If Roger Federer were in charge of the men’s tennis tour, he would immediately reverse a 12-year-old rule change and reintroduce best-of-five-set finals at top-level ATP events.
ATP Masters finals began to switch from five sets to three in 2007 and all nine tournaments were reduced for the 2008 season.
The year-end ATP Finals tournament also features best-of-three matches, with the longer five-set format in tennis reserved for the four grand slams, Davis Cup and the Olympics final for the gold medal.
Shorter matches are considered necessary to reduce the burden on the best of the best, though a more common complaint among the players is the packed, non-stop schedule and rules surrounding mandatory tournaments.
Best-of-five finals, though, add a sense of history to the occasion.
Before the rule change, Federer and his great rival Rafael Nadal famously played two epic Masters finals inside a month in the 2006 clay-court season.
Nadal won the Monte Carlo decider in a four-set match that lasted three hours and 50 minutes.
Just a few weeks later, their five-set final in Rome finished on five hours and five minutes after another Nadal win.
The duo promptly withdrew from the following week’s Hamburg Masters tournament to rest and recover before meeting three weeks later for a three-hour French Open final (again, won by Nadal).
Twelve years on, however, Federer wants a revamp.
Asked by the Tennis Channel to outline the one rule change he would make if he were in charge of the ATP for a day, the 37-year-old expanded immediately.
“I would probably add more best-of-five-set matches in finals,” said the world No.2 after his Cincinnati Masters second-round win over Peter Gojowczyk.
“At Masters 1000 (events) I think we have opportunities to have more five-setters in finals – definitely at the World Tour Finals.
“I think it’s quite unfortunate that on the ATP tour we actually don’t have any best-of-five-set matches. They’re all at the slams, the Davis Cup and at the Olympic finals so I feel like that’s a bit of an opportunity wasted.”
Federer played in 12 best-of-five ATP Masters finals and several more at other tournaments before their disappearance.
The tennis history buff, who today reduces his schedule almost to the bare minimum, would relish a switch back – even if he knows those in charge disagree.
“I know it’s also for player protection and injuries,” he said.
“I started, in the beginning, with many more five-setters in finals and then they completely went away. I think’s a bit of a pity but I understand the reason.”