Good morning Mark Milne, it’s a pleasure to have you here. Please tell us a little about yourself and your career to date in sport and tennis in particular.
Many thanks for having me Mark. It is very much appreciated.
I was born in the small coastal town of Arbroath in the North East of Scotland, one hour south of Aberdeen and only just over an hour away from Andy Murray’s Dunblane.
I have lived all my life in Arbroath and am married with 3 grown up children.
Following graduating from the University of Dundee in the mid 1980’s I have worked full-time as a Mechanical Design Engineer in the Steel and Oil & Gas Industries.
For the last 40 years or so I have had a great passion for racket sports, in particular tennis, squash and badminton, all of which I have played to a County level.
My great love for tennis started following a family holiday to Scarborough in July 1972 where I watched the 5 sets Wimbledon final between Stan Smith / Ilie Nastase at Wimbledon on a small black and white television.
We went out and bought some very cheap Winfield branded tennis balls and wooden rackets from the local Woolworth’s store over the road, found some grass tennis courts, had a knock about and that was me hooked.
The family returned back home to Arbroath, we called round to the local tennis club that had 3 blaes courts (similar to red clay) and was only a 5-minute walk from the family house. It was half way through the tennis season and I was delighted to become a member of the club for the remaining couple of months of the season for a massive membership fee of only £1! I went home delighted clutching the small membership card with my name on it and signed by the President of the club like it was a piece of treasure.
I was also very lucky to find that I had a natural ability for tennis. It all came very easy to me and I was quick around the court.
Watching Bjorn Borg win his 5 Wimbledon titles in a row from 1976 – 1980 had an enormous influence on me during my teen years as he was the perfect role model – the wooden Donny racquets! The tightly strung racquets whose strings popped during the night! The topspin! The sliced backhand! The white tennis balls! The long rallies! The subtle touch and finesse! The standing at the umpire’s chair during the change of ends! – all just memories for us now!
In the winter months back then, the people who played tennis during the decent summer months tended to move indoors away from the cold Scottish winter weather to play either badminton or squash.
There were local badminton and squash clubs that I joined and again found that I also had a natural talent for both.
I played tennis, squash and badminton for the local club’s teams in the local leagues over a period of over 30 years and also competed in many local competitions, winning numerous local events.
I was the Scottish Squash National coach/manager to the boys under 14 & 16 teams in the early 1990’s competing in the Home Internationals against England, Ireland and Wales.
I stopped competing over 10 years ago and now just play a couple of times a week for fun these days for exercise.
You are the founder of Thirty30 Tennis. Tell us about it, and the inspiration behind it?
During the 1980’s/1990’s the game of Short/Soft tennis was introduced in the UK as a starting point for any junior wanting to learn how to play tennis. It was played indoors on a smaller (badminton) court, over a low net with a soft sponge ball that did not bounce very high and with a solid plastic (with holes) racket / bat. I had played this as an adult at the time and had found it great fun.
Around 3 years ago and after over 10 years playing the same opponent regularly twice a week at squash during the winter months to keep fit, we called it a day.
I was looking for something different to do indoors during the winter months and came across the fantastic sport of Touchtennis.
Touchtennis was invented by Rashid Ahmad in the early 2000’s and is very similar to Short Tennis, however a racket (usually a 21”) with strings is used and the sponge ball used has had a makeover and is now heavier, denser, faster and bounces a lot higher.
I got together with a hitting partner and we started playing one-hour Touchtennis twice a week on a regular basis.
Initially, the scoring system we used was the “old” Short tennis scoring, i.e. alternate 2 serves each, one from each side (Left / Right), point per rally scoring with the game won when the first player gets 11 points (lead by 2 points), best of 3 games.
This scoring was satisfactory for a short period of time but the game of Touchtennis had now moved up a gear from the game of Short Tennis.
It did feel like a shrunk-down version of tennis in that the overhead serve was bigger and was a weapon, the sponge ball behaved more like a tennis ball, was much faster, bounced higher, took topspin, slice, serve & volley was possible, etc.
We started using the traditional tennis scoring system, i.e. best of 3 sets, 0, 15, 30, 40, Ad, sets to 6 games, etc. but again after a short period of time we found that quite often we were not completing the match due to being restricted to the one-hour court booking time slot.
I researched the official rules of Touchtennis and learned that they were very similar to Tennis Australia’s FAST4 rules, i.e. sets to 4 games, TB at 3-3, No Ads (i.e. sudden death deuce) & No Lets.
This just did not sit right with me. Playing sets to 4 games with No Ads was just not tennis to me. Although now completing a best of 3 sets match within the one hour, on leaving the court having won by e.g. 4-1, 3-4, 4-2, it just didn’t feel right; this was not tennis as I knew it.
Then, early March 2016 I woke up suddenly in the middle of the night with what I now call a “light-bulb” moment – we could complete a best of 3 sets match in under an hour if we played normal traditional tennis scoring except that every game would start at 30-30. I had remembered from my junior days that 30-30 starts had been used during practice to give the players more experience of playing the “big” points. I was also aware that the faster and more exciting version of cricket called Twenty20 was being played and was very successful. When I looked at “30-30”, the most obvious thing to do was to brand the new shorter and more exciting version of tennis as “Thirty30” tennis – the clue would be in the name – every game starts at 30-30! Thirty30 could be referred to as being the younger sibling of Twenty20.
We started using Thirty30 and with a bit of experimenting with when to change ends I altered the change of ends rule slightly from the traditional “after one and every two games” to “after two and every four games”. Players still served alternatively but this meant both players would play a service game before initially changing ends and followed by changing ends after every 4 games played. i.e. change of ends occur after 2, 6 and 10 games, ensuring a maximum of only 3 changes of ends per set. This also made the match shorter.
Another very small change was what to do when a set reached 6 games all. Initially a traditional Tie-Break to 7 points (lead by 2) was used but this could go on too long. A “Golden Game” was created that was essentially a “sudden-death” game played at 6-all. However, this was not ideal and it was finally decided that a “Short Set Tie-Break” i.e. best of 9 points (maximum 9 points played), first to 5 points, sudden death point at 4-4, would be played at 6 games all to decide the set.
Lastly, I wanted to alternate who serves first at the start of each set. In a 3 set match, player A serves first in sets #1 & #3 and player B serves first in set #2.
We began using this format and found that invariably a best of 3 sets match could be completed in the hour and you could leave the court having won e.g. 7-6(3), 3-6, 7-5 with the match actually feeling, looking and sounding like a traditional match.
I then conjured up “Thirty30 Tennis – Where Every Point Really Counts” as every second point played is a game point.
The Thirty30 matches were shorter, faster moving and more dynamic – the game score ticked over much more quickly and it was great fun!
I have seen a lot about Thirty30 Tennis, particularly on Social Media… How far have you got with the concept?
Yes, I have now had the Thirty30 scoring method out on Social Media since December 2017.
I started my Thirty30 crusade following my “light-bulb” moment in March 2016.
I realised that I wanted to trial my idea and at this time I met up with the then acting CEO of Tennis Scotland – he liked the idea and told me that Tennis Scotland would help me.
I also thought who is the best person in Scotland that could possibly help me trial Thirty30? And that was of course Judy Murray! I contacted her during the summer of 2016. She told me that she had used 30-30 game starts for fun, was supportive of my idea however she had many other projects on her to do list and she wished me good luck with my idea before suggesting that I contact the Head of Competitions at the ITF.
I contacted the ITF basically just through the “Contact Us” on their website and I was eventually put in touch with the Head of their Rules of Tennis Committee. He discussed it with a couple of his colleagues and came back to me asking me to officially apply by completing their document “Application to amend Rules of Tennis”.
I completed the form, sent it off to the ITF and was later informed that my application would be on the agenda for discussing at their next Rules of Tennis Committee meeting to be held in Paris in June 2017 during the French Open.
In early July I received a letter from the ITF telling me that the committee had decided not to put Thirty30 forward to the Board for consideration as their Rules already had enough alternative methods for shortening tennis matches.
I consulted their 2017 Rules and in Appendix V there is a section called “Alternative Procedures and Scoring Methods”. Within this section was listed the following rules: “No Ads”, Short Sets (to 4 games TB at 3-3), Match Tie-Break (7 points), Match Tie-Break (10 points) and “No Let” and also that “For a two-year trial (2016-17) the alternative FAST4 format may be used”.
I pointed out that sets to 4 games with no ads and the use of the Match Tie-Break (10 points) as a 3rd set match decider was just not tennis as we traditionally know it.
I felt that the alternative shorter Thiry30 scoring format was better as it retains the very important traditions of tennis better, i.e. sets to 6 games (lead by 2), TB at 6-all, and the Ad points are played and that Thirty30 matches still feel, look and sound like traditional tennis. I also pointed out that “Thirty30” actually means something and that most people would not recognise the connection between tennis and “FAST4”.
I told the ITF that I would go away for a year or two, get it trialled all over the world and then re-apply to them.
At the Foreword on page 1 of the 2018 ITF Rules of tennis is the following:
Appendix V lists all known and approved alternative procedures and scoring methods. In addition, on its own behalf or on application by interested parties, certain variations to the rules may be approved by the ITF for trial purposes only at a limited number of tournaments or events and/or for a limited time period. Such variations are not included in the published rules and require a report to the ITF on the conclusion of the approved trial.
The Holy Grail for me for now is to re-apply to the ITF and hopefully have the Thirty30 format accepted to be trialled at Exhibitions or some of the smaller ATP / WTA Events.
I had a Thirty30 logo and website created for spreading the word, since the turn of the year.
We have had a fast-track training course from my children on how to use Social Media and through this I have been contacting people all over the world asking them to help me by trialling Thirty30.
I advertised Thirty30 in the match day program at the Andy Murray Live Event held at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow last year where Andy played an exhibition match with Roger Federer.
We have also become a member of the Tennis Industry Association (TIAUK), had articles published recently in the UK’s Tennis Threads and Tennis UK magazines and various other people have written online articles regarding Thirty30.
I also appeared on a podcast with Lisa Stone of Parenting Aces in Atlanta Georgia.
I was recently interviewed live on Love Sport Radio from London and had a 40 second jingle played 6 times a day over 2 weeks in August.
Various articles regarding the above can be read on the News page of the Thirty30 tennis website at: https://www.thirty30tennis.com/blog
I love the concept of Thirty30 Tennis… My take on this is that it would be great for junior tennis and where the weather isn’t great i.e. England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales. What are the plans beyond this?
Many thanks Mark. I agree, where events are cut short due to bad weather, Thirty30 can be used to shorten matches that still provide a true test of skill and ability where the better player wins.
The Thirty30 scoring method also provides competition organisers with the option of using the round-robin format instead of knock-out, thus giving competitors more matches and a bigger variety of players to play against.
There are many uses and advantages of playing Thirty30 Tennis and I list these on my website at
Beyond this, anything is possible.
I was unexpectedly asked during my Love Sport Radio interview in August “when did I think that we would see the professional players using Thirty30?”. I answered very quickly “5 years”. On reflection however, I do like the sound of Thirty30 in 2020! Time will tell!
Tennis needs an alternative.
I have been receiving very encouraging feedback from people all over the world, telling me that it is a very good idea, with many people also letting me know that they have been using 30-30 starts for many years.
I have had recent discussions with various people regarding my proposal that the WTA Professional women players could play best of 5 sets Thirty30 matches. This would be very unique and would create a lot of interest in their game – I personally would love to see two professional women players play out a best of 5 sets Thirty30 match in 60-90 minutes – it would be fun for the players, great for the spectators and ideal for television – sets of Thirty30 are ‘bite-size’ and matches don’t go on forever.
I have also had various discussions regarding the use of the Match Tie-Break (10 points) i.e. a Champion’s Tie-Break, as a 3rd set match decider. The MTB can be a bit of a lottery. It is too short and does not appear to be the best way to decide a tight match. The players apparently do not like it. I have suggested that a set of Thirty30 (lead by 2 games) would be a better and fairer way of deciding a match.
I just today received the following Testimonial from Alex Gornet, Cracked Racquets, Louisville, KY, USA:
“Great concept! This fast-paced scoring allows for a match full of suspense and pressure. It would be great to see ATP and WTA give it a trial run next year. I think players, fans, and everyone involved would love the change-up.”
It is always good to receive this sort of feedback and it is encouraging that there are other people out there that are agreeing with me.
So, for now my plan is to continue with my request for help to trial Thirty30 with a view to re-applying to the ITF possibly next year or the year after to hopefully have it officially trialled.
There is definitely an appetite and a requirement for an alternative shorter scoring method and tennis requires something that works for everyone involved – Thirty30 could be the answer?
Basically, all I have done is taken a tried and tested practice method, tidied it up, packaged it as a possible match format and branded it Thirty30 – All very simple. Simple is best!
I see you have all sorts of testimonials on your website from all over the world. Have you many players or former players who you could call an ambassador of Thirty30 Tennis?
Yes, I just today saw Testimonial #150 added to the Testimonials page on the Thirty30 website – this is very encouraging to me.
I have been in communication via social media with a couple of former players.
Jeff Tarango replied: “So great that is how I played almost all my sets as a kid !! I have done many interviews about that … cool!”
And after trying Thirty30, Johan Kriek replied: “We actually did a small bit of playing keeping score and it was well received. So, will do it more and more within my sphere of playing in pro-ams etc from now on. Thanks!”.
Steve Simon, the CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association has also shown an interest in the possibility of the women playing best of 5 sets matches. We are currently thinking on how the professionals can trial Thirty30.
During the Cincinnati Open a few weeks ago, Novak Djokovic was quoted: “This new generation of tennis fans and millennials, they don’t have the great attention span. They want things to happen very quickly. So, for the players as well and to attract more people, more viewers of a younger audience, I think we have to keep tennis matches dynamic and shorter.”
I couldn’t agree more with Novak. Thirty30 tennis produces shorter and more dynamic matches! Could this be what Novak is looking for?
Finally, how can people contact you and reach out to give you feedback or offer support?
People can contact me, give me feedback or offer support in a variety of ways.
Thirty30 tennis – FEELS, LOOKS and SOUNDS like traditional tennis!
Thirty30 tennis – Where EVERY Point REALLY Counts!
Thirty30 tennis – Have You Tried It Yet?
Mark J Milne, Arbroath, Scotland
Creator of Thirty30 Tennis
Thanks very much to Mark Milne for this new concept in tennis. Just from this interview I can see he has put a huge amount of effort into it, and he is quoted as saying that he wants ‘Thirty30 to be used as an alternative scoring method used to produce shorter matches as and where required. In the smaller ATP or WTA events – play best of 5 sets in 60-90 minutes would be my dream.’ Well, if it is anything like cricket and Twenty20 who knows? Best of luck goes to Mark Milne and let’s see whether Thirty30 really is the newest concept in tennis!
Mark Wylam (Owner Sportsprosconnect.com)