national anthems. But there's a thought... Lewis M to Thierry D at the coin toss... "Bonjour Thierry. Listen, it's a bit parky out here today. Thought we might practice a few lineouts and scrums before kick off if you're up for it!! Tell the lads."

  • Comment number 46.

    Get rid. Boring.
    Grid of 2nd serve too. Why get a 2nd chance? Its also a waste of time.

  • Comment number 47.

    @ 43,

    I meant: "The Obvious solution which would help everyone (players, TV, fans and commentators) is TO "remove" warm-ups from the match itself."

  • Comment number 48.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 49.

    "... Oi, Warney. Fire us down a couple of googlies, would you, 'til I get the hang of this pitch?"

  • Comment number 50.

    @27 Koenig

    It is indeed true that some, if not most, players use rackets that date back to as early the mid to late 90's. For example Andy Murray does not use the Head Radical, he uses the PT57a which is the Head Pro Tour 630 with a customised stringing pattern (16x19). Nadal does not use the latest Aero Pro with "cortex" its the same one he used way back - the racket manufactures just apply the latest paint schemes to their rackets to sell the unwitting public. Do you really think players of this quality that are very sensitive to their equipment will change every time they bring some new fibre which adds dampening etc?

    Federer did change from his Wilson Pro Staff 6.0 85sq" racket back in 2002-2003 to a 90sq" version which is probably the one he still uses today. There is plenty of info on this on the net, take a look.

  • Comment number 51.

    At the tournaments, this time is extremely useful as it enables spectators to change court, grab a sandwich, pop out for a ‘comfort break’ etc.

    As to watching tennis on television, in any case I would advise against it. You will get more of an idea of ‘what tennis is really like’ by going down to your local club and watching the better players hit, or better still, find a regional or pro tournament, junior, adult whatever.
    You will be amazed at the difference between what you see on the flat screen and the flight of the ball in real life.

    While I’m on the subject, there are a couple of ideas I have for improving tennis as a spectator sport:

    1/ Enforce existing rules and in particular that relating to the time taken between points (25 seconds, lest we forget). Pro-level doubles (a sport which struggles to compete with singles in terms of public support, media and sponsorship interest) is particularly guilty in this regard with endless ‘hidden’ conversations between team-mates before each serve. Even rugby players (no offence intended) have managed to invent coded instructions for line-out throws!

    2/ Define the role of ball boys more restrictively. They are there (provided by the tournament organisers) to get the tennis balls to the right end of the court and to the server before each point. At what point did they become the player’s valet, sprinting backwards and forwards to carry and fetch towels?

    As for changing the service rule, bear in mind that it is not the second serve that would be abolished, but the first. The 'winners' would be those players who are able to get the ball into play consistently without putting themselves at a disadvantage in the ensuing rally (chiefly through accuracy and top spin) and the 'losers' those players who rely on a powerful first serve for the bulk of their points. Trials should be conducted to see if this change has any positive effects.

  • Comment number 52.

    How about an allowance of one second serve per game plus an extra one for each deuce?

  • Comment number 53.

    What about getting rid of the first serve, sweat bands, the plastic bags on the players rackets, drinks, changeovers, footfaults, bananas, duece, Hawkeye, towels, change of shirts, injury breaks, changing the balls, new grips, vibrator dampeners, being allowed to reposition your strings, tighten your laces, pulling up socks, waiting for people to sit down, allowing flash photography, linespeople. This would get the matches down to about 30 minutes and also give you Jonathan 20 more blogs for when there is no real tennis news going on!

  • Comment number 54.

    Agree. Also came here to say while we're at it, let's have ONE serve. One serve would mean fewer aces, more rallies, less time wasted waiting for the 2nd serve to come down. The amount of actual tennis played during a match would increase from something like 35% to about 60%. Now that'd keep the game flowing, too.

  • Comment number 55.

    I am going to lend my support to you as well Jonathan. Can you imagine Aaron Lennon crossing balls for Petr Cech before kick off, or Stuart Broad bowling a yorker followed by a bouncer to Punter Ponting so he can get his eye in ? All athletes need to make their own preparations before starting their competition otherwise we will start seeing Man U and Man C having a quick 5 a side before the real match takes place !!

  • Comment number 56.

    Lots of support here for doing away with the 2nd serve, Jonathan. Can you have a word with the powers-that-be?

  • Comment number 57.

    Let us not forget that every sport does have a tradition that need to be maintained and tennis has it's as well. Pre-match knock ups has become part of that tradition although i'm sure the players wouldn't mind seeing it scrapped as professionals, they would probably have warmed up adequately before the game anyway. I find the knock-ups extremely boring a times though but tennis is a game which requires getting into rhythm as it's a one-on-one sport. References made to football in this regard is completely irrelevant. Football is a team sport. You'll be suprised if knock-ups are scrapped how inbalanced the first set of every tennis match will be. Most of this players have had this routine since starting their tennis careers. I do agree with Mr Overand that perhaps the time is cut from 5 minutes to 3.

    Having said that, there are a few things i'll personally like to see changed though.

    1. 2nd serves.I find them at an advantage to some players. I wouldn't say scrap it all but rather allow 1 second serve per game which should be on the first point. Like someone above said, it slows the game down at times.

    2. Allow more time to be taken between points. The current rule is hardly ever enforced so why not just make it 30s for example to remove any form of hypocrisy. I'm sure this will allow sufficient time for both the server and receiver.

    3. And so one tell the FO organisers to have Hawk-Eye at Roland Garros.

  • Comment number 58.

    I agree with the warm up stuff, certainly I'd like them to make it a bit shorter! That said, most of the time before the start of the match is players messing around with all their stuff, Nadal being the biggest culprit!

    I think only allowing one serve would be terrible, and will never happen. It would completely change the game of tennis, almost removing serving and returning as skill, and making rallying a much bigger part of the game. Breaking would no longer be a valid concept. Tennis is such a brilliant game because of how it is structured and how its scoring works, removing one serve would break down the framework upon which matches happen, or at least are expected to happen.

  • Comment number 59.

    I would have thought players would need a few hits and a few serves just to get used to the light and wind conditions. That cannot be replicated in the changing room or a local practice court. I want to see the best player win - not the one who got a bit of an advantage in the lottery of the first few games whilst both players got used to the conditions.

  • Comment number 60.

    Good idea re the warm ups.

    Next stage to ensure consistency will be to have pro-tennis played on the same surface all year round, so 'Wimmledon' can be concreted over thus reducing the maintenace bill....

  • Comment number 61.

    Couldn't agree more with this article. The majority of top pro's spend an hour or so on the practice court previous to their match anyway.

    It would be refreshing for play to absolutely start at the time stated, rather than having to watch a dull warm up first.

  • Comment number 62.

    I love the idea of getting used to the ball! Imagine in cricket if a bowler gave the opening batsmen a few dolly drops to help them get used to the ball?!?!
    The players start off in the same condition so, I agree with the proposition, lets not waste time!

  • Comment number 63.

    Totally agree with # 26, and disagree with no 57#. By far the most annoying thing in tennis is the faffing around between points. Not only towels after every shot (there used to be something called sweatbands!) but insisting on a ball being returned from the other end or testing 3 or 4 balls before deciding which one to use. Or bouncing it 30 times before serving. Maybe allow 30 seconds between the 2 games to towel down.

    Tradition is good and the above are all things that have crept in (the screaming women too) that should be reversed.

    There's nothing wrong with second serves - the balance is about right having reversed the serve-serve-serve-serve-game trend from the Wimbledon of the Sampras era.

    The warm up period does at least act as that buffer period for the inevitable late arrivers.

  • Comment number 64.

    Great idea! At least give it a try for a few months! Why are people generally afraid of change? Some sports like motor racing and NFL are constantly changing their rules to benefit the sport and the viewer. We can always go back to the warm up if it doesn't work out.

  • Comment number 65.

    I don't understand the people comparing tennis to football, in football the players warm-up on the pitch they are going to play on - in the conditions they will experience in the match! Obviously they don't need a 5 minute kick around! In Tennis however the players have warmed up on a seperate court, in different conditions! Yes they may be physically capable of walking onto the court and starting straight off, but they won't be in tune with the conditions of the arena - a short 5 minute knock-up is of benefit to enable them to assess the conditions! The match may start at a higher quality because of it, I know I'd prefer to see winners played from the off because a player is comfortable in the conditions, than seeing uncharacteristic errors because they aren't!

    I have to agree with comments about the delays between points, this is far more aggrevating for me, does a player need to towel their face after an Ace has flown past them? Really?! I doubt it! IMO I think this should be the issue being addressed, not the knock-up, for me the knock-up is a non-issue.

  • Comment number 66.

    Aww, bless, poor little professional tennis players who do not have a feel for the ball.

  • Comment number 67.


    Here, here, it's about time we stopped fiddling around with different surfaces, balls etc. This way the players wouldn't need to adjust for every game and therefore the knock up would be even less relevant

  • Comment number 68.

    As stated above the knock up should remain especially for low ranked players using a show court for the first time. What I would like to see to improve my viewing of tennis is
    1. No towels at the end of the court unless it's 30+ degrees
    2. Server to be given 2 balls not 3 or 4 to choose from
    3. Players can only change racquets if a string is broken or at the change over
    4. enforce to time to serve using penalty points, who wants to watch a server bounce the ball up to 20 times

  • Comment number 69.

    Limit the number of bounces before each serve!

  • Comment number 70.

    It's not just about getting a feel for the ball! It's about adapting to lighting, temperature, wind (if any), crowd atmosphere etc...! If it settles a few nerves, even more so if it's a players first time on centre for example, then it is a positive force that may lead to a better, more compelling game!

  • Comment number 71.

    The biggest improvement I can think of is to ban players who grunt every time they hit the ball. If Federer can play quietly and beat everyone, why can't lesser mortals?

  • Comment number 72.

    No towels at all !! When you change ends you can use the towel. Just get on with it.

    You see them use the towel after a point now and sometimes that's an ace !!

  • Comment number 73.

    @Friendly_Fire Mo Farah might not run a couple of laps but the long distance runners always jog up and down the back 100m of the track before the race. I see the point to removing the warm-up as they do have the opportunity to warm up on the practice courts but there is probably a big delay between finishing that and getting onto the show court. I'd worry that without a bit of a gentle warm-up the muscles would be cold and injuries are more likely to happen and we already get enough of them (pointing no fingers Murray....).

  • Comment number 74.

    I think widely regarded by all as a pretty flimsy topic for a tennis article in the close season. There are a wide range of issues which would have been significantly more worthy. Notable aswell that Mr Overand has not commented in response to any of the criticisms.

    One thing missed about a knock-up/warm up in tennis is that players do not know when they are going to go onto court. They warm up before hand (hour or so before start time) and then the five minute warm up is a gentle toner to get the blood flowing again and loosen any stiffness. I do agree this could probably be shortened however I think that raises a larger question which has been mentioned, the length of time players are taking.....constant towelling etc etc I blame greg rusedski for starting this trend when his coach told him he 'played too fast and needed to slow down'

    Also the second serve argument and technology I think miss the point, the changes made a number of years ago have limited the dominance of the serve whilst now the main focus is racket and ball speed generation (through racket technology but largely string technology) on groundstrokes. These allow for much greater power 'off the ground' which means players are able to hit clean winners / passing shots from positions where previously a weak response would have been illicited. This does however make for very good viewing although also contributes greatly to the decline of the serve volleyer and the lack of variety in the game.

  • Comment number 75.

    Phil raises a valid point about the lack of serve volleying, and I imagine this to be "finesse" to which an earlier poster was referring. I miss serve volleying tennis in the modern game. That's why I always loved Henman, he was like the last dinosaur about to go out of existence (slight exagerration I know as others do serve volley - but not as well as he did).

    With regards to the topics in question:

    Keep the knock ups, it's a few minutes to give the players time to settle in, people to have a little mill about before the game, and I do like the chance for the commentators to preview the match up.

    NO to never ending ball bouncing. I remember watching Djoko v Nadal in (I think it was) the US Open this year and they were averaging about 23 bounces each, sometimes over 30!! Ridiculous! A 5 set match with 10 games per set, average of 6 points a game means this wastes about 50 mins!!

    Towels - as said above what happened to just wearing sweat bands.

    Football very rarely changes it's methods (much to the anger of some parties), they don't want slow the game down too much in this modern-short-attention-span time. So video technology gets put aside. It's about time Tennis starts speeding things up a bit, sometimes I get bored these days when I never used to!

  • Comment number 76.

    It's a ridiculous porposition. Murray is quite far from the top 3, I don't understand how he imagines this will help him bridge the gap.

  • Comment number 77.

    Warm up on a practice court, they tend to have a few of those at tennis tournaments. I agree it would improve the spectacle to see who settles into the match court faster.

  • Comment number 78.

    I totally & wholeheartedly disagree with this article. What puzzles me (& I suppose disappoints me to some extent) about a lot of the comments on here is an apparent fixation with changing aspects of the game & these aspects seem to relate to spectator 'enjoyment'. I don't feel that tennis exists to 'please' or 'placate' spectators - it is a sport that is played by professionals & I see it as existing for them principally. We are beneficiaries of it & we should be grateful that it exists at all, particularly, as it happens, in an era of such enormous depth of talent across the board & with the sublime tennis grace & abilities of the likes of Federer at the pinnacle of it. The constant desire for change I believe reflects more a general societal impatience & ever-increasing short attention span, because in so many aspects of life we now expect total & instant gratification (& if we don't get it we whinge &, or throw all the toys out of the pram). It is this impatience/ intolerance that I find tedious not the knock-up before games or second serves. I personally find no need to question their place in tennis. These aspects for me are the very stuff of tradition in a sport that should be safe-guarded & cherished.

    If I bemoan anything it is the attempt to even out the speed of the playing surfaces, as well as tinkering with the fabric of tennis balls. That for me has had a detrimental affect on the game & is especially noticeable at Wimbledon where the need for the particular skills & understanding of net-approach/net play & of course the volley, have diminished to the point of near extinction. The loss of the physical, mental and tactical demands clearly exerted by what were originally totally different playing surfaces, seems like a shame to me for the sport.

  • Comment number 79.

    @ hotpassingshot - Errrr, what day and age are you living in? Tennis doesn't exist to give these men and women the pleasure of playing Tennis all day and not having to work. No spectators = no money = no professional tennis. If the people who pay for them to exist as they do want to have something to say about it then so be it.

    I do, however, agree with you regarding knockups and second serve. But the other issues are not a "tradition" in tennis, players didn't used to spend 30-40 seconds between points towelling themselves down and bouncing balls till they went flat.

  • Comment number 80.

    Warm-ups: there is a case for removing them - but I like them. Especially if it´s one of my favourite players warming up; it´s a chance to see the purity and fluidity of their stroke play technique under stress-free conditions. There´s a whole match in which to see the same technique under competition stress!

    Second serves: well generally tennis, especially men´s tennis is way too dominated by serve. But unfortunately removing the second serve would completely change the game - from one where the server is around 80-90% certain to win (the game) to one where the receiver would be about 60% likely to win. That´s a big change !

    Racquet technology. There really is so much twaddle talked about this issue. Once there was wood, then there were modern composites (early 80´s). Nothing much has changed since modern composites were brought in other than the marketing terms (though, granted, synthetic strings have probably improved somewhat, and that they have now just about replaced natural gut on the pro-circuit). As far as I can tell there have been absolutely no significant advances in racquet technology since then. The biggest advantage modern composites have is that they allow you to construct a much larger head (hence a larger sweet-spot and more power), and still have a racquet which is stronger and lighter than a wooden racquet. But head size is limited by tennis law, and many pros (especially male) play with smaller heads anyway. And don´t forget, that the ball actually bounces off the strings (I hear gasps of amazement at that revelation!), so the racquet head construction is only a secondary effect - it simply needs to be strong and stiff enough to allow the strings to do their work, and light enough for the racquet to be manageable by the player.

  • Comment number 81.

    Jonathon have you had been at the eggnog again? - surely they need a bit of a warm up.

    Ok they could limit it but it's an opportunity for the players to flex their muscles and pysche their opponents out as well.

  • Comment number 82.

    What problem are we fixing? The lost of 40 minutes of the reporter's time? Ridiculous. As others have said the break between matches allows us to get refreshments, go to the WC, chat with friends, read/send a few emails. And, since I'm spending good money and traveling to the tournament, I want to see the best tennis possible - having two guys run out and start immediately will surely lead to some very lopsided 1st sets. This debate is another sign of problems in the West - everyone's in such a hurry and thinks their time is so precious. To our reporter - if you don't like the job, feel free to change assignments. I'm sure the BBC will have no problem finding a replacement.

  • Comment number 83.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 84.

    I'm glad someone has brought this issue up, because I find the fact that the likes of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer get ten minutes warm-up before a match ludicrous. It was particularly annoying before they put the roof on the Centre Court, and after a half an hour break there would be another warm-up. Sometimes it began raining again before the warm-up was complete. And...guess what these guys have been doing that morning...yes, practicing tennis. Guess what they did yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that. Guess what they do during the rain delays. All they do is train, practice tennis, and eat exactly what a dietitian has told them to. I really don't think they need a knock-up. I used to play tennis at national junior level, and was not even remotely close to the level of world-class professionals, but when I played we used to get on with the game as quickly as possible. I'm quite sure Federer and Nadal are capable of this. The warm-up should be no more than 90 seconds, if it exists at all. Imagine if Ricky Ponting came out to bat in an Ashes test, and Andrew Strauss suggested that they give him a few throw downs so that he could get his feet moving. And this is a far more unforgiving sport than tennis, in which if you make one mistake, you don't get back on the field for two days. I find the warm-up to be utterly absurd and quite irritating.


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