Martina Navratilova has told The Tennis Space that men’s matches at Wimbledon and other grand slams should be shortened to the best of three sets. “Tennis matches shouldn’t be a physical marathon, and tennis needs to think about the long-term health of the players,” said Navratilova, who will be part of BT Sport’s team covering women’s tennis.
“People who disagree with women receiving equal pay at the grand slams keep making the argument that women don’t play three out of five sets. But the top women would be willing to play three out of five. But maybe the point should be that the men should be playing two out of three. Why are they playing three out of five at the slams, and the rest of the year they are just playing two out of three? You can’t figure out the winner over three sets?
“Men should definitely be playing two out of three sets, especially as the points are longer these days. They play on hard surfaces – the two slams played on hard courts, they just take so much out of your body. You can’t recover. It’s like running a marathon, and then having to run another one just two days later, or maybe even the next day. And then again and again. And then you might not have anything left when you reach the semi-finals. I don’t think the game should be that much of a question of physical fitness. I say this as someone who put physical fitness at a premium. I wanted to play three out of five sets because I knew the other girl would get tired. But should you win when you’re maybe less talented, but you’re just not as tired?
“It’s not a marathon. Tennis matches shouldn’t be a physical marathon – they should only be a marathon in your head. But not so much on your legs. Two out of three sets put a premium on focus and mental toughness because there’s a lot more pressure. The shorter the format, the more pressure there is. The top players want three out of five because they don’t want some hotshot beating them in the second round when they get hot for two sets – those hotshots usually can’t do that for three sets. Overall, for the long-term health of the players, they need to look at it. It would also be better for TV.”
Coming soon – Martina Navratilova discusses Serena Williams’ future.