After Rafael Nadal reopened the debate about best-of-3 versus best-of-5 set matches in Grand Slams, Novak Djokovic took the opportunity to throw his weight behind the shorter format at Majors.
Speaking to the press after his win over Diego Schwartzman, the Serb explained that tennis was in dire need of younger fans, given how the average age of supporters was supposedly 61 years.
Novak Djokovic’s comments, however, have come as a surprise to legendary doubles player Todd Woodbridge.
During an interview with World Wide of Sports, the Australian wondered why Djokovic would oppose a format that had allowed him to win quite a few important matches throughout his career.
According to Woodbridge, the World No. 1 stood to benefit the most from the longer format given how his physique and game go hand-in-hand with the grueling demands of a best-of-5 sets match.
"I'm a little surprised by Novak's comments. He is one of those players that utilizes the best-of-5 format as well as anyone. He has great fitness, he bounces back well from tough matches, and it's allowed him to win matches he would perhaps not have won if they were shorter," Woodbridge said.
The 22-time Grand Slam champion also claimed that Majors would be no different from other tournaments if they gave up best-of-5 set matches. For Woodbridge, Grand Slams ought to stand out from other events, and the number of sets is a key factor in that.
"If we were to make Grand Slams best-of-3, you're making it groundhog day," the Australian explained. "Every tournament would look the same, and we shouldn't have that. We need the Majors to stand out, and best-of-5 gives that point of difference. The best part of tennis is the uniqueness of the Major tournaments."
Would Novak Djokovic have won fewer Majors if they had best-of-3 format?
Novak Djokovic might possibly have won five Grand Slams fewer if they had the best-of-3 format. He likely wouldn’t have triumphed at the 2011 US Open, where he went two sets down to Roger Federer in the semis before coming back to win in five.
The 2012 Australian Open is another instance where Novak Djokovic was down two sets to one - against Andy Murray in the semifinals. The Serb might have also failed to win the 2014 Wimbledon title as he had fallen behind two sets to one to Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals.
Kevin Anderson took a two sets to love lead against Novak Djokovic in the fourth round of Wimbledon 2015 before the Serb staged a comeback. The Serb might have also lost the 2020 Australian Open final to Dominic Thiem, who had won two of the first three sets played.
However, looking at both sides of the coin, there are a few instances where Djokovic may have benefited if matches were best-of-3 - the 2017 Australian Open (2R), 2010 Australian Open (QFs), 2010 French Open (QFs), 2006 Wimbledon (4R), and 2005 US Open (3R).
Novak Djokovic lost to Denis Istomin, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Jurgen Melzer, Mario Ancic and Fernando Verdasco respectively in these Slams, but might not have if the matches were decided in three sets.Published 18 Nov 2020, 21:07 IST