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The Australian Open is now in the rearview mirror of the 2024 tennis season. But one thing is certain…. It’s position in the calendar, at the start of a new year, always throws up the first lot of controversies, and questions to debate.

You can usually bank on a couple of inevitabilities during the Australian summer…..heat policies, and scheduling issues. Thankfully, the 2024 version of the Australian Open, was quite mild, so the heat policy was never even close to coming into effect. The scheduling on the other hand….?

Well, despite Craig Tiley, and the AO team’s efforts to make adaptations, such as a Sunday start, and only two matches on the show courts each day session, the event was still plagued by some debatable choices.

Instead of looking at the micro of what the AO can change, let’s zoom out, and view tennis at a macro level, and take a look at options we have, as a way of stream-lining the product. So many sports are finding ways to engage the public, and create new fans, but tennis is a little different. In some ways, there aren’t a lot of major changes that can be made, without completely altering the fabric of the sport.

So what can we do to quicken up tennis, and perhaps keep people interested, and invested for longer?

1. Eliminating Let Calls on Serves:

Craig Tiley said this, at the conclusion of the tournament, regarding the ‘lets’…

'We want to make the game faster and continue to grow its appeal … which is why we look at things like lets … it's a decision for the entire sport.

'I definitely want to speed the game up.

'For us the most important thing is to get to a position where the game itself is not too long. We've got to keep people's interest in it.'

Tiley said that let services alone had help up the Australian Open by 15 hours at the 2024 tournament. 

'That's an incredible stat,' he said.

'I've asked players that before and most said they thought maybe one or two hours. But 15 hours?

 'We will do it all in collaboration with the tour. It would be crazy not to.

'The more the rules can be consistent from event to event, the better it is for the game.'

For me, I’m not buying that removing lets would make a massive difference in time saving.

After all, across the 3 week tournament, there were just over 900 matches. Fifteen hours were wasted, according to Tiley, which equates to 900 minutes. Simple math would suggest we might save a minute per match. Hardly earth-shattering.

‘The First Serve’s’ Brett Phillips certainly agrees with Tiley’s thoughts…

I’ve been banging on about ‘lets’ for a while, it is just absolutely bloody ridiculous to be honest.

I mean, the finest of ‘lets’ that don’t even affect the trajectory of the ball (should be allowed).”

I do think getting rid of lets would be a good move, but more for the reason of taking away debate about whether or not it touched the net. Just don’t sell it as a big time-saver.

2. Skipping the Warm-Up:

If we’re saying lets can save a Grand Slam event 15 hours, by reducing time on court by one minute, then a 5 minute warm-up for all matches, is going to save approximately 75 hours! As a spectator, this is probably one of my most frustrating elements of tennis.

Two players, about to go to battle for 3 hours, tapping a few balls over the net at half speed, or gently floating some lobs so their opponent can get their eye in. For what? The players are warmed up before they hit the court. Let’s just get the match started, and make the players learn about the on-court conditions during the first couple of games. We might even get an early break or two to liven things up.

John McEnroe has been a long-time advocate of scrapping the warm-up.

“I’m a proponent of having no warmup. To me, why the hell do we need warmup? Are you a boxing fan? Do they go out in the ring and start pitter-patter each other five minutes before they try to knock each other into another state?”

3. Reevaluating the Serve Clock:

The serve clock was brought in in 2018, as a way to regulate how much time is taken between points, and avoid the time violations that some players (Nadal for instance) were receiving. However, it doesn’t seem to have had the desired result, and, if anything, it might’ve had the opposite effect, with players ensuring they take the full 25 seconds, as a tactical ploy, even after short points. Previously, the umpire was able to regulate the time taken, by using discretion about how long was really needed.

The odd thing about the serve clock, is that, the umpire still has discretion, as they are in full control of when to start the clock. So, in essence, not much has changed. Maybe we should just scrap the clock, and allow 30 seconds after a long gruelling rally, but be more strict on the time between aces for example.

4. Streamlining Between First and Second Serves:

The time gap between the first and second serves often feels prolonged. Sometimes, it’s as long as the time between points. Perhaps this is actually where the serve clock could be of more use. No one needs to be taking 20 seconds, or bouncing the ball 20 times. You miss your first serve, you grab another ball, and go again. The NextGen finals trialled an 8 second limit without too many issues, and that feels about right to ensure the ‘down time’ between action is reduced.

5. Toss ball, hit ball:

To expedite play a little more, if a player initiates a serve by tossing the ball, they must follow through with the attempt, irrespective of the toss quality. While it’s far from a massive time-waster, if you have a 25 second break between points, another 20 seconds between first and second serves, it can be extremely frustrating seeing a player catch the ball, and go through the whole serve process again.

I think it would definitely add a little extra interest seeing a player try to hit a toss that has drifted out of their optimal hitting zone.

6. No Second Serve:

Hard to see this one coming in, but when the topic has been brought up by one of the world’s best players, it’s worth taking notice. Norway’s Casper Ruud spoke about the rule change at Indian Wells last year.

“Playing with one serve. It wouldn’t be easy, but it’s a rule that could be changed. This is something that obviously won’t happen, but if that could change, I’d like to see us play a few single serve tournaments and see what happens. I have the impression that we would have more exchanges. Sometimes, especially on a fast court, it’s very easy to hold serve and there are no fun rallies.”

If we’re trying to save time, on paper, this looks a decent idea. But dig a little deeper, and perhaps it’s not. We would definitely get a lot more rallies, and longer points, which is exciting.

We would probably see a lot more breaks of serve, and perhaps more upsets, which again, could be very interesting for the tennis fan. But as far as saving time goes, the seconds we gain by ditching the second serve, would probably just be added with longer rallies.

So it probably comes down to this….do we want to see longer rallies and more breaks of serve, or do we want to preserve the skill of a great server?

7. Changing of Sides After 1 Game:

While there has been talk around not changing sides until after the third game, I don’t believe that is a reasonable rule, as we might find one player having to play into the sun or wind for three straight games. However, after the opening game, the players should change sides by walking around the opposite side of the net, as in, not where their chairs are located. Too often, players are going to their chair, procrastinating, and turning the change of ends into a quasi-sitdown.


A lot of these ideas have been trialled in events such as the NextGen finals, or at UTS events. While they may be seen as a bit of a novelty, the more they are tested, the more accepted they might be, should they be implemented on the main tour.

The sport needs to find ways to keep the momentum going, and while implementing one or two of these ideas won’t make tennis dramatically different, taking a majority of these on board, may just keep things moving at a quicker pace, and make our great sport, even more enjoyable to watch.


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