Maria Sharapova expressed mock disgust Saturday at the inaugural International Premier Tennis League tournament’s beeping shot-clock, part of a novel experiment designed to speed up tennis and make it more fun to watch.
The world number two likened the 20-second clock, which beeps loudly when players take too long winding up with their serve, to a bedside alarm clock.
“I feel like pressing ‘snooze’ all the time,” the Russian star said, giggling with reporters when asked what she disliked most about the new IPTL format.
The reigning French Open champion and five-time Grand Slam singles winner ended her two-day stint in Manila on a losing note, both in the women’s singles and in mixed doubles.
After securing her Manila Mavericks team’s only win against the UAE Royals on Friday by beating Kristina Mladenovic, Sharapova sprayed double faults and unforced errors across the court Saturday to bow 3-6 to world number five Ana Ivanovic.
Sharapova also lost both her mixed doubles matches with teammate and world number six Andy Murray on Friday and Saturday.
The shot-clock is among various innovations made by the IPTL, aimed at speeding up the game to appeal to viewers with shorter attention spans.
The team-based format calls for ties consisting of five one-set matches, with no advantages and no let. The first to six games wins.
At 5-5, players go into a five-minute shootout instead of the traditional tiebreak.
Players receiving a serve can also call a “happiness power point” once per set, meaning the point will count double.
The new tournament also features skimpily-clad female cheerleaders dancing to loud music during timeouts. Its organisers are touting it as the “future” of the sport.
Other players on the IPTL tour had mixed reactions to the shot-clock.
“We’re used to playing in quiet conditions since we were kids so every little noise kind of disturbs us,” veteran Carlos Moya, Sharapova’s Manila Mavericks teammate, told reporters.
Doubles specialist Sania Mirza of the Indian Aces team said she tends to serve fast anyway and rarely gets to the last five seconds, when the clock starts beeping loudly.
“It’s going to be distracting, but it keeps us disciplined,” she added.
Indian Aces playing coach Fabrice Santoro said all four teams in the IPTL circuit had swiftly found out they enjoyed using the “power point” feature.
“Very quickly we found out that it was important to do it at 30-40,” he added.
Sharapova said she only committed to play two IPTL matches this year, which also includes December stops in Singapore, New Delhi and Dubai, so she can resume preparations for the regular 2015 tennis tour.
“For the singles players it’s a bit of off-season so we’re using it as a little bit of preparation,” she said.
After narrowly missing out on a chance to return to the top of the women’s rankings at the end of the season after recovering from a shoulder injury, the Russian said her main focus next year would be to stay healthy.
“I came into the season without many expectations and I’m actually quite happy,” she said, stressing she had started the year ranked fourth in the world.
“I was in a position many times of the year to fall out of the top 10 and finished the year number two, so it’s been quite a successful year and next year I set myself much bigger goals.”
Sharapova has previously said getting more Grand Slams would be her priority over reclaiming the number one ranking, currently held by 18-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams.