Representative Photo by AFP
BIOT: With new rules and new formats, Patrick Mouratoglou, the coach of Serena Williams, unveiled his Ultimate Tennis Showdown tournament in the south of France on Sunday.
Targeting a younger audience, the players were allotted nicknames such as the ‘Sniper, ‘Underdog’, ‘Rebel’ and ‘Artist’ and its ambitious host hopes he can launch a parallel circuit to the ATP.
Whether it catches on or not remains to be seen but the ‘Sniper’, better known as Australia’s Alexei Popyrin, went down as the first match winner beating the ‘Underdog’ Elliot Benchetrit, the world 208.
The matches pan out very differently to the way tennis is traditionally scored, with four quarters, noisy countdowns, time-outs, and even bonus cards to prolong a service game.
Even the commentators are visible on a mini-screen.
There will be 50 matches in total over five weekends of tennis where every player faces each other before a round-robin final of six.
Although he was absent this weekend, world number three Dominic Thiem is the highest-ranked player.
Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini and David Goffin, who are all in the world top 10, are also involved.
Dustin Brown, dubbed the ‘Artist’ for his serve-and-volley style, also featured at the weekend.
The tournament package is sold over the internet and organisers are hoping to sign up 50,000 subscribers, paying between 10 and 12 euros to watch the action.
There is also potential income from paying fans, but Sunday’s action took place behind closed doors due to the coronavirus restrictions.
With the professional tour on ice since the middle of March, the event at the Mouratoglou academy near Nice at least gives players the chance to stay match sharp.
“You will not find a player ready to play five sets,” said French star Richard Gasquet.