The hall announcer gives everything. "Frankfurt, that's louder," he shouts again and again, while the "Laola" he demands still sloshes over the stands of the ball sports hall, a little timidly. "Quiet please, you won't hear it with us," he had promised the audience a few minutes earlier. "Our motto is: Make some noise!"
- Follow I follow
Now he keeps his word and calls on the fans to make noise. The traditional but somewhat dusty sport of tennis wants to present itself in a hip new guise this weekend. A fiery atmosphere is part of it – even if you occasionally have to help a little.
Rules on the pitch are new
Ultimate Tennis Showdown, or UTS for short, is the name of the format in which eight top international players held a kind of show tournament in Frankfurt last weekend. It was developed by French star coach Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams' coach for many years, who wants to inspire a younger audience for tennis.
A lot of things are new, first and foremost the rules on the pitch. Instead of sets with service games, UTS plays four quarters of ten minutes each in tie-break mode. There is no second serve, no repetition on the net roller and bonus cards with which you can triple the value of rallies.
There is no shortage of pithy sayings to accompany the spectacle. "Tennis like never before" reads banners in and around the hall. Tennis like never before. "It starts now", the revolution begins. As a tennis fan, you want to be there, don't you? At the start on Friday there were around 3500 spectators in the ball sports hall, Saturday with 5000 then sold out and also on Sunday there are more than 4000 spectators who want to see for themselves how Mouratoglou and his team imagine the future of tennis.
However, there are still a number of places available when Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov and Argentina's Diego Schwarzman start their semi-final match early on Sunday afternoon. But that doesn't matter. There is no waiting, this is one of the most important rules at UTS. Not to the spectators, not until silence has returned to the stands, not even to the fact that the laser show or the music is over. The players only have 15 seconds before they have to serve. And when the bass thunders and the lights flash, it's still served.
At the same time, the UTS flashes and thunders almost continuously. The tennis event is a mixture of circus, sporting event and party in the nightclub. It fits into the picture that on this humid and warm September Sunday it is as scorching hot in the ball sports hall as it usually is in the disco. The sweat runs in streams among the players as well as among the fans. In addition, the music booms out of the speakers. After each match. After each sentence. After every rally.
"What does the ball tell you?"
The fifth between Schwarzman and Dimitrov is the first spectacular. "Madre mia," the hall announcer screams promptly after the Argentinian has chased a backhand down the line. The duel also offers a number of long rallies as a result. Between the individual quarters, the players are interviewed, whereby the knowledge gained for the viewers is limited. "When you're playing as well as I'm right now, the ball tells you what to do," Dimitrov said as he scored a few spectacular points in a row. "What is the ball telling you at the moment?" the presenter asks. "Where to run and how to hit," Dimitrov replies.
The favorite of the spectators on Sunday is the Frenchman Benoit Paire anyway. Although he clearly loses his semi-final against the Russian top 10 player Andrei Rublev, he undoubtedly delivers the best show of the day. After a lost quarter, he sits on the sofa, which stands on the sidelines instead of a player's bench, and lets his coach fan him with a towel. He teases his opponent with sayings, entertains the audience with tricks and jokes. The atmosphere is dazzling – without a roaring hall announcer.