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"Cut the men's Grand Slam matches to best of three sets or we'll be taking them out on stretchers"

martina_navratilova_tennis
June 24, 2013
Tennis legend and Laureus World Sports Academy Member Martina Navratilova predicts that Wimbledon and the other Grand Slams will switch to three set matches for men in the future – or we could see more injuries to the top men’s players.

In an exclusive interview with Laureus.com, Martina, who won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, including nine at Wimbledon, said: “It’s really becoming so taxing that I believe one day we will have two out of three sets in the Grand Slams, otherwise they’re going to be taking people out on stretchers.”

Martina says the injuries to the big name players this year – Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray – has highlighted a growing concern.
She said: “We have always had issues with injuries, but this year it came to light more so when the top guys are hurt. Rafael Nadal’s had issues, he was out for about eight months. Now Andy Murray has missed the French Open because of a bad back and Novak Djokovic had issues as well with his ankle.”

Martina highlighted a series of reasons for her concern. “Number one, we’re playing on hard surfaces most of the year, not clay.  We used to play with wood and gut, now they play with metal or some kind of synthetic racket. They put a lot more hours in and everybody hits the ball harder, you have to run harder. Plus the courts are slower so the rallies take longer. This has to take its toll on the body,” she said.

“You play a long match and it takes you months to recover, because it’s like running a marathon in sprints, but then sometimes you have to go out and play a match the next day or two days later.”

Her solution is for men’s Grand Slam competitions to switch from the best of five sets to the best of three sets, which is the current format for the women. She said: “I think a way to curb it would be to play the Grand Slams for men only two out of three sets.”

And to those who say we cannot tamper with the historic format of Grand Slams, she has an answer: “We have changed the scoring system, where it shortens some games at least.  But we didn’t have tie-breaks until the ‘70s in tennis, so that we used to have 14, 12, 24, 22 game sets all the time.  Now imagine if we didn’t have tie-breaks and playing three out five – good luck! So, yes we’ve changed the rules in tennis and this is another one that could happen.”

Martina, who remained relatively fit during her career, although she did need surgery on both knees towards the end, added: “I played a lot of tournaments.  I would play probably 17 to 20 tournaments a year and I played singles and doubles. Some Grand Slams I played mixed doubles as well, so I played a lot of tennis.  But the matches were shorter for me. I played very aggressive games, so I didn’t have long rallies. But could I do that now?  No. I wouldn’t be able to play doubles in all the events.”