Tennis has been drifting inexorably towards a crossroads for at least five years, and rarely has that been more clearly underlined than in events 700 miles apart this weekend. In Milan, the conclusion of the inaugural Next Gen tournament, packed with innovations such as the shot clock and shortened points, celebrated the arrival of the best of the young prospects in the game, while in London those left standing among the established elite dragged their tired bones to the white line for their final showdown of the season.
There is a decent chance there will be a couple of memorable collisions in either of the two four-player groups at the O2 Arena, with the preferred climax a decider next Sunday between the world No1, Rafael Nadal, and his nemesis on this surface, the ageless Roger Federer. Certainly, there will be more actual court time in London than there has been in Milan – but is this what fans still want?
It is a debate that is growing in volume before a meeting of the grand slam committees at the All England Club next week. They will quietly mull over the possibility of reducing their fields from 32 seeds to 16, although the likelihood of in-match coaching is remote, and we are unlikely to see a shot clock at Wimbledon for a few years yet. Tennis, like golf, does not shout.
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