Former Dutch No 1 says ATP top 20 is weaker than a decade ago, urges sport to move with the times

Shahida Jacobs
Robin Haase in action

Robin Haase believes the overall standard of tennis has improved over the past few decades, but says the top 20 is “a little bit weaker” while he also feels it is time for the sport to move into the 21st century.

The Dutchman won two ATP Tour singles, reached a career-high of No 33 and was a consistent top-100 player between 2010 and 2019. He competed while the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer were at their peaks while Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka were also just outside the Big Three.

With Federer retiring last year and Nadal and Djokovic also in the final few years of their careers, there is a transition in the sport with Carlos Alcaraz currently topping the ATP Rankings while the likes of Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Casper Ruud and Felix Auger-Aliassime regular top 10 players.

Haase feels while players at the lower-end of the scale are now much better than in the past, those in the top 20 are not as consistent as the previous generation.

“Depends how you look at it. Ten years ago you would have a really unbelievable top 20 or top 15,” he told Claytennis.com. “When going deep in Grand Slams there were only few surprises in the last 16.

“Now that top I would say is as not as strong as before. You had [Andy] Roddick,[Lleyton] Hewitt, [Stan] Wawrinka, [Nikolay] Davydenko, [Kei] Nishikori. If you compare with now, it’s a little bit different. It’s a little bit weaker.

“But top one to 100, or 250; maybe even 400, is much stronger. The broader level of tennis is much better than it used to be. Now the guys that play Challengers, they can do well on the ATP level. 10-15 years ago it was much easier to win a Challenger. It’s pretty tough now.”

American Frances Tiafoe recently remarked that tennis needs to move with the times and introduce changes with one of his suggestions being that fans should be allowed to come and go during matches.

READ MORE: Frances Tiafoe calls on rigid tennis to get with the times in order ‘to bring younger fans to the game’

Haase agrees that tennis doesn’t offer much entertainment, saying that fans should be allowed to “just enter and leave whenever you want. Move around freely…”

Asked if the sport is boring, he replied: “Not boring, but it needs to be a little bit quicker and more exciting. What is funnier to watch? Three sets up to 6, or 5 sets up to 4? It’s not shorter.

“One of the rules that has been tested in the Next Gen Finals. Why I think we should play up to 4? You win a set 6-4. Next set, the first game, the second, the third…is very boring. People go out and drink something. But now, you win 4-1 and next set you win your serve and break, you are pretty close to make another set.

“Much more exciting for fans, but also tougher for the players, because players sometimes don’t care much about the first games of the set. Imagine you won the first set, then you are one all. Other guy serving 40-15. They are sometimes like ‘that point doesn’t matter’.

“But when you know the set is up to 4, you don’t have much chances to break, you better want to play that shot and win that game. I’m not saying we should change it now, but we can experiment more.”