Time for a return to five sets?


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Miami Masters final

We are into the fifth year of the revamped Masters 1000 series and the latest final in Miami between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray underlined why these showpieces really should be a best of five set affair as they were before 2008.

Etiene de Villiers, former Executive Chairman of the ATP Tour, pushed to have the Masters finals reduced due to player tiredness.

That appears a hollow excuse and has taken credibility away from the events.

If de Villiers really wanted to make a difference, he should have pushed harder to get the tennis season reduced to 10 months which would allow players to get a proper break but the ATP took the easy way out.

A few of the finals such as Miami, Indian Wells, Shanghai, Paris and the end of year ATP Tour finals could be restored to best of five sets to bring back some prestige to these events.

In the past, Super Nine and Masters finals were great preparation for up and coming players before winning Major titles.

Players of the calibre of Andre Agassi, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Marat Safin,  Thomas Muster all won best of five set Super Nine / Masters finals before claiming a Grand Slam title.

Novak Djokovic was the last player to win a best-of-five Masters event in 2007.

But Masters finals now no longer provide good preparation for Major success because they are like any other best-of-three set ATP tournament.

Vastly experienced players of the calibre of Andy Murray and Jo Wilfred Tsonga have never won a five set final in their entire career.

Traditionally Super Nine / Masters finals allowed players to find out more about themselves by trying different strategies and tactics at the level just below the Slams.

Some of the best matches ever played were at the Super Nine/Masters level in the finals.

However, over the past four years, there has not been many finals that can be considered memorable — over 40 finals in a four-year period.

Finals are usually quick straight sets affairs which are over in just over an hour to 90 minutes.

The interesting thing is that these short finals have coincided with yet another explosion of prize money, especially since 2008.

Spectators who attend the finals and television viewers who pay subscriptions to see these matches are getting short changed.

At the very least, the ATP should reconsider restoring the World Tour final to five sets.

Last year's final between Roger Federer and Tsonga was very good but it could have been a classic had it gone to five sets.

Previous ATP finals have  finished way too quickly especially in 2008 and 2009 and a best of five set final would have been a fitting way to end the event.

A look back at of some of the great Super Nine / Masters finals:

1996 Stuttgart final — Becker defeated Sampras in five sets of great attacking tennis.

1996 ATP Tour final — Sampras defeated Becker in five sets. Widely regarded as the greatest indoor match of the Open era.

1995 Monte Carlo final — Muster denied Becker in five sets, Becker would never win a clay event.

1998 ATP Tour final — An all Spanish affair in Hanover with Alex Corretja defeating Carlos Moya in five sets.

2000 Miami final — Sampras defeated Kuerten in 210 minutes in an atmosphere reminiscent to a Davis Cup tie.

2002 Masters Cup final — Hewitt defeated Ferrero in five sets in Shanghai.

2005 Miami final — Federer came from two sets down to beat Nadal.

2005 Rome final — Nadal defeated Guillermo Coria in five sets.

2005 Masters Cup final — Nalbandian came from two sets down to beat Federer in four hours.

2006 Rome final — Federer lost to Nadal in a five hour battle — this was the beginning of the end for five-set finals at Masters level.

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