American Frances Tiafoe said tennis should loosen its strict rules governing the behaviour of fans attending matches to help attract a younger audience.
According to tennis etiquette, fans should not make any noise during points and should only move to and from their seats when players take a break during the change of ends.
“I think fans should be able to come and go and move around and speak during matches,” Tiafoe told Forbes.
“Imagine going to a basketball game and not saying anything.”
Tiafoe told the magazine that certain events like Wimbledon should retain some tradition but “outside that, let’s start to change things to bring younger fans to the game.”
At last year’s U.S. Open, Tiafoe electrified the New York crowd during his win over Rafa Nadal in the last 16 en route to reaching his first Grand Slam semi-final.
There he further endeared himself to the fans when he battled eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz for five sets in front of a sold-out crowd that included former First Lady Michelle Obama.
It is no surprise then that the 25-year-old from Maryland said the comparatively rowdy atmosphere at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows makes it his favorite court to play on.
“There’s nothing like Arthur Ashe at night,” said Tiafoe, who will be in action on Friday in the Miami Open.
“Arthur Ashe period, but Arthur Ashe at night. New York at night, everyone’s drunk and the atmosphere, it’s crazy.”
Fellow American and world number three Jessica Pegula said she liked Tiafoe’s “positive” ideas but there had to be checks to ensure players are not disturbed.
“You can’t have people shouting in the middle of a point necessarily, but maybe if the movement was less restrictive, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” Pegula said.
“But then, you open yourself up to things that could happen where it does maybe cause hindrances throughout the play and it really affects the players.
“He loves the NBA and goes to games. It’s like constant chatter between the players and the people sitting on the court. There’s a lot of movement, music.
“I think we have to implement some of those things. We have to fit it to our sport, but the idea is there. Maybe just fine-tuning it.”
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