Why men should play three-set matches at Grand Slams – Azarenka


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It's one of sport's oldest debates, but it won't go away as players and top figures in tennis throw their weight behind new ideas.

It has previously been argued by some to the point of tedium that women's matches should be extended to five sets if they are to warrant receiving equal prize money, but now the attention has shifted to the other professional tour.

Victoria Azarenka has become the latest top player to argue that men's Grand Slam matches should be reduced.

The fact is, sport is becoming more and more dictated by television schedules and the demands of spectators - many of whom do not have the desire to sit through five sets.

The idea of men playing best-of-three at the Slams is not entirely far-fetched, it has to be pointed out.

Roger Federer was asked about the prospect of the four biggest events in the tennis calendar becoming like the others on the ATP Tour which follow a best-of-three format until the best-of-five final.

He had no problem with the suggestion apart from the need to reschedule the length of the Slams, believing that it would suit players, spectators and the key stakeholders of the game.

The Swiss legend did, however, point out that Grand Slams should be reduced in length to make allowances for matches being cut down to best-of-three sets.

"We shouldn’t make it a two‑week event then, I don’t think, because then it’s like a holiday," Federer said during the 2012 Western and Southern Open.

It would, of course, mean that certain historic and legendary epic matches would not come about because of the reduced format, but then many fans do not have an appetite for such encounters.

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Azarenka has weighed in more heavily as the former world number one and current number two is adamant that the men's game would be more interesting if it were scaled down from five sets.

"I think there has been a lot of talk about [women playing best-of-five]," she said. "I think we can stand by one opinion that all the women have: we’re ready to play whatever it is.

"I just think that playing five sets can be very challenging for the scheduling. I actually think men should play three sets. It would be more interesting."

Andy Roddick, similarly, was asked about the same issue and believes that it is vitally important to consider the desires and requirements of the TV audience and fans at the events.

"I wouldn’t be against it," the American said. "I could easily argue both ways. From a fan perspective and a TV perspective, it would probably be easier to put together a product for TV when you know the time slots a little bit more.

"Sometimes at Slams you get a match that’s great, but it kind of makes it tricky as far as TV.  That’s kind of the livelihood of healthy sport in general is TV viewership.

"Ultimately, it comes back down to what the fans want to see. I think our opinion on that sometimes is secondary to what they can sell and what they can package."

All season the best men in the world are playing best-of-three matches, but when the Grand Slams roll around they have to completely change their mentality with a best-of-five format. This is not the case in other major sports.

One of the other key aspects to this debate is that, over the course of five sets, the cream almost always rises to the top - as evidenced by the paucity of upsets at the top of the men's game.

If the format went to a best-of-three for the men, it would bring a lot more names in the game that have the ability to win a couple of sets off the top players, that much is certainly true.

Well, would it be such a bad thing to speed up the game, speed up the matches and give fans and viewers a better idea of when certain matches are actually being played at an accurate time?

So what do you think? Is Azarenka right - would it really be more interesting for the men to play best-of-three sets in Grand Slams, just like the women do? Post your views below...

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