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WTA Finals — Tennis doesn’t have a clue about court speeds

Matt Zemek

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Jerry Lai -- USA TODAY Sports

It was not a secret in the global tennis community that the court used in Singapore for the past several editions of the WTA Finals was very gritty and slow. The move to Shenzhen for the 2019 WTA Finals offered the possibility that the court for this year-end tournament would be a lot faster.

Well… if you watched Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu grind their way through two grueling sets — so grueling that both players needed medical attention after the second set of a three-set battle — you saw that nothing improved.

Tennis just doesn’t get it when the topic is court speeds… and before you stop reading this article, let me quickly tell you: NO, this is not an argument for fast courts throughout the two tours over the full length of a tennis season.

This is not an argument for the idea that fast-surface tennis is better than slow-surface tennis, or that fast-surface tennis is the only “REAL” tennis. No. This is not that.

My point is a lot more specific. To be precise, it goes beyond the point that tennis should move away from homogenized surfaces and seek variety. YES, I do agree that we should test tennis players on various speeds and in various situations, but my point is even more targeted.

Tennis ought to realize that in the second half of a tennis season, it is important to speed up surfaces.

That point should be obvious to anyone in a leadership position in the sport, but clearly, the leaders in this sport either don’t get it or don’t WANT to get it.

Let’s make the point very simply:

In the second half of a season, players are more worn down. That’s it. That’s the tweet.

Tennis players get a few months off before the Australian Open. Having a slower court at the Australian Open is fine, because players have had enough of a rest break to push their bodies more.

Having slower hardcourts in January through March is fine. Players are fresher. Asking tennis players to push themselves early in a season is reasonable.

However, when we get to the second large block of hardcourt tennis in a season — early August through late October — anyone with a functioning brain should know that if we want to make tennis players more durable and less susceptible to injury, the sport should create lightning-fast playing conditions.

Yes, this has the effect — and benefit — of turning the two hardcourt portions of a tennis year into two distinctly different tests for players, which creates variety and diversity, two things which create a quality product. Yet, that’s not the biggest reason to do this.

The biggest reason is to preserve players’ bodies in August and September and early October.

Players know they will have to play shorter points. They know when they take the court that they won’t be playing two-hour two-set matches or three-hour three-set matches.

The reality that players know they won’t be as physically extended on ultra-fast surfaces in September/October/November might also make them more likely to play in tournaments they otherwise might skip due to injury fears or worries about attrition.

This is so obvious. Yet, tennis walks right past it.

Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu could tell you a story about this.

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Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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