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November 14, 2010

Paris Masters' Fast Surface Yields Wonderful Full-Court Play

This week's Paris Masters tennis tournament had the fastest court used in professional tennis for years and the results were wonderful. There was tremendous variety, players used every inch of the court, the shot making was great, and the matches didn't comprise 4-5 hours of tedious top-spin rallies from the back wall. 

Let's hope this is the beginning of change in men's professional tennis, undoing the efforts by tennis bureaucrats to slow down WImbledon, the Australian Open, and the US circuits so that every match amounts to tedious, clay court tennis, regardless of the surface. There were some creative, 30-shot rallies, but they were mixed in with blazing tennis -- entire games played in less time than it takes Rafael Nadal to adjust his shorts and make a service toss. 

The Straight Sets' blogs' CHRISTOPHER CLAREY describes the results well. 

The tournament was changed by its new manager: "Enter Caujolle, a retired professional player who became convinced after watching three-set matches drag on for more than three hours here last year that the pendulum had swung too far.

“I wanted to see if I could improve the spectacular side of the game and get back more to the basics of indoor,” he said. ...  It’s to favor attractive and complete tennis, which means seeing all the shots.”

"Considering it was his idea, Caujolle has, of course, a stake in being right, but he certainly sounded delighted.

“This week, I saw shots we just don’t see much anymore,” he said. “I saw lots of chipped backhands, drop volleys, rhythm changes, players wrong-footing others, players charging in by surprise after a shot that floats. We just weren’t seeing that anymore. Above all, I saw players use their hands, their touch.”

"The International Tennis Federation uses a Court Pace Rating system, or C.P.R., just as the golf circuit uses a Stimpmeter to determine the pace of greens. The U.S. Open, customarily one of the fastest outdoor hardcourt events, has a C.P.R. of close to 40.

"According to Caujolle, the C.P.R. of the Paris tournament went from 38 last year to 45 this year, which makes it the fastest of any significant men’s event. Federer, for one, was delighted, even after losing to Monfils in a tiebreak-heavy semifinal on Saturday and failing to convert any of his five match points in the final set.

"This has become a nasty habit of late for Federer, who also had two match points in his semifinal loss to Novak Djokovic at the U.S. Open. But Federer was hardly blaming the court.

“I think it’s fun, and I hope it won’t be the last one like this,” he said of Paris. “We have gotten used to the same thing. You attack. You know you’re going to get passed, so you stay back, you wait. You win a bit by wearing someone down. Or you construct the point totally differently with spins and angles. But this time, it’s more direct. It’s straightforward. It’s flat. It’s another challenge, and I like when the challenge changes.” (read more)

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