UTS: A guide to the Ultimate Tennis Showdown
The Ultimate Tennis Showdown, an innovative tennis tour celebrated for its unique format, hits London this week for the very first time. GB’s Jack Draper and World No5 Andrey Rublev are among those who will battle it out in the eight-man field.
Described by its founder, Patrick Mouratoglou, UTS is a “ground-breaking reinvention of tennis, created to meet the needs of today’s generation.”
But how much do you know about this revolutionary competition?
History of UTS
Offering his expertise to one of the greatest tennis players of all time, Serena Williams, wasn’t enough for world renowned coach Mouratoglou. During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic he decided to launch the UTS league – “the future of tennis” – which aimed to revolutionise the sport.
Mouratoglou recognised that the sport, with the average age of a tennis fan passing 60, is lacking in diversity. To combat this, the enterprising Frenchman, alongside aid from businessman Alex Popyrin, founded the new league with the aim of attracting younger generations to the sport.
The idea aroused criticism from the tennis world since its inception, yet Mouratoglou was adamant that it would be beneficial for tennis as a whole and was determined to make it a success by gathering some of the world’s top players.
UTS was launched in the heart of the pandemic, and this posed fundamental issues regarding fan attendance, but it also provided a very welcome distraction during the ATP tour’s enforced absence.
The first two editions were hosted at Mouratoglou’s academy in its sunny setting on the French Riviera and were won by former World No6 Matteo Berrettini and two-time ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev.
A two-year absence of the competition between 2021 and 2023 left fans eagerly anticipating its return but, this year, the league is back with a bang and it’s more exciting than ever before.
The fifth and sixth editions were held in Los Angeles and Frankfurt respectively, both leading up to the inaugural Grand Final which will take place between the 15th and 17th of December at the ExCel London.
The unique format, which is inherent in Mouratoglou’s vision of providing a fresh version of tennis, is what makes UTS captivate a younger audience.
Players are selected to feature based on their “level of performance and charisma” and is done on an invitational basis. Mouratoglou feels deeply about the emotions that are built into the sport of tennis. This is the reason why we see players like Gaël Monfils and Benoit Paire in the lineup – not only do they offer an exciting style of play, but they are two players who do not shy away from showing their emotions on the court.
How to qualify for the Grand Final?
The eight-man field that will battle it out in London have qualified in one of three ways:
Title-winners: Winning a UTS tournament during the season. Rublev’s title in Frankfurt automatically granted him entry into the Grand Final.
UTS ranking: The top three players in the UTS Race ranking qualification (excluding title-winners).
Wild cards: World No8 Holger Rune and GB star Draper have been awarded wild cards to the event.
UTS Grand Final Group B
Similarly to the ATP Finals, the field has been split into two groups, and the top two from each group will advance to the semi-finals.
Quarters: Each match consists of four eight-minute quarters. After the allotted time is up, the player with the most points wins the quarter. The first player to reach three quarters will win the match.
Sudden death: If a match is tied at two quarters apiece, a sudden death is played. The winner will be the first player to win two consecutive points.
Serving: During the quarter, players will alternate serve every two points. There is a ‘no-let’ rule in place and players are only allowed one serve. A 15-second limit between points ensures the match flows freely.
Level up: At the end of each quarter, a ‘quarter point’ is played. The leader only has to win one point to kill the quarter, whereas the challenger has the chance to win consecutive points to level up and force a decider.
Bonus cards: Once per quarter, each player has the chance to use their ‘next point counts as 3’ bonus card. This card is active for one point and applies only to the person who activated it.
Coaching: Coaching is permitted throughout the match. Players must also take part in on court interviews with the commentators in between quarters, in order to share their emotions with the fans.
All of the above rules intend to speed up the matches to allow for multiple sessions. By allowing more drama to creep into the game, UTS facilitates a more engaging watch for fans.
UTS Grand Final: London
The event will take place at ExCel London between 15-17 December.
Live coverage will be available on TNT Sports, Sky and the Tennis Channel.
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