Tennis Tales: A day at the Tie Break Tens in Melbourne

Harry Everett had the fortune to be in Melbourne for the recent Tie Break Tens and describes the experience for Tennis365…

We are inside Margaret Court Arena at 7pm on a near 30 degree Melbourne day. Why is the roof closed you might think, but this is no normal tennis event, this is only the third ever, and the first in the southern hemisphere, Tie Break Tens Competition.

Dark, then flashing lights and pumping music is the order of the day. A man dressed in traditional tennis whites, with a terrible wig, playing an old tennis racket as a guitar is the on-court DJ. American Razzmatazz has gripped the tennis world to provide a Twenty20 form of tennis where eight men play seven knockout matches between them to find a $250,000 earning winner.

These matches are tie-breaks to 10 and the line-up includes the world’s most high-profile players and Lucas Pouille. The poor chap took just one point off Rafael Nadal, and even that one point was the first time I have ever seen Rafa appear to go easy on an opponent on court, not bothering chasing what turned out to be a Pouille ace.

Novak Djokovic surprisingly lost to the evergreen home nation hero Lleyton Hewitt in the first round. Then, after playing an entertaining exhibition match with the other three first round losers, the Serb toddled off, an unexplained early departure, but having only come back to play at Kooyong earlier in the day after six months out injured, his early night wish was deemed just about acceptable.

Thomas Berdych v Dominic Thiem was the most closely fought first round match, the latter effortlessly exhibiting phenomenal whip and spin onto each shot, but his Czech opponent simply returned everything and consistently frustrated the young Austrian without doing anything remarkable.

Australian Kyrgios was his usual cocky self, no-nonsense Milos Raonic (a late replacement for the injured Stan Wawrinka) disposed of him with a few of his trademark, booming aces.

Into the semis; and Hewitt was outclassed by Nadal, but did not go down without a fight, whilst cool Czech Berdych again won without seemingly doing anything spectacular against Canadian Raonic.

It appeared to most that it would pan out that the world number one going into the Australian Open and former serial Slam winner Nadal would take this title, but again Berdych’s clinical consistency allowed him to prevail and take the title. A handy financial bonus and real confidence boost for the number 19 seed going into the first Grand Slam of the year.

The event was exciting enough a prospect to attract Shane Warne and family to the stands (though he did leave very early) and a sizeable crowd with them too.

The format will never be for the purist, but it is two and a half hours of great entertainment, far better than anything television provides and a great way to see the top players playing in a more casual, relaxed fashion (even Rafa…by his standards…), you even see them lounging around in armchairs court-side chatting together whilst watching the other games.

A great, revolutionary idea that fortunately caused no extra injury problems just a few days before the Australian Open.

The next Tie Break Tens event is in New York in March.

By Harry Everett @HarryEverett_14 on Twitter.

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