Hyeon Chung won the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan on Saturday, in what was a week that divided many observers.
The South Korean downed Russia’s Andrey Rublev 3-4 4-3 4-2 4-2 to be crowned the best player of his generation – in the absence of world No. 3 Alexander Zverev – to cap off a fine year for the 21-year-old.
While no one will discredit Chung for his victory – particularly having won all of his matches in Italy – the week’s focus largely rested on matters away from the players themselves.
The tournament tested out a new set of rules, many of which have split opinions among tennis fans.
ATP Next Gen Finals new rules
– No line judges – Hawk Eye used for all calls
– Sudden death deuce points (server chooses which side)
– Best of five sets but with four-game sets (tie-break at 3-3)
– No service lets – play as if a normal let
– 25 second shot clock on court
– End of set coaching via headset
– Supporters can move around during a match (apart from behind the baseline)
Here we take a look at them, hear from some of the game’s biggest stars on them and assess whether they should ever be integrated into the main ATP Tour.
Fans moving around during points
Let’s start with one of the most controversial. Supporters (who weren’t sat behind the baseline) were allowed to move freely throughout.
At regular events, fans are meant to stay in their seats until the players change ends.
Daniil Medvedev, who finished in 3rd place in Milan, made no secret of his dislike of the rule, immediately after his first match.
‘I didn’t really like that the crowd can walk [during points] – this is too much I think. That’s probably the only thing I think [I didn’t like],’ he said.
Verdict: Probably the least popular rule tested – not to be brought to the main ATP Tour.
25-second shot clock
A rule many of us have been calling for for some time – a shot clock was placed on the court to actually keep track of how long players are taking during points.
Described by Medvedev as ‘very fair’, it finally eliminates umpires making annoying interventions at random times in matches and cuts all subjectivity out of the issue.
‘I like this rule [the shot clock] because you don’t have the timer inside you, so when you receive a time violation, you’re a little bit frustrated,’ Medvedev said. ‘Here it’s very fair.’
Verdict: As good as any of the rules – hopefully fast-tracked sooner rather than later.
The four-game sets
Is five four-game sets really faster than three six-game sets? And if not, what’s the point of it?
The scoring looks weird just to four, and why oh why is the tiebreak at 3-3 not at 4-4?!
Not a fan, and Roger Federer isn’t either…
‘I didn’t see that much wrong with our tour right now that it needs that much fixing, especially the shorter set,’ he said at his pre-ATP Finals press conference. ‘I know it can be somewhat intriguing but the same time, the longer sets allow you to stretch a lead, it’s more comfortable at times.
‘You can try different things, you can work on stuff, whereas if every point counts so much that you really just – there’s no room for anything anymore.’
Verdict: Don’t get the point, don’t bring it in
Coaching is always a topic that splits opinion but the end-of-set headset coaching certainly added a new dimension to proceedings.
It seemed to flow better than when coaches come on court in WTA Tour matches and it brought about some entertaining moments, including this interaction with Denis Shapovalov and his coach.
During Andrey Rublev’s lengthy blister timeout, some coffee talk with Denis Shapovalov and his coach Martin Laurendau in Milan. pic.twitter.com/vrtdREKx9P
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) November 9, 2017
Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic said: ‘I’ve watched some of the matches. It’s been quite interesting and seeing what the coaches are saying at the end of sets.’
Verdict: Not one for the Grand Slams but other ATP Tour events could perhaps benefit with the added dimension to help drive up TV audiences
Hawk Eye line calls
Another of the strongest candidates, there can be no disagreements between players and umpires, no errors that we look back on and say that changed a match and even foot faults are called.
The technology seemed on point and Zverev was certainly a fan.
‘I don’t think many of the new innovations will transfer to the ATP World Tour. I think the automatic line calls will, I was positively surprised by that,’ he said.
Verdict: Get it in ASAP!
No let cords on serve
A tough one to see being introduced anytime soon, the players just continue if the net is struck and it bounces into the service box.
Are lets really that big an issue in the first place? Does it promote luck? It’s hard to see what the motivation behind its inclusion is.
‘I’m not a fan of no let cords,’ Cilic added.
Verdict: No, thanks!
Sudden death deuce points
Not a wholly unfamiliar a concept and its main advantage, in theory, is the speeding up of matches.
Some debated whether the returner rather than the server should be allowed to dictate which side he serves from, but it already seems to favour the returner quite heavily so I personally think that was the right call.
Either way, I’m not particularly convinced it adds much, so would give it a miss on the main tour.
Verdict: Not worth introducing.