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Wimbledon 2010: The Event Has Turned Into a Serving Contest

Greg Del MarContributor IJune 28, 2010

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 28:  Robin Soderling of Sweden celebrates winning his match against David Ferrer of Spain on Day Seven of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 28, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Wimbledon has officially turned into a Serving Contest.

Do away with the scoreboard for sets, points, etc. . .Get rid of the opponent on the other side of the net. Just make this tournament about Big Serves. Make it a point system that grades on the percentage of serves in the box, maybe bonus points for placement, but above all, make it about the Radar Gun. Whoever lights up the radar gun to the highest speed wins the "match."

Make this the equivalent of baseball's Home Run Derby sideshow the day before the All-Star game, where pitchers lob batting practice pitches at the league's most musclebound sluggers and see how many tape-measure bombs they can launch out of the park.

Do the same for Wimbledon, because it has become a Serving Contest.

Anyone who has watched the tournament this year had to notice the huge number of 5-set matches in every round of the mens' play, as well as the large number of sets won in tiebreakers. Some matches were almost all tiebreakers where neither man broke the opponents' serve.

And how about the Mahut-John Isner match, where the 5th set went 118 straight games in which neither man could break the other's serve? Sheer madness.

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During the Sampras years, which was really the advent of the Huge Servers, many tournaments were in fact reduced to nothing more than serving contests, where rallies of 3 or more were rare. If you had a big serve, you entered the tournaments with the fastest courts and just hit bombs and swept everyone off the court. Besides Sampras, there was Rusedski, Rafter, Phillippoussis, and others who in many cases had spotty games, but consistently knocked out the top seeds in many tournaments based almost on serve alone.

Wimbledon was the fastest tournament, and Sampras, with his booming serve and great percentage and placement with that serve, dominated. The balls came in like a rocket, skidded and bounced at your shoestrings. You had almost no chance. When you hit the ball at all, it was usually just to fling the racket at it and serve up a short ball to Sampras, who was waiting at the net to put it away. Wimbledon had the familiar brown patch in the shape of a "T" from along the baseline, and up the middle to the net.

Patrick McEnroe writes in his latest book that Wimbledon during this time was in danger of losing its influence as a premier tournament. He uses the words "Serving Contest" to describe Wimbledon during this period. The Big Servers, combined with the superfast courts there had ruined the tournament. During this time, the Wimbledon top brass knew this and were devising a way to fix it. They changed the grass to a hardier rye, which slowed down the courts, made for truer bounces, diminished the importance of the big serve, and extended the points some. What came next is that once the big servers couldn't dominate as much, the serve-and-volleyers lessened on the tour, and the baseliners gained the ascendancy. A serve-and-volley player is at a disadvantage now, with today's technology, where many players have backhands equal or better than their forehands. With that being the case, where could they serve. The baseliner could rip super topspin shots back at them from either wing, pass them on the run and off-balance with their super-rackets that are all sweet spot and no mishit.

Now a new generation of Big Servers has come, and there are at least a couple dozen players on tour who regularly hit 135mph plus with their serves. Even with the changes to the Wimbledon grass, this new generation of big hitters have again upped the ante and made Wimbledon a serving match.Wimbledon is their arena, and you either "Go Big or Go Home."

Is this good for the game? I don't know. It has put Federer, Nadal, and others in trouble immediately against any journeyman player with a big serve. By the time they find their footing and "figure out" the other player, they are often already two sets down. Yes, the top 4 seeds are in the quarterfinals, but they have all been close to the brink and on the ropes against players who are "Big Servers and Nothing Else" this Wimbledon.

If this is a trend, perhaps Wimbledon should take a look at how they do things. Perhaps a 5th set tiebreaker if both men are tied after 10-all? Maybe the tennis association should spread out the season and lengthen the grass court warmup seasonย  so the players could have more time adjusting to the surface before Wimbledon? It would also be nice to consider if you want your tournament to be a Big-Serving crapshoot every year. And how do you reward the different styles of play, so that serve-and-volley is rewarded, and good baseline play is, as well?

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