Table tennis scoring was tried out for the first time at the World Professional Tennis tournament. From Cleveland SI's Bill Talbert submits a report—and a critique.
The game of tennis, which has undergone few radical changes since it was born "le jeu de paume" in France seven centuries ago, got a modern face-lifting last weekend.
The POC World Professional Championships were played under a different scoring system patterned after that of table tennis. There were no "deuces," "advantages" and "love-forties," which frequently confuse the uninitiated. The idea was started by Tournament Director Jack March.
JUST ONE SERVE
Points were counted in simplest arithmetic—1, 2, 3, 4 etc. The first player winning 21 got the game—unless the score became knotted at 20-20. Then it takes a two-point advantage to win. There were no sets, just games. The best three-out-of-five won the match.
I was among those at the Cleveland Arena to watch Pancho Gonzales, the big, swarthy Californian, retain his title by beating Pancho Segura 21-16, 19-21, 21-8, 20-22, 21-19.
In this new system each player, as in table tennis, serves five times and then passes the service to his opponent for the next five deliveries, and so on. But the server gets only one shot instead of two, and lets are played. If he misses that one shot, he loses the point.
This is my principal objection. The single service eliminates the "big game" in tennis—the bold serve-volley attack—and reduces the match mainly to a battle of baseline strategy.
I noticed that Gonzales, who has the best service in tennis and one of the best of all time, never once risked cutting loose with his flat "cannon ball." He relied entirely on his spin service, which under normal conditions he would use after missing the first. As a result, through the entire five games Gonzales didn't have a single service ace—unbelievable in his case.
There was another instance pointing up the impracticability of the one-shot service. In the final game, Segura, behind 13-20, rallied to cut the gap to 19-20. Then on game and match point he served a fault. The new scoring system would have more merit if two services were allowed. I understand this may be tried next year.