Time limits, magic cards & player purses: Serena Williams' coach launches UTS

It will be tennis as you’ve never seen it before.

That’s the plan, anyway. Patrick Mouratoglou, the coach of Serena Williams, has launched a bold new event – starting this weekend – that he hopes can revolutionise the tennis world.

Similarly to how 20/20 cricket runs alongside the traditional test format, Mouratoglou hopes in the long-run that his Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS) will have a wide appeal to a younger fanbase – targeting the Netflix generation who don’t have the patience to stick with regular tennis in a fast-paced world.

‘A lot of people don’t like change, which is fine,’ Mouratoglou said in a virtual press conference on Friday. ‘Those guys can stay on ATP/WTA.

‘I like it too, actually, and will keep watching those matches and at Grand Slams.

‘But I think it’s good when you have less time and you want a format that’s more dynamic, with more emotion and is more fun, you have a second format.’

Worried by the supposed increasing average age of tennis fans, Mouratoglou has put radical ideas in place to shake-up one of the world’s most traditional sports.

Gone are lengthy matches where there’s no end in sight. In come hour-long time limits, with matches split into four 10-minute quarters.

The shot clock stays, but is reduced to 15 seconds to ensure there’s a fast pace of play.

‘I cannot say because unfortunately we’ve not been able to put them on, but probably for UTS 2 because it was a bit complicated, technically speaking and we didn’t want to take the risk with a technical problem.

‘It’s a big production, same quality of a top, top, top tournament. Starting from zero in just a few weeks, so we started with something more simple. I don’t want to say because I want the surprise.’

How an event that spans over five weekends will co-exist in an already jam-packed tennis calendar, is an obvious concern. Mouratoglou insists he is happy to work under the ATP/WTA umbrella in future and isn’t trying to ‘compete’ with them, but finding a successful format is his primary goal.

‘I don’t know yet [how it slots into the calendar], first it has to be a success,’ he said.

‘If we want to find a solution, we will. Good thing with UTS is it’s only on weekends, it can be at the same location as the tour.

‘It’s only one hour so for a player it’s not exhausting so they could play this on the weekend and then start a tournament.

UTS Player field

Dominic Thiem
Stefanos Tsitsipas
Matteo Berrettini
Lucas Pouille
Benoit Paire
Dustin Brown
Feliciano Lopez
Richard Gasquet
David Goffin
Alexei Popyrin

‘We don’t know how the calendar is going to look in the future. For the moment there is a lot of question marks in the middle of a huge crisis we’ve never experienced.

‘For me, there’s one goal: make UTS a big success, find the best format, the format that new fans like. I’ve seen issues, we’ve proposed solutions to them. I hope it’s going to work, if not we’re going to adapt. If it works, I’m sure we’ll find a way to work things out.’

What is considered a success? Simple. Getting people to sign up to his subscription service.

‘If I’m selling bottles of water, I will see how many I sell,’ Mouratoglou said. ‘I guess the number of subscribers is a good indication to see if they like it.

‘Are they prepared to pay to watch it or not? I like that you have to pay for it. You’re facing the reality of it when you have to pay for the product. We can also look at how much watch it on TV or not but I think the real deal is this.’

He’s confident he will find a new format that will work and is desperate for players to show off their personalities away from the, in his view, restrictive platform that is modern tennis.

‘I want variety of style of games so we have guys who play serve-and-volley. I wanted guys who have trick-shots and super fun games,’ said Mouratoglou.

‘I want variety, that’s what’s great about life in general. Diversity of styles, diversity of personalities and I think that’s what we’ve got.

‘We have grinders from the baseline. We have players who are very calm, we have players who are really getting angry easily. We have only 10 but they’re all so different.’

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