ATP and WTA Consider a Russian Roulette Element to Increase Fan Interest


Ah, Wimbledon: The grass courts, strawberries and cream, the occasional glimpse at a Royal trying to act like a commoner. It is the epitome of British pomp and circumstance…what a snooze fest.

What’s happening on the court isn’t helping either. The last time I watched a men’s match, I was more curious about the number of hair follicles per square inch (HFPSI) on Novak Djokovic’s cabeza than I was about the speed of his serve. That’s a problem.
And it’s not just the men who are boring; the ladies ain’t drawin’ big ratings either. Until someone can consistently start handing Serena William’s her ass (which is looking great, btw), I really don’t see any reason to invest any time in watching.

Luckily, I’m not the only one who’s noticed this trend. The ATP and WTA (Association of Tennis Professionals and Women’s Tennis Association) are acknowledging a waning lack of interest in their sport and they think they may have come up with an idea to get fans excited they way they used to be when McEnroe and Connors would openly discuss the Playboy spread Connors’ wife did while in the midst of play.

Through the ages, only one thing has been effective in drawing people back to an event they no longer find interesting…blood and death. Round about 1600, William Shakespeare himself, was starting to lose some of his enormous popularity to a new social event called bull baiting. This was a “sport” where a bull would be put into a ring with two or three agitated bulldogs that would then try to latch on to the bovine’s snout and bring him down. So, in an effort to get his crowds back, Shakespeare was forced to write the blockbuster of the day, “Hamlet”, where, if you remember from your high school English days, everybody and their mother ends up dead…nice.

Now, don’t get the idea that these world tennis organizations are going to start requiring that professional tennis players starting yelling at each other in iambic pentameter; quite the opposite. The plan that’s currently being shopped around is called “The Roulette Factor”. And it’s aim is to provide the throngs of spectators multiple amputations on a consistent basis and on the rare occasion…maybe worse.

Here’s the gist of it: during an average Center Court match at Wimbledon, 48 tins containing 3 balls each are brought in. That’s a total of 144 balls. Under the new rule, every sixth ball in rotation (so 24 in all) would contain a small amount of the plastic explosive C4 at it’s core. Not just any C4, a new type of C4, specifically designed for the game, that would detonate under the same force used to hit a tennis ball 40 mph. According to Roger Willingham (5’,8”, 232lbs), who is on the Rules Board for the ATP, the explosion created upon impact would be compatible to that of about three M-80 firecrackers. “Not enough to kill most people, but it’ll take the arm off up to the elbow,” says Rog.

Willingham says the ATP and WTA are fully prepared to deal with the occasional loss of life that may result if the rule is implemented.

“We have a whole new set of waivers the players would have to sign from now on. We’d also set up a fund to provide for those who aren’t strong enough to make it through the injury. The families of those lost would get a casket donning the appropriate logo along with a wreath made of, what else, tennis balls, at cost.”
Willingham says, “At the end of the day, the fans win because they get to see blood. The players win because when the stakes are higher, ratings go up and so do the paydays. And most of all, the sport of tennis wins because, well…hell…who doesn’t love to watch a game of chance?”

At first thought, I must admit, I was a little taken aback and nauseated by the very thought of this rule. But then I started to think, ‘For the truly hardcore tennis fan, could there be a more engaging conversation piece than having Andy Murray’s forearm and hand mounted on your mantle?’ The answer is yes; Roger Federer’s could get you laid.

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