Tramlines is not for one moment suggesting that anyone should have to sit through five sets of the disgrace to tennis that was Sabine Lisicki’s Wimbledon final capitulation to awkward, journeywoman slogger Marion Bartoli.
Far from it. Just over an hour of that dreary, teary dirge was more than enough. At times you were almost willing Lisicki to get broken to 6-1 again, just to put everyone out of their collective misery.
But if women’s Slams were best of five sets, there is little doubt that the two culprits would not have been contesting the sport’s Blue Riband event on a sunny Centre Court. And even if they had got there, the ripped-off punter would have got at least another set of Challenger-level sludge for their coin.
Tramlines discounts the outdated theory that female players cannot ‘last the distance’ compared to men.
With a few notable exceptions, a relative lack of service power means solid holds are less frequent, making points longer in women’s tennis. As a result, best of three is deemed appropriate for the Major tournaments.
That is understandable to a point, but there has to be a way to iron out the clear flaws that a best-of-three policy has on the game.
The shorter the match, the greater the chance of an upset – as Serena found out in the quarter-finals, a dodgy half-hour and an inspired couple of games from an opponent can end your Grand Slam dream.
There is no time to roar back from two sets down using superior fitness and mental strength as Andy Murray did against Fernando Verdasco, as Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have done so many times, and as Tommy Robredo did three times in a row at the French Open.
No, a couple of duff games at either end of consecutive sets can well see you knocked out by a lower-ranked hustler, with little margin for error.
Errors that the women’s game yield more frequently, mostly on account of a lack of power that can surely be countered by a level of stamina equal to the men.
Over five sets, supreme – yet very different – athletes such as Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska can crank up the pressure against the likes of Lisicki; one surely would have ousted the talented yet fragile German, and surely someone would have done for the unorthodox clogger that is Bartoli?
You could also argue that Lisicki’s tearful implosion came because she knew she had blown it – had she been a break down in the second with a chance of forcing four or five sets, she would likely have kept her composure, made a fist of it. But she knew she was finished, and it was all too easy to read on her distraught face.
Yes, top seeds fall, as we saw with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the men’s draw.
Once is bad luck, twice is carelessness but a third time? And a fourth? The women’s draw was utterly decimated – Black Wednesday injuries aside, Serena went out in the quarters, Radwanska in the semis, and Sam Stosur in the third – all to Lisicki, all in three.
The love of the underdog is a very British trait, but it was mostly Britons forced to sit through the abomination that was this year’s women’s Wimbledon final. Of course it is great to see unheralded outsiders go on runs, but you surely want the very best to contest finals – or at least the semis?
By contrast, the men’s top two Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray will contest Sunday’s men’s final, both having come through five-set epics in the latter stages.
They have earned it, showed their class, proved their worth. And the chances of one or the other suffering a Lisicki-style meltdown are slim to none. And all the better for it.