This event is now on the same level as the two American Masters 1000s events — Indian Wells & Miami tournaments..
It's now much bigger and more spectacular since the tournament draws have increased from 56 to 96 players with 12 full days of play rather than 7 (plus another two days of qualifying rounds).
One huge advantage of going to this tournament is that even with a ground pass you can access the spectacular Pietrangeli court which has to be the best grounds pass court of it's type in the world.
All the top players will have to play one more match.
With the tournament upgrade, the new draw has 128 slots (the same as Grand Slam tournaments) with the 32 seeds exempt from the first round. Thus, there are 96 players competing (including 12 from the qualifiers and 6 Wild Cards).
This means that to reach the quarterfinals, even the top seeds who start one round ahead must play and win 3 matches instead of two.
Super-Saturday: Men’s semifinals and Women’s finals (we still have spaces available for this)
And then we have the new scheduling of the final stages: what stands out most is that the women’s final has been moved forward to Saturday evening (the evening programme includes the WTA singles and doubles award ceremony), creating the basis for a truly Super Saturday at the Foro Italico on May 20: the men’s semifinals are scheduled for the afternoon and women’s final in the evening. The final day, Sunday 21st May will be all about the ATP men's singles and doubles finals.
And not only watching tennis!
In the grounds there is an incredible display of tennis shops with all of the world's top clothing, racquets and merchandise on sale. The Joma stand is particularly good as it offers great Italian designs and reasonable prices. Joma is the choice of clothing for all the staff at the event and is used by the Italian Tennis Federation.
Food & Drink
There is a wide variety of quality Italian food available plus great coffee and much cheaper than any of the other main tennis events on the tour.
Reilly Opelka's (world number 138 singles) views on scrapping doubles has been the topic of a great podcast (including Jamie Murray) which is well worth a listen - click HERE to listen.
Listen to the podcast or if you don't have time here are my thoughts.
In terms of doubles and its importance on the professional tour I think that Jamie Murray made the most relevant point in stating that all tennis events require content, especially towards the latter end of an event. Without doubles there would be very little tennis to see on the outside courts as the tournament progresses.
For example, last year on singles finals day in Rome they played both the men's and women's doubles finals on the outside Pietrangeli court which gave all those with a grounds pass the opportunity to watch quality tennis.This brought in the crowds and provided a great atmosphere in the entire grounds area.
One other key point that was raised was the withdrawal of singles players from the doubles event if they progress beyond the 1st round in singles. The WTA has a rule which punishes any player doing so by not allowing them to enter the next tournament.
The general consensus was for the ATP tour to follow suit.
Improved marketing of doubles was mentioned frequently but I didn't actually hear any solutions as to how this should or could be done?
The podcast is very interesting but it would be great to hear the views of Opelka and maybe Dan Evans who has also been critical of the men's doubles tour. Opelka refused to attend the podcast which perhaps speaks volumes for his lack of conviction or perhaps ideas on how to improve it?
There is certainly work to be done in the promotion of doubles for the general public but here are a few more of the ideas that were raised:
1/ Making all grand slams best of 3 sets which has already started and there is a move to standardise in all the slams.
2/ Create more fun one day doubles events at the start of a tournament to give all the singles players practice on the courts with a likely change of ball and conditions.
3/ Make the players change ends without sitting down - Jamie was a supporter of this
4/ Be flexible with the scoring system and type of doubles events as they do in golf and cricket
There is no question that doubles plays an important part of both the competitive and social side of play in most clubs throughout the world and especially in the UK. Modern men's and women's doubles on the tour very rarely has the top singles players competing as it did in the past. The only realistic idea to get them playing (in my view) would be to come up with some fun, social doubles events at the start of every tournament as suggested by the pundits on the podcast. This could be mixed as well which is extremely popular at Wimbledon and could help with the promotion of the women's game at the same time?
Modern men's/women's doubles has improved in some respects in that there are a lot more one up and one back formats which are more relevant to many club players. However, the men's game in particular can be a bit too fast, particularly on hard courts where the rally length is lucky if it averages more than 2 shots! I don't have an answer for this - any thoughts welcome? Clay court doubles at the highest level can be much more entertaining as there are more returns made creating more of a spectacle. Last year's Italian open doubles became extremely popular when Isner/Schwartzman made the final with some entertaining rallies throughout mainly due to it being a clay court and slower.
So....if you have any thoughts on how to make doubles more popular from the fans point of view or on a marketing level please send in your ideas and I'll pass them on to Jamie Murray!
We are almost sold out for this year's Italian Open but still have a few spaces left for the final stages of the tournament. If interested please click the link below.
You don't even need to be a tennis player for this trip to enjoy watching the tennis and stay in our hotel which is located within walking distance of the event!
If interested contact Laura asap.