As years go by, societies and cultures are forced to evolve to keep up with the times. The same can be said about sports. Over time, certain rules and principles become outdated, and in order to refrain from becoming obsolete, sports simply have to adjust.
According to Mark Milne, the time has come for change in tennis. The days of four-hour long tennis matches are rapidly coming to a close because today’s youth are less and less willing to devote such a vast amount of time to playing sports. The data supports this trend as the average age of people watching and playing tennis steadily increases each year.
Milne, a Mechanical Design Engineer from Scotland and self-proclaimed tennis enthusiast, first became enthralled with the sport after watching Stan Smith defeat Ilie Năstase in the 1972 Wimbledon finals.
From that moment on, Milne has been hooked on the sport and has been playing for over 40 years. Through the years, Milne became frustrated with a recurring problem of never being able to complete matches due to time constraints. With the current traditional scoring rules in tennis, he found that he and his partner were never able to complete a full match within the hour of allotted time.
“One night, I woke up with a light bulb moment and remembered a technique my coaches would use shorten games,” recalled Milne. “The technique was that they would start games at 30-30. It made the matches so much shorter and allowed the players to gain the experience of playing the big points. When you start at 30-30, every point really matters.”
Thus, Milne’s unique scoring method entitled Thirty30 was born. Although the format has been used for many years, Milne rebranded it based off of the Twenty20 format that has revolutionized cricket by making it quicker and more exciting.
Instead of starting each game at 0-0, the score is set at 30-30 in Milne’s format. Other than that, the scoring is identical to a traditional tennis match. If a set is to reach a score of 6-6, a nine-point tie break, first to 5 points and sudden death at 4-4, will be utilized.
In the final set of a match, there is no tiebreak used in Thirty30, instead the set must be won by two games, 7-5 or 6-8 for example. The final rule alteration is that players serve alternate games and change ends after playing two, six and ten games. Therefore, the change of ends occurs after the first two games and then not again until four games have been completed. Ends are also changed at the conclusion of each set.
With the format of Thirty30, sets are estimated to take no longer than 20 minutes, which is the ideal length of time for a sporting event in this day in age. “There’s a big argument that tennis matches are going on too long. The youngsters of today aren’t able to sit down for three, four, five hours to watch a match. The ITF has recognized that they need to have an alternative shorter method,” explained Milne.
Currently, the ITF has tested multiple methods such as ‘Fast4’ and ‘No-Ad,’ but to no avail. Tennis enthusiasts are not impressed with the deviation from traditional scoring, a problem that the Thirty30 format mitigates.
“Thirty30 maintains the traditions of tennis. You still have sets to six games leading by two, you still have a tiebreak at 6-6 and the deuce and ad points are still played” said Milne. “At the same time, this is an alternative, shorter method that is to be used when required. You can fit a lot more matches into a day. What I’ve found is that it still produces a very competitive match, albeit shorter, it still produces a fair test.”
In the future, Milne hopes to have his scoring format implemented at ITF ‘trial’ events around the world. Currently, he has received over 200 testimonials from tennis players and coaches who have tested Thirty30.
“The response from those who have tried it has been great,” said Milne. “All the points are exciting because each point matters. When you’re doing this format, every second point is a game point. You’re 100 percent focused the entire time. If you’re playing regular tennis and you’re at 40-0, there’s not the same pressure on that point. What we have found is that focus and concentration is key.”
“The days of long, long matches in all sports are beginning to wane a bit. Traditional tennis will continue the way it is, but there is definitely a gap there for an alternative shorter method to be used,” Milne explained.
Milne is confident that Thirty30 is the best alternative scoring method on the market to shorten matches, while still mirroring traditional tennis.
“When you use Thirty30, you will still get a score line that looks exactly the same as traditional tennis,” said Milne. “Thirty30 is also a more satisfactory way of concluding a hard-fought three-set match. At the moment, two sets may have been shared over two hours. You play a third set a 10 point match tiebreak and it’s over in 10 minutes. It seems to be a very unfair way to decide the winner of a hard-fought match. A set of Thirty30 wins by two games, I think is a fairer way of deciding a match.”
Milne has lofty plans for Thirty30. In the short-term he aims to have Thirty30 accepted, following official trialing, into Appendix V of the ITF rules, which is the alternative methods for scoring section of the rulebook. “My dream would to see the rule say, ‘To shorten tennis matches, games will start at 30-30.’ Once the rule is in there, the sky is the limit. It could be used at any event. You could have a whole range of events throughout the calendar,” said Milne.
Further down the line, Milne hopes to see Thirty30 on sports’ biggest stages. “My absolute dream is that the format they will use at that Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 2028 will be Thirty30 tennis. One of the main reasons is that Twenty20 cricket is applying to be part of the Olympic Games in 2028. It’s now become such an exciting format that I reckon it has a good chance of being accepted for the Olympic Games in 2028. I would love to see Twenty20 cricket be played alongside Thirty30 tennis. I’m confident that it really can work,” he reasoned.
While change can sometimes be difficult to accept, Thirty30 is certainly a concept that the tennis community can get behind.
For further information, see www.thirty30tennis.com