EXCLUSIVE – Francesco Ricci Bitti would abolish second serve
By iSportconnect | May 30, 2016
The former head of the International Tennis Federation Francesco Ricci Bitti had some radical ideas on how to change tennis moving into the 21st century – including abolishing the second serve and making sets shorter.
As part of iSportconnect’s look ahead to Wimbledon, we spoke to the now Honorary ITF President about his views on the game. Ricci Bitti led the ITF for 16 years, before stepping down in 2015.
While he made it clear he was speaking in a personal capacity, his views were radical, especially in a sport where rule changes are rare.
“Personally, not as a President of ITF, or as its honorary President, I would change some rules of the game. I would only have one serve and shorter sets. Two serves come from a very old time.”
“One serve could put some psychological pressure on the players. Tennis is a very mental sport, a player with only one serve would decide what to risk each time, it becomes even more mental.”
“I think the sport is in good health and we should not change for change’s sake alone. But if you want me to be provocative, I would bring in a shorter set. We have a problem with length. Many many tests have shown the attention is always focussed around the end of the set. It’s better to have more sets that are shorter. This is my view. But you cannot change anything without the consent of the players, and I must admit tennis players are the most conservative people I know! It won’t happen soon, but maybe one day!”
Ricci Bitti also spoke about the role Olympic tennis has to play. Many have suggested that the Olympic tournaments have become the fifth grand slams, but that is something Ricci Bitti rejects – his aim was to keep them separate, and maintains that it was successful in 2008 and 2012.
“I don’t know about my successor, but I never wanted to position the Olympics in competition with a grand slam. Grand slams are grand slams. My aim, and I think it was successful, the top players embraced it, was to position the Olympic tournament between the team competitions that we have, the Davis Cup, and the Grand Slams.”
“It is an individual competition, but where the players represent their own country. This positioning, not clashing with our great team competitions, and not clashing with grand slams, which are very established events, was very successful.”
Finally with Wimbledon approaching, and the inevitable focus on Andy Murray, Ricci Bitti reflected on his role in helping promote tennis’ flagship team competition, the Davis Cup and helping Great Britain win its first title since 1936.
“I appreciate very much what Andy Murray’s love for the team competition. I think it was important after so many years that one of the grand slam countries came back at the top. It’s important, the top countries should be up there, but you cannot have good players all the time.”
The LTA and the ITF will share the hope that Andy Murray’s good form continues, giving good exposure to Wimbledon and the Davis Cup.
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