Drawcard: Sydney fans were treated to a rare Rafael Nadal sighting. Photo: Brendon ThorneIs Fast4 tennis the way of the future or just a cash grab aimed at generating interest in a city that has lost touch with the sport?
A crowd of 11,000 turned out at Allphones Arena on Monday night, most to get a glimpse of Rafael Nadal on his rare visit to the harbour city.
It was a welcome sight compared to the empty seats that have been occupying most of Ken Rosewall Arena at the Sydney International the past couple of days.
But in some ways, Sydney has lost interest in the sport – and one of the major reasons they’ve fallen out of love with tennis is the lack of quality that’s been available at their doorstep.
Sure, the big guns were in town on Monday night, but the thirst for genuine top class tennis hasn’t been quenched.
As entertaining as it was watching Nick Kyrgios and Gael Monfils attempt to hit the fastest forehand winner in the history of the sport, the semi competitive nature of the Nadal-Lleyton Hewitt contest sat better with a crowd who need not be treated like tennis novices.
In order for this concept to make a real mark in Sydney, the show has to become the tennis not the smoke machines, the lights or the sound effects.
Tennis want to transform the Fast 4 concept it into a week-long tournament and are already in discussions with Channel Seven and Nine to make it a reality as early as 2017.
Tennis NSW are strongly behind the push to lure the best players in the world to Sydney, with nations competing in a tournament similar to the Hopman Cup in Perth at the start of every year.
The tournament is being earmarked to be held in October or November every second year, unable to fit into what is already a jam-packed January of tennis in .
The concept has been dubbed the Twenty20 of tennis.
And just like Twenty20 all those years ago, it began as a hit and giggle imitation of the real deal; a bit of fun that measures success by reactions more than action.
At some point along the road, when money became involved and national pride went on the line, Twenty20 turned competitive and transformed the sport.
While Fast4 tennis may not be as revolutionary as the 20 over-a-side concept was for cricket, there is still the potential to gain a share of the television viewers and crowds the Big Bash League dominate once the football season comes to a close.
Millions of dollars were invested into the International Tennis Premier League which was established last year, attracting some of the best players in the world last month for a team-based competition.
Kyrgios played for the championship-winning Singapore Slammers, teaming up with the likes of Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka to win the tournament.
While one of the major reasons Fast4 tennis was developed was to increase junior participation, there is a chance for Sydney to put ownership to a product that needs to be more ridiculously brilliant than ridiculously ridiculous.
With 12,000 coming out last year to watch Roger Federer and almost similar numbers last night for the extended version at Sydney Olympic Park, Sydney has shown its appetite for a piece of what Melbourne does so well.
Bring the stars and they will come.
Give the stars a place to shine and they will keep coming.
Gael Monfils defeated Kyrgios before Hewitt squared the ledger with a win against Nadal. But the world team finished on top, winning the doubles.