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December 3, 2020

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Rafael Nadal & Novak Djokovic disagree on if best-of-five tennis should be scrapped

4 min read

Nadal and Djokovic disagreed on whether best-of-five sets should continue (Picture: AFP/Getty)

The age-old best-of-three vs best-of-five debate has reared its head at the ATP Finals this week, with Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal on opposite sides of the argument.

Nadal, 20-time Grand Slam champion from Spain, and Djokovic, the 17-time major winner from Serbia, have both enjoyed remarkable success in best-of-five sets tennis and have established themselves among the greatest players of all time.

Only Roger Federer has equalled Nadal’s Slam haul and he is expected to pass that total at next year’s French Open, having won his 13th title at Roland Garros last month.

It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that Nadal doesn’t feel the format should be scrapped, despite some claiming it has no place in the fast-paced demands of modern society.

Others argue that there should be more best-of-five sets tennis in order to give players a better opportunity to prepare for Grand Slam events. In previous times, Masters 1000 finals used to adopt the longer format.

However, Nadal does not support a return at those tournaments, despite his full backing for best-of-five sets at majors.

‘I think is true that we changed that around 2007, if I’m not wrong, that in the Masters 1000s we changed that used to be the finals best-of-five and we changed it to best-of-three for an easier reason,’ said Nadal after beating Andrey Rublev on Sunday.

Nadal wants best-of-five to stay (Picture: Getty)

‘That’s for example happened to me in Rome, twice in a row, that I played five hours 14 and five hours 10 minutes against Coria in 2005 and against Roger in 2006 I was not able to go to Hamburg the next week.

‘So when we have back-to-back weeks with Masters 1000, I think makes sense to change best-of-three, not best-of-five. That’s the main reason why we change, no?

‘But, yeah, I am completely against to change that in the Grand Slams, no? We have a day off. I think best-of-five makes a difference on these tournaments, on the slams, and at the same time is part of the history of our sport, no?

‘So, I mean, winning Grand Slam, playing best-of-three demand to the player something else, no? Stronger mentally, stronger physically, be solid for such a long time and for such a long two weeks. So I really believe that’s the right thing to do.’

Djokovic sees things differently.

He isn’t convinced best-of-five sets is an attractive format for younger generations and expressed his desire for tennis to adopt best-of-three sets tennis across the board.

‘I am more a proponent of two-out-of-three everywhere, even though of course Slams have always been best-of-five,’ said Djokovic on Monday. ‘Obviously it’s historically been that way, so I don’t know whether there is a chance at all for it to change. Yes, I am more of a proponent of best-of-three sets everywhere.

‘You asked me why. I just feel that we have enough tournaments, enough matches during the year. We have the longest season of all sports, any sport in the world. Tennis has the longest season from January 1 to end of November. Literally every single week you have tournament somewhere.

‘I don’t see a reason why we should play best-of-five, even though of course there is a historical reason and it has been always that way, so it’s a tradition.

Djokovic called for best-of-five sets to be canned (Picture: Getty)

‘But I just, yeah, I don’t know, I just feel like the attention span as well of the fans, especially the younger generation, is shorter. So in order for us to really improve the product, so to say, of tennis I think commercially and marketing-wise I feel like we have to adapt to that younger generation.

‘Unfortunately we had a stat that was a bit shocking, and the research that was done and the study that was done of the average age of a tennis fan worldwide is 61. I think we have to change something, in my opinion.

‘Obviously we have been one of those sports that has stuck with the tradition a lot, which I respect, and I feel like this is something we have to keep, but at the same time we haven’t been really exploring, you know, some changes, whether it’s score or, you know, less sets or whatever, different calendar, just different point system, whatever it is. We have not really looked into that.

‘Every time someone mentions that, I feel like there is not much of a support, not much of a willingness to really address that and strategically think about the things that could attract younger audience as well to our tour, to our sport.’

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