Tennis is going through a period of change, with various new faster formats being tried and tested as an alternative to the use of the traditional scoring method.
Mark Milne believes he has devised the perfect alternative which heavily focuses on players consistently competing for big points, increasing the pressure in competitive matches.
Thirty30 Tennis (T30) is a new scoring system created by Milne with the support of Tennis Scotland. The clue is in the name, where every game starts with the scores at 30-30, emphasised by its slogan, where every point really counts. By playing tennis using this scoring system sets take no longer than 20 minutes to complete.
With each game starting at 30-30 (announced “Thirty30”), games can just consist of two points to decide who wins it but can go on for longer. The announcement of ‘Thirty30” at the start of every game makes the format standout from the traditional scoring call of “30-all”. The system maintains Deuce-Advantage, as per traditional tennis, a feature which separates T30 from alternatives scoring systems, where a deciding point is played if the score reaches Deuce.
“The beauty of it is, is that it is very simple and the transition between playing traditional tennis and Thirty30 tennis is seamless for players, audiences, officials, etc”, Milne explained.
“The Thirty30 scoring format still produces a fair test of skill and ability and the best player on the day still wins. This is extremely important as any new format must maintain the credibility of tennis amongst players and audiences”, he added.
The most commonly used example of an alternative scoring system being used currently is Tennis Australia’s FAST4 format, pioneered most prominently at the ATP Next Gen Finals in November 2017. In this format players play sets that are first to four games rather than the traditional six, as well as playing a sudden death deciding point at Deuce.
This professional tennis tournament is an end of season showpiece event held in Milan, Italy which only began last year. The seven highest ranked male players aged 21 and under in the official Emirates ATP World Rankings and one wild card compete in the event, which incorporates several innovations designed to make the sport more exciting than ever.
Milne believes that T30 is a format which retains the important traditions of tennis better than other formats. He said: “I am convinced that Thirty30 is better than Tennis Australia’s FAST4 format and is fairer than the Match Tie-Break currently being more widely used in doubles as a third set match decider to shorten matches.”
Curious by the new shortened format and scoring system, I gave it a try, playing against my 16-year-old brother William at our local tennis courts.
Please note that this is not necessarily an accurate representation of how Thirty30 matches will go as there is a five-year age gap between us. Nonetheless it was still good to test the system to provide some context and to form an opinion about T30 for the purposes of this article.
The match was played in normal conditions on an outdoor hard court, with brand new tennis balls, with 1-minute sit downs at the change of ends. I defeated William 6-3, 6-2 in a match which lasted 35 minutes.
My immediate observations were how much pressure there is on the server to find the mark with their first serve right from the word go. I learned this the hard way, netting a forehand during an extended rally in the first point before double faulting at 30-40. I was instantly a break of serve down after less than a minute of play.
I managed to recover the situation and was able to find my first serve more frequently as the match went on, allowing for swift service holds where just two points were contested.
The longest game of the match was the sixth game in the second set. Leading 4-1 with a double break, I got complacent after squandering two game points and after five deuces William broke serve to pull a game back.
However, such is the nature of this fast format, just four points later the match was over as I claimed the final two games.
In response to my observations about the pressure faced by the server, Milne said: “This is true initially when you use Thirty30 but I have found that after getting used to the Thirty30 format and using it a significant number of times, the pressure you have felt does diminish a fair bit. You realise that holding serve is not as critical as when using traditional scoring, as there are far more opportunities to break serve.
“The format soon becomes familiar and you get used to the score ticking over far more quickly than with traditional scoring. I also have found that the ‘best’ player still wins, especially if you play a best of five sets match”, he added.
Another thing to note which occurred to me while playing the match is the switching of ends. Playing on a very hot, sunny day, the sun was right in the server’s eyes on the far side, advantage court. This caused unwanted added pressure on the break points, particularly bearing in mind that after swapping ends after the initial two games in the set it is then only after every four games (in traditional tennis you swap ends after the first game of the set, then after every two games). This means that you could have to play two consecutive service games looking into the sun, or perhaps on another day playing against the wind. But at the end of the day, it’s all part and parcel of the game and you make the best of the conditions.
William agreed that T30 is an interesting concept and that he thinks it will be good for young players to introduce them to the sport, as a shorter format keeps them focused and engaged. However, he also noted that he faced a lot of pressure, particularly when serving and he felt that it could hinder people’s chances of winning games compared to traditional tennis scoring.
Milne’s ambition for the new format is to apply to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to get T30 accepted for trial purposes in ITF tournaments in the future.
Thirty30 Tennis is certainly a scoring system with potential and room to grow. It could be very useful in helping young players deal with pressure situations and hone their skills as to how best to play the big points at important moments in matches, e.g. break point up or break point down, or when serving for a set.
To find out more please visit: www.thirty30tennis.com.