Curbing the power game
Tennis' governing body has initiated talks to tone down the prevelance of power in today's game, including a closer look at the players' racquets. Athletic brutes hell-bent on crushing the ball with their high-tech hardware is proving an increasing turn-off for sponsors and fans worldwide, writes James Buddell.
They've slowed down the balls, slowed down the courts, but it's still not enough.
Some have gone as far as clamour for a return to the wooden racquet, a move that the International Tennis Federation is not considering. At least not yet.
"We must conserve the integrity of the game," acknowledges ITF president Ricci Bitti.
"We want to work with manufacturers to work out what can be done. This is an issue for the future."
RETURN TO THE OLD DAYS
The need to curb power and excessive spin came to a head at the Wimbledon championships earlier this month when former greats including John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Boris Becker and Stan Smith signed a petition for smaller racquet heads.
British television commentator and former Davis Cup player John Barrett was one of the first to spearhead the crusade against exaggerated topspin, seeing it as the greatest danger to the sport.
"Diversity is what makes tennis such a wonderful sport. The baseliner against the serve-volleyer... that is what people want to see," Barrett said.
"But these days what I see is a rather monotonous sport with rallying from the baseline. Something must be done if we are going to restore the balance," he told the ITF.
Barrett favours a return to wooden rackets arguing that with a racket nine inches wide you can still hit topspin, "but the difference [is] you need perfect timing."
But not all of today's power hitters agree.
Wimbledon semi-finalist Andy Roddick, whose serve reached a record 149mph at Queen's, believes the current players should be the ones drawing up petitions, not former players watching from the commentary booth.
A POTENTIAL SOLUTION
One idea could be smaller racquets for professional players, while amateurs would continue to use the larger models.
The disparity in the type of equipment would quickly dwindle as tennis fans would go out and buy the racquets of their favourite player.
A Serena Williams or a Lleyton Hewitt would have to rely on placement, instead of simply wearing down their opponents.