Everyone agrees!
By Jim Reffkin

July 2003

Everyone agrees that the antiquated scoring system our sport now uses; love, 15, 30, etc., makes no sense whatsoever, and if anything, serves as an obstacle for a typical sports fan watching on television or playing for the first time.

Someone please tell me why we have not changed this archaic scoring? Do we still think that we are so elite that we do not want people to understand our game and thereby prevent them from playing or watching? Come to think of it, why do tournament players continuously lose tract of the score, and almost never call the score out loud when they are supposed to?

Everyone agrees, we are currently making every effort to "grow the game." So lets not baffle the average sports fan and demand he "study" our game to appreciate its importance in history. Speaking of history, have you ever tried to find out why there is love then 15 then 30 then 40? Forget about it, because no one seems to know, but be sure the average sports fan thinks its silly and couldn't care less. They just want to know who is winning and by how much. Can't we make it a little easier to find out?

Everyone agrees we should change, so like every other sport, I am suggesting numerical numbers. Help me here, is there any reason why we can't keep this simple enough that children and adults can immediately understand when they are first learning, or first watching as a spectator. Please keep in mind, we are changing nothing here. We are not talking about no-ad scoring, you still need four points to win a game, and you still need to be ahead by two.

Gene Scott in a recent editorial in Tennis Week described our scoring as a "tedious turnoff" and an "example of the game's ongoing mindlessness."

Alan Schwartz, the current USTA President, was quoted in the Chicago Tribune and agrees we must change our archaic nonsensical scoring.

Think about it, simply on the basis of the needless time consuming explanation we must give to beginning players, I do not think there is a single teaching professional who does not agree with my suggestion. Universally, all coaches, instructors and teaching professionals currently suffer a waste of time explaining the absurd anachronism our tennis governing bodies have left us with.

Last year, in Tucson's most important adult tournament, the city tennis championship, I piloted this concept. I umpired the match from the usual umpire stand with a considerable number of people watching, including a reporter from the Tucson Citizen. Amazing, not only did the spectators pick up on it very quickly, but they also appreciated the excitement of the lengthy games that were now numerically unfolding. We had games go into double digits: 10-8 and even 11-9.

On the other hand, with the traditional archaic scoring, the average spectator usually does not understand, or can accurately keep track of the length of a game, so it becomes an impatient "what a long game." This happens because no one - except the chair umpire - ever has a running total of how many points are played in each of the games. The result is, with numeric scoring, everyone, especially the sportswriters, understand and appreciate the excitement and significance of the lengthy games.

Everyone may agree, but this does not mean it will happen. Even though the WTA and ATP have been encouraging the USTA to promote the game more - this change would be a no-brainer - my experience in pioneering change tells me talk is cheap, so when you believe in something and when the time is right and everyone agrees - "just do it."

So I hope Alan Schwartz agrees, because with no money, little effort and without making any changes on how our game is played, our new USTA President has the opportunity to truly grow the game of tennis. I suggest the USTA lead the global tennis community by introducing in some capacity, hopefully somewhere at the US Open, possibly in the early rounds or in the qualifier, this long overdue change.

Keep in mind, in order for us to eliminate the "tedious turnoff" Gene Scott describes, and to impact tennis awareness in the general population, it must happen at an event that will have chair umpires and broad television coverage. There are some glitches, but not insurmountable. So lets forget about deuce and ad, lets think he or she won 4-1 or it was a longer game at 8-6. And here is an interesting question, does anyone know the record of how many points were played in one game?

Please e-mail me your feedback at JREFFKIN@AOL.COM