Pro tennis is very popular, with major tournaments selling out and prize money going through the roof; but the Grand Slam tournaments could be made much more exciting and TV-friendly and thus further increase its marketability. The following are thoughts as I watched the US Open this year.
For example, on the men’s side especially, the matches often go well past the three hour mark which makes it difficult for most people to watch an entire game (real life’s necessities intrude for most of us). The US Open this year moved toward a partial solution by making the fifth set conclude with a tie-breaker if required. However the other three Slams still have the fifth set as an endless duel until one side is two games ahead (in the third round at Wimbledon this year, Tsongas beat Isner with 19 games to 17 in the fifth). The US Open style of tie-breakers on every set should become standard.
I also think we need to get rid of the let call on serves if the ball still lands in the proper court. Seems a small thing, but there tend to be quite a few of these in each match and it takes up unproductive time.
Finally, while anti-female gender-based wage differentials are a serious and pernicious issue in most industries, the opposite is the case in pro tennis. The prize money is the same for both sexes, but men work 40% more to get the same money. For example, in this year’s US Open, women winning in the first and second rounds took an average of 92 minutes per match, at a rate (with prize money of $43,313) of $469.56 per minute of play. Under the same conditions and same level of prize money, the men worked an average of 151 minutes per match at $273.43 per minute of play.(1) This is as wrong as any other discrimination and needs to change.
One obvious answer is to pay the women 60% of the men’s prize money because they only work at 60% of the men’s level. But that’s a dumb idea and goes against years of effort by the female players. A better idea — and one that works with the other issues I mentioned above — is to reduce the men’s game to best of three sets, same as women. This will, on average, equalize the prize money AND shorten half the games in each tournament.
Now, I don’t really follow tennis; I generally only watch the four Slams. I am certainly no expert. But the ideas above seem like common sense.
(1) the discrepancy gets even worse as the tournament progresses. However the numbers of players involved becomes too small to make a reasonable statistical calculation.