Fast-paced tennis gains traction

Key Points
  • Tie Break Tens is a new tennis tournament that just kicked off at Madison Square Garden and features eight world-class female tennis players, including Serena Williams and Venus Williams.
  • The tournament is designed to keep audiences' attention with rapid-fire games and multiple stars.
  • The event has already gained major success abroad.
Marion Bartol hugs Serena Williams after their TieBreak Tens tennis match at Madison Square Garden.
Adam Hunger | USA Today Sports | Reuters

There's a new tennis tournament in town, and the concept is attracting some of the biggest names. Tie Break Tens kicked off this week at Madison Square Garden in New York City for its first-ever U.S. tournament. The tournament features eight world-class female tennis players including Serena Williams and Venus Williams.

As attention spans shorten, the sports world is trying to come up with innovative ways to keep fans engaged.

Unlike traditional tournaments with matches that can last hours, the Tie Break Tens tournament is designed to provide fans rapid-fire games, where they can see multiple stars all under one roof. The idea began in 2015 and is now growing to new cities each year.

Described as "everything you love about tennis in one ten-point breaker," the high-octane tournament features no games or sets — just tie breaks. Most games last 10 to 15 minutes at most. The winner takes all with a $250,000 prize.

"It's a bit of a movement. The players are used to playing a crammed season with lots of matches. That's their bread and butter. Tie Break Ten gives them something different and opens them up to new audiences as well," said Felicity Barnard, Tie Break Tens' CEO.

"This is a different format. It's fresh and totally different than anything that we normally do," says Serena Williams, winner of 23 Grand Slam tournaments. "It's fun to bring a younger crowd into tennis and experience it at a really fast pace," she added.

The event has been a big hit abroad, selling out in venues in Melbourne, Madrid, Vienna and London and attracting big-name sponsorships. Kia, SAP, Wilson, Voss and Michelob Ultra are a few of the partners.

The key to the tournament's success is bringing in big names. Previous tournaments have included Andy Murray, John McEnroe and Maria Sharapova.

The purpose of the tournament isn't to replace a traditional tennis format, but organizers see the opportunity to capture a new audience with its fast pace. "We address the need for time and fans that want digital, socially digestible format of the sport," said Barnard. "You get to see eight world-class tennis players in one evening."

Barnard says they work with the professional tour to complement its existing schedule, allowing top players the opportunity for high-caliber play in between tournaments. She says players see the value in reaching a younger audience.

"To this day, we love the competition. It's just fun to be here," said Venus Williams.