Whilst we all await with a growing desire to see top-level tennis once more around the world, a potential tennis revolution draws near. The Ultimate Tennis Showdown begins on 13th June and its management team are promising big things.
Patrick Mouratoglou has joined forces with Alex Popyrin (World #103 Alexei’s father) to bring us UTS. The Ultimate Tennis Showdown may sound like a particularly badly titled daytime reality TV show but we are promised a tennis experience “like never before”.
Explaining The Concept
Mouratglou is attempting to fill the tennis void that the COVID-19 situation has produced, but is doing so with innovation. It is clear that the Frenchman is trying to attract a different audience;
“Most tennis traditionalists justify their drive for inaction by the fact they supposedly love tennis more. If you really love tennis, you want it to survive, to live, to develop. Loving tennis, in my opinion, is embracing change so that our sport doesn’t fall behind the other sports.”
The desire for this change is built upon the idea that tennis has lost its characters. The likes of John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, and Bjorn Borg are used as examples of “characters” that tennis no longer produces. It is felt that by taking away the strict code of conduct in tennis that it will allow tennis’ more colorful characters to flourish.
There are also concerns that tennis fans are old and that the sport has missed out on a generation of support. Mouratoglou quotes an average age of 61 for a tennis fan. He does this without producing supporting evidence, however.
Nevertheless, the mission of UTS is to provide tennis fans with real entertainment. To do this the “rules” of tennis have been bent, sometimes broken. The actual rule changes haven’t yet been made clear. Other than the fact that the games and matches will be “faster” there is no concrete information as to how this will be achieved.
Who Is Playing?
The cast of “characters” for the first edition of this tournament is fairly impressive. It is clear from the selection exactly what UTS is aiming to be.
Each player has a nickname and each “showdown” has its own “boxing-style” one-on-one poster design.
There have only been nine announcements for the ten-man roster. The tenth man is mysteriously cast as a central shadow in the promotional material making it appear as though this is a very important player indeed. Could it be one of the “big three”?
The players that we do know of, along with their nicknames, are:
- “The Greek God” Stefanos Tsitsipas
- “The Wall” David Goffin
- “The Hammer” Matteo Berrettini
- “The Young Gun” Felix Auger-Aliassime
- “The Rebel” Benoit Paire
- “The Virtuoso” Richard Gasquet
- “The Artist” Dustin Brown
- “The Sniper” Alexei Popyrin
- “The French Flair” Lucas Pouille
As you can see with the likes of 35-year-old world #239 Dustin Brown in the selection, this is not a meritocracy. If you are deemed “entertaining” in some way then UTS is interested.
When and where is the Ultimate Tennis Showdown on?
The first set of four matches are due to take place on Saturday, 13th June.
All four matches will take place at the Mouratoglou Academy in the French Riviera. The complex houses 34 tennis courts, some hard, some clay. Social distancing rules will be able to be enforced easily and fans will not be permitted to watch the matches at this stage. Using these large coaching academy facilities seems a sensible approach and one that could be seen as the most effective way to restart tennis.
Fan interaction will be limited to the TV action. However, this has also been promoted by UTS as a revolution with increased access to player/coach interaction and more dialogue encouraged between the players themselves.
TV spectators, however, will be charged for the privilege of watching this revolution happen. The matches will all be streamed live but at the cost of a monthly subscription fee. That fee equates to $154 a year, a figure that is more expensive than the Tennis TV subscription. UTS really is banking on its entertainment value and lack of competition in the market.
Last Word On Tennis will be a keen observer of this new venture. There will be a full appraisal of the opening day’s action on this site after the dust has settled. Bring on the revolution.
Main Photo from Getty.