Unlike boxing or gymnastics, tennis scores are not subjective. Still, I have noticed a marked change in score lines. For men, women, slam and non-slam tournaments straight set wins are decreasing. Without looking at the sport’s statistical database, it is clear to any observer, the changes in tennis scores tell a troubling story.
For some, the score line is unimportant. A win is a win. But when a win begins to change the game, if only statistically, one has to wonder. Why is the score line changing so significantly?
A 6-0, 6-0 match was once an anomaly, rare. The lopsided victory tells of a hot, in the zone player, an uneven match-up or worse an injured athlete. We all remember the Serena/Sharapova London 2012 routing 6-1, 6-0. Serena was in rare form, serving whole games of aces and simply outplaying the Russian. She elevated her game for the Olympic Gold. Today, nearly ten years later, she’s playing an awful lot of three set matches. But so are a lot of players. And the score lines are headscratchers. Today Samsonova defeated Bencic 1-6, 6-1, 6-3 to snatch the Berlin Grass Court Championship.
In her prime, Serena used the first two or three games to sus-out her opponent. That was enough for her to test their game plan, skills/weaknesses, and her plan of attack. This is no longer. Players are using entire sets to do this. What else explains the uneven sea-saw scores now prominent on both the women’s and men’s tour?
The tight, competitive match, even the long tie-break match is a thing of the past. The 6-4, 6-4 score is disappearing. But why? An improved field, Fitness. Equipment. Training. Statistics. Nutrition, Focus, Television… No one answer explains this phenomenon.
The next time you see an uneven three set match win, you will wonder a little more about the sport’s decision to partner with betting organization, Bally’s/Bet Works. Tennis Channel (Sinclair RSN) has given said organization a platform to revolutionize the US sports betting, gaming and media industries. This is very different than a sports drink, shoe or clothing sponsorship. We have grown accustomed to seeing these products in press conferences and as backdrops on the court and in the commentator studio. But seeing a betting company logo splashed across a sport blurs the line to the point of erasure.
This may be an unjustified leap, but it does not bode well for the sport nor the overlords (tournament organizers) who sanction this atrocity of ethics.