Is it “fun” to play a two- or three-hour tournament singles match? Is it healthy/wise to do that? I no longer think so.
View From the Sidelines
With my recovering hip replacement, I have resisted the temptation of entering the singles division of this year’s USTA tournaments; but have watched several of my peers playing their matches. And watching some long and grueling matches, I have rethought priorities.
Especially with the tournaments using the third set tie breaker only in the doubles, but forcing 70, 75, 80+ year olds to play a full third set in singles, in my opinion, it creates a real health hazard for seniors.
The Irvine Protocol
My February doubles partner, former touring pro Hank Irvine, says since he is coming back from health issues, he now uses his singles matches as a “warmup” for his afternoon doubles matches. He knows that his life-long tennis play has him follow instinct to go for balls he shouldn’t; so GENERALLY limits himself to a maximum of two hours on the singles court. (He has violated that principle recently to win two three-set singles matches in Naples).
A couple of years back, I was playing a tournament singles match (coincidentally vs. my now January doubles partner, Noble Hendrix). He won a close first set; but at the end of about two hours, I won a close second set. I then walked to the net and told him I was “retiring” to save myself for doubles in the afternoon with partner Chuck Kinyon.
Time Takes its Toll
How many times have you seen the winner of a grueling three-set singles match not have anything left in the tank for the next round and get beaten easily? Or see them injure themselves and have to default the following match?
Is it worth it? I do not think so.
One solution is the install the 10-point Match Tiebreaker as the third set in “senior singles” (75? 70? Younger?). At the Palm Air tournament in Sarasota in February, Hank was playing the singles finals vs. his afternoon doubles partner Evert Jonsson. After two hours, they had split the first two sets 7-5, 5-7 … and got permission from the tournament director to just play a deciding Ten Pointer (which Hank won).
Another action could also be installing the “Lucky Loser” rule, where the loser of a long match, where the winner has to then default due to injury (or travel plans) gets to move forward in the draw to take his place.
But there are those select players who are in phenomenal shape and can use the long matches to their benefit. Those athletes feel that conditioning is a critical part of tournament play – at any age – and would be deprived of their advantage if matches were shortened.
What do YOU think?
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