Mark Milne the founder of Thirty30 emphasised in an interview with InsiderSport that all sports are forced to evolve and Thirty30 tennis, is the evolution that will accelerate the reach of tennis into a new demographic.
InsiderSport: Can you detail Tennis T30 as sport? What are its origins and how did you develop its concept?
Mark Milne: Thirty30 (T30) tennis is an abbreviated format of tennis where every point really counts and can be described as the tennis equivalent of cricket’s Twenty20 (T20). The very simple rules of T30 are exactly the same as traditional tennis, except:- every game played starts at 30-all and the score of “Thirty30” is announced at the start of every game.
If a set reaches six games all, a Short Set ‘nine-point tie-break’, i.e. first to five points, sudden death at four – four, is played to decide the winner of the set by seven – six. During a set, players serve alternative games and only change ends initially after two games, then after every four games and at the end of each set, i.e. change ends after two, six and 10 games during a set.
A set of Thirty30 takes in general no longer than 20 minutes with a best of three sets match completed in no longer than 60 minutes and best of five sets in 90 minutes.“30-30” game starts are nothing new and have been used over many years to give players experience of playing more “big” points, as warm-up drills, during rain delayed tournaments to shorten matches, etc. but what is new is that it has now been tidied up, ‘packaged’ as a formal match format and a new brand of tennis.
InsiderSport: Why does tennis, a well-funded sport with a global reach and profile, in addition to superstar athletes such as Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic, need to be reinterpreted?
Mark Milne: As time passes, all sports are forced to evolve to keep up. Certain rules and principles become outdated and in order to refrain from becoming obsolete, sports have to adjust. Amongst fans, sport consumption habits are changing. While short-form has been on the rise, traditional sports formats have been struggling to attract new audiences and participants.
From 100-ball cricket, to 3X3 basketball to Tie Break Tens (tennis), new short forms of sport are attracting plenty of media attention alongside their growing armies of fans.The introduction of short-form formats provides the perfect antidote to the modern fan’s appetite: action served up fast, live,and without extended breaks.
Tennis is going through a period of change, with new faster formats being tried and tested as an alternative to the traditional scoring method, e.g. ‘Tie-Break Tens’ where an eight-player knockout event is played to a winner in a single two hour ‘Session’ of Match Tie-Breaks to 10 points and the ATP NextGen Events held in Milan trialled matches that were best of five sets, sets were to four games with a T-B at three-all and ‘No Ads’ (‘sudden-death’ deuce) and ‘No Lets’ were also used.
There is an appetite within tennis for shorter format matches and the ITF Rules of Tennis now include in Appendix V, alternative methods to shorten matches, i.e. sets to four games & No Ads & No Lets (i.e. ‘Fast4’), the Short Set Tie-Break (best of nine points, sudden death at 4-4) and the Match (or Champions or Super) Tie-Break (10 points). Only just last week the ITF announced that the 2020 Tokyo Games tennis matches will be played over a shorter format – the men’s singles final is to be cut to the best of three sets and the third set match tie-break will be used in all of the doubles events.
InsiderSport: As the creator of T30, what platforms are you utilising to promote the sport. Furthermore, what type of traditional sports barriers have been broken for innovators such as yourself to develop new sporting concepts?
Mark Milne: Through the T30 tennis website (www.thirty30tennis.com) and social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Podcasts, Interviews) I have for over 16 months been contacting tennis people all around the world asking them to try the T30 format and I have been in contact with many fantastic people from club players, coaches and volunteers right up to people operating at the very highest echelons of the sport.
Feedback has been very encouraging, resulting in over 200 testimonials on the Thirty30 website – youngsters have especially been enjoying playing the faster moving and more exciting format. Jim Baugh, President, US Tennis Industry Association (2004-06) said; “Every traditional sport needs to change and look for new ways to make the game more appealing to today’s players or potential players. Thirty30 looks like a system which will appeal to players and offers shorter and more intense matches. Alternative forms of tennis are needed for sure and Mark’s system seems to be a winner.”
InsiderSport: What is your long-term goal for T30 as a sport in its early inception – where do you want to take T30?
Mark Milne: In 2017, I applied to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to “Amend the Rules of Tennis” to have Thirty30 considered as an alternative scoring method and it was discussed by the ITF Rules of Tennis Committee at their meeting in Paris during the 2017 French Open.
Unfortunately, it was decided not to forward the application to the Board as “there were already sufficient methods within Appendix V (Alternative Scoring Methods) of the Rules of Tennis to shorten matches”.
I responded that I thought that the Thirty30 scoring method was possibly better than ‘sets to four games, No Ads, No Lets’ (i.e. Tennis Australia’s Fast4) and the ‘MT-B (10 points)’ as it retains the traditions of tennis far better, i.e. sets to six games (lead by two),T-B at six games all and Ad Points are all still played, it’s more dynamic and that I would commence trialling T30 all over the world and get back to them.
Through trialling, I am building a case to re-apply to the ITF to get Thirty30 accepted for trial purposes as per the 2019 ITF Rules of Tennis ‘Foreword’: “Appendix V (Alternative Scoring Methods) lists all known and approved alternative procedures and scoring methods. In addition, on its own behalf or on application by interested parties, certain variations to the rules may be approved by the ITF for trial purposes only at a limited number of tournaments or events and/or for a limited time period. Such variations are not included in the published rules and require a report to the ITF on the conclusion of the approved trial. ”Following this, anything is possible – it would be fantastic to see T30 tennis competing alongside T20 cricket at the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
During the Cincinnati Open last year, Novak Djokovic commented: “This new generation of tennis fans and millennials, they don’t have the great attention span. They want things to happen very quickly. So, for the players as well and to attract more people, more viewers of a younger audience, I think we have to keep tennis matches dynamic and shorter.”The future of tennis requires having alternative shorter more dynamic scoring formats to help encourage competition and drive participation. T30 Tennis delivers this.Can you imagine one week watching traditional best of five or three sets battles and the next week tuning into a ‘best of five sets’ T30 match between Federer and Djokovic or Halep and Kerber?