Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Is Thirty30 Tennis the Future for the Sport?

Posted on 18 May 2021 by Sam Jacot

In the sporting world today, you would have almost certainly heard of T20 cricket. It has rejuvenated the sport since it was introduced in 2003 by the England and Wales Cricket Board, with fast-paced and dramatic matches gripping the support of fans.

This success is what Mark Milne wants to replicate in tennis through a format named Thirty30 over the next few years. Milne’s creation aims to provide a shorter, faster and more entertaining alternative to the traditional scoring system with each game starting from 30-30.

It is an addition to tennis that Milne, who is based in Arbroath, Scotland, thinks is essential to keep supporters of all ages engaged with the sport from a viewing perspective.

He said: “Tennis matches are going on too long and you have to be a real enthusiast to sit down for hour after hour and it is not really grabbing the attention of the younger generation.

“With Thirty30 every second point played is a game point so every point is big. The games in tennis that go to deuce are the more exciting games so with this format you are right into the heart of the game.

“If implemented on the professional tour, the fans would get the chance to see more matches, you could see two best of five set matches or you could go along and see five Thirty30 matches. I think it is a no brainer as you get to see twice the number of players.”

Embed from Getty Images

Alongside this, Milne thinks the concept can also benefit club players from junior to senior level who participate in the sport themselves.

“If you are a youngster going to go to a tournament you can use the round robin format where you can play four opponents,” Milne said.

“You would play a variety of styles and as a result it would be a far better learning experience than going along and playing a best of three set match against two opponents.

“For the older generation as well, I personally cannot last hours on court anymore against a youngster playing a traditional match but if you know you are going to play a best of three sets that will only last one hour, that is more doable and opens it up for senior tennis as well.”

Competition to Thirty30

Crucially, Thirty30 would maintain the traditions of tennis, with sets still to six games and advantage points played out from deuce meaning players would still have to win two points in a row to win a game. This is something Milne believes gives it an edge over other shorter formats such as Tennis Australia’s FAST4 and Patrick Mouratoglou’s Ultimate Tennis Showdown.

He said: “Personally, with FAST4, I don’t like it because it is detracting too far from tennis as seeing someone win a match 4-1, 4-3 does not look like tennis. It has been taken on by the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) in Britain, but a lot of other countries have not heard of it and others are not as keen on it.

“Then you have the Ultimate Tennis Showdown where four 10-minute quarters are played. However, if a player wins the first three quarters you still play the fourth quarter and I don’t know why.

“Also, if you try to implement that at club level the administration levels are way over the top. For example, you will have to have someone keeping the time for the ten minutes and players can waste time in this format. If it is coming down to nine minutes and the player is two points ahead, they will waste time.”

Embed from Getty Images

With competition in this sector therefore high, the aim for Milne is to continue to roll the concept out and get as many people using the format as possible.

Although the LTA have bought into Tennis Australia’s FAST4, consequently limiting their willingness to support Thirty30, Milne has received other positive feedback. With 11 worldwide ambassadors supporting his cause, it has continued to drive him on, with the aim to eventually run a Thirty30 tour alongside the main circuit.

We will have to see where it leads to in the future but it is definitely a format to try out the next time you are on a tennis court yourself.

Link to Mark Milne’s Thirty30 website can be found here.