Third set's a charm

Published March 10, 2014

I read with interest this post about Maria Sharapova’s views on men playing three set matches. I’ve heard the arguments that women should play five-setters, to earn the equal prize money they were given a while back, but I hadn’t heard the flip side to that.

At first, I couldn’t really see any reason for change, but actually reading her quotes, it makes a lot of sense. Sharapova’s main points were that it would make the matches more exciting, because every point really is crucial, and that it would ease the strain on men’s bodies, as some of these matches are now reaching the five hour and beyond mark.

It would be more exciting from the beginning of the match because you know that first set is extremely important. When you are watching a three-out-of-five-set match, the first set sometimes doesn’t mean too much.

Shortening matches to increase excitement is a difficult point to argue, and I veer back and forth on the subject. On the one hand, Maria’s right, every single point would be epic, players would have to be right on it from the start, and there’s no margin for error. It also appeals to the speed-sporting enthusiast in me, as it’s rare I have five hours to set aside to watch a match, and I inevitably end up watching the beginning and missing the end, or catching the final point with none of the build up.

It’s in the build up, though, where the tension and the rollercoaster nature of tennis can really entertain. Some of the classic five set matches are those that swing one way then the other, or see dominance followed by a massive comeback. In three sets, there’s just no time for that to happen. Some of the women’s matches, if one-sided, can last an hour at most.

And yet, there’s an argument for that too. If the scores are so one-sided, better to put the players and the crowd out of their misery. You could fit more matches in to a day, and you wouldn’t risk running late into the night and past your event curfew.

I think, ultimately, I fall on the side of wanting shorter matches, for my own selfish purposes of having the time to watch them. If it keeps the players that bit more healthy, all the better. I can see the other side, and what could be lost without the endurance element, but I think the pros outweigh the cons.

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