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Former British No 1 on why rumours of big changes in tennis could be good news



Tennis could be heading into an uncertain period amid rumours of breakaway tours and big-money exhibition events being added to the calendar during the season.

Six of the game’s top male players have signed up to play in an event dubbed the ‘Saudi Slam’ in Riyhad next October, with Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz among the A-listers taking part.

That event will see the players competing for prize money that is more than double the amount that could collect for winning a Grand Slam title and that level of finance will change the mindset of players as they consider their next moves.

Saudi Arabia’s investment in golf has transformed the landscape of that sport and boxing is now holding most of its marquee events in the kingdom due to the huge cash sums being offered by the hosts.

Tennis looks set to be next on the list of sports accepting big money from Saudi backers, with the WTA Tour finals set to be played in Riyhad and more high-profile tournaments likely to be added to the game’s calendar.

Now former British No 1 Laura Robson has suggested tennis needs to be open-minded to what comes next, with long matches stretching over four and five hours seemingly out of place in a modern world where fast-paced sport that reaches a quick conclusion is preferable.

Cricket has been revolutionised by the 20/20 form of the game, with Robson telling Tennis365 that the ‘threat’ to tennis from new ideas should not be feared.

READ MORE: Former British No 1 says Novak Djokovic will strike back after ‘overreaction’ to his demise

“I’m all for new plans, new developments,” said Robson, speaking to Tennis365 at the launch of the new Sky Sports Tennis channel.

“I just came back from the Australian Open and I loved the fact that people were coming in a 1-0 and not having to wait outside until three games were played.

“It made it so much better for spectators and once the players got used to it, there were zero issues.

“I’m all for quicker balls, quicker courts, whatever makes tennis more entertaining to the biggest audience possible.

“Matches that go on for four and a half hours seem unnecessarily long, so I would welcome any changes that improve the sport.

“Tennis has been the same for a very long time and people don’t like disruption, but we should try new things.”

Robson went on to suggest the sport is now being dominated by the four Grand Slams and the Masters 1000 events, with that scenario certain to continue.

“The difference in points and prize money and these big events means they have become massive now,” she added.

“The smaller events are important if you want to play a lot of tennis and especially if you are coming back from injury, but I’m all for new ideas and changes and I’m sure a lot of players would feel that way.”

The structure of tennis has remained in place for many decades, but it feels like the time for a new look come be imminent.

What comes next may take some getting used to, but change happens quickly in modern sport and tennis could be next to be swept away by that evolution.

Sky Sports Tennis – the new home for tennis fans in the UK and Ireland – is live now on Sky and NOW.

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