It’s 11:49 a.m. right now, and instead of working, I’ve been watching World Team Tennis for the past hour and a half…
World Team Tennis started this past Sunday and if you’re like me, you can’t get enough of this event. It’s the perfect combination highlighting the individual sport of tennis and the camaraderie that team sports offer. It makes tennis faster, more fun, and more dramatic.
Below, I’ll dive into what World Team Tennis is, explain the format, and show you why I think World Team Tennis is doing things right when so many other tennis organizations struggle during the pandemic.
World Team Tennis is a professional tennis league currently with 9 teams across the US. The teams include some of the top tennis players in the world.
Their current 2020 season just began in an adjusted format due to COVID-19. They’re playing the entire season at a resort in West Virginia called The Greenbrier from July 12 through August 2.
Each team has about four to six players, both men and women, and a coach. Check out the World Team Tennis website for more.
Here are 5 things I LOVE about World Team Tennis, and 5 reasons you should watch it on TV.
It took me a while to get the format down, but it makes a lot of sense for a team event. Every rule puts a focus on two things.
A match consists of 5 total sets, including a set of men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles.
They play short sets to 5 with a tiebreaker at 4 all. This gives each doubles team two service games before the tiebreaker. Enough to have the better team usually win, but not too much so that you can play loose for a few games.
They also play no-ad scoring, which adds to the big point drama, and keeps things moving along. Since you have teammates waiting to play on the bench, you don’t really want a 20-minute deuce game that has them waiting longer than they need to.
They play lets too, which keep things moving. In doubles, the returner’s partner can actually hit the let.
Most important is the overall scoring. The total game count is what matters.
This means if you get down 4-0 in a set, you don’t throw the set away like you often see in normal tennis. Players still fight to get one or two extra games. EVERY GAME MATTERS.
This format means almost every match is close. I’ve watched 7 matches so far, and only two seemed decided heading into the final set. Even still, if the trailing team wins the last set, they have a chance to tie by winning consecutive games until the game count is even.
Overall, the rules do take a minute to understand, but once you get them, they make a ton of sense for a team event.
You can find more detailed rules on the World Team Tennis about page.
Tennis is typically known as an individual sport. Obviously you have doubles, but singles usually get more attention.
World Team Tennis does a great job of making this a fun team environment. I could see myself rooting for a team in a way I would cheer for an NBA or college football team. You can really get to know the players and see their personalities on the court & on the bench.
Coco Vandeweghe, for example, stands up to cheer almost every time a teammate wins a point. Steve Johnson, I’ve noticed, has some quirky ways he tosses the tennis ball to his partner or throws his racquet.
These personalities are things you can get behind as a fan. It’s one of the things that make having a hometown team to root for so much fun.
They’ve removed line judges for the event, likely for pandemic related reasons.
I’ve personally been begging for this for years. I’ve never understood why we should have challenges when Hawkeye can give us the correct call instantly. Challenges stall the momentum of the match when we don’t need to. It seems like a waste of time.
One of my favorite things about tennis is that there are no judgement calls. Almost never can you blame a loss on the referee as you can in football, basketball, soccer, and a number of other sports.
Why then, allow for human judgment and error if we don’t have to?
I know, jobs, but still…
WTT plays music between the points. They have an announcer over the microphone yelling and pumping up the 20% capacity COVID crowd for big points.
You can also hear the bench of both teams yelling and cheering. I can only imagine what a tight home match would be like, with 100% fans.
It looks like a difficult thing to attend and not have fun.
Doubles is (in my objective opinion) more fun to play, and often, more fun to watch than singles. I LOVE the emphasis WTT puts on doubles.
Doubles is what most club and recreational players play around the world, yet you almost never get to see doubles on TV, much less mixed doubles. In World Team Tennis, you see both.
What’s even better is that this 2020 season is on ESPN2 & CBS Sports Network, along with Tennis Channel starting this Sunday. With the pandemic shutting down most sports, tennis, one of the few socially distant, outdoor sports, has mostly struggled to take advantage of this opportunity. World Team Tennis is doing a great job by getting national TV coverage and making it safe with proper testing and safety protocols.
Sports fans want to watch sports, and with no baseball on TV, I hope many Americans will check out WTT and take a larger interest in the sport.
World Team Tennis has taken everything a beginner might find boring about tennis, and fixed it.
Complaint: We’ve been watching the same two people for 3 hours…
Solution: One set to 5, then new players.
Complaint: Why is this girl still serving? This game has gone on for 20 minutes.
Solution: No Ad
Complaint: He’s down 4-1. He’ll tank the set and try to win the next.
Solution: Game total determines the winner. Every game counts.
Beginner: I don’t understand the rules. Why are you serving again because the ball hit the net? It still went in.
Me: It’s a let. When the ball hits the net and goes in, you serve again.
Beginner: But two points ago my return hit the net and went in, we just kept playing. Why is the serve different?
Me: It just is.
Complaint: Too many rules.
Solution: Play lets.
Complaint: Why do we have to be so quiet? It’s BORING.
Solution: Music between points. Announcer pumping up the crowd. Bench right on the court cheering.
As a long time tennis player, coach, and fan, I don’t mind sitting down for 3 hours and watching a high-quality singles match. But I can’t expect a beginner to appreciate how big a point it was when Nadal finally held serve to stay in the set, or how difficult that short backhand angle was that Serena just hit.
When I’m new to a sport, I need quick action, a fun environment, and new content to keep me interested. World Team Tennis is providing that for sports fans in a time that they need it most.
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Will Boucek is the Founder & CEO of The Tennis Tribe. He has played tennis for over two decades, including in college. Will has worked with ATP & WTA tour players and coaches. He currently lives in Austin TX where he plays USTA leagues & tournaments, writes about tennis, and teaches doubles workshops.