More than three years after the sport’s inception, the Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS) has finally made its way to the United States. This weekend, the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, will host the American debut of UTS.
With UTS Los Angeles unfolding from 21 to 23 July, Thursday saw a day full of pre-tournament action. Players took to the courts to brush off any post-Wimbledon rust, of which there was very little as the eight contestants this weekend went head-to-head for the first time in an All Stars Skills Challenge.
Big names such as Ben ‘The Mountain’ Shelton and Wu ‘The Great Wall’ Yibing mingled with fans, while others bantered in the corridors about last weekend’s Alcaraz vs Djokovic match. Still more hit the press and shared their views on tennis’s newest innovation.
Despite not a single point being played yet, it’s clear that UTS Los Angeles has an unparalleled vibe already.
‘The Mountain’ stars in All Star Skills Challenge
One of the highlights of Thursday at UTS Los Angeles was the All Stars Skills Challenge.
This event saw players hit the court to compete in a range of different skill-based challenges, surrounded by fans and competing against their fellow contestants this weekend.
One of the standout challenges was when players had to knock over boxes on the other side of the net with their serve—a challenge which big serving Ben ‘The Mountain’ Shelton excelled in.
It’s safe to say that some players will struggle more than others with the UTS rules, which allow only one serve to begin each point, rather than the traditional two allowed in tennis.
Players upbeat about rule changes, impact of UTS
Speaking of the UTS rules, across the day several players shared their views on the innovative approach taken by UTS, and how this will impact their own games.
Taylor Fritz shared positively, stating, “Honestly, I like a lot of the changes.”
“I love that we’re sticking with just one card per quarter now, and it’s just the three points when you take it. It’s going to make a big difference, it’s going to put a lot of importance and pressure on one point,” the American explained.
“I also really like that you have to win the last point. So, it can get exciting. You can be down five or six points, but you can still kind of run it up if the time’s out in a quarter and come back, so I think that’s pretty fun too.”
France’s Benoit ‘The Rebel’ Paire confessed that there are elements of the UTS rules he will find challenging:
“For me the toughest thing is the serve. This is tough, because I make a lot of double faults, and now I have to do only single serves. So it will be tough for me, but that’s the game.”
Others were more upbeat, with Fritz pointing to his previous UTS success despite the single serve rule.
UTS vibes unlocked in Los Angeles
Fans lucky enough to gain access to the Dignity Health Sports Park on ‘Day Zero’ of UTS Los Angeles would have quickly realised this is no ordinary tennis tournament.
From the unprecedented levels of access (fans down on the court interacting with players) and the banter (Diego Schwartzman commentating from the umpire’s chair on a mini-game between his soon-to-be competitors) to the unusual format (players competing in a skills challenge), there is a distinctly different mood about UTS Los Angeles.
Not that it’s any less competitive than other tournaments—Taylor Fritz has made it clear in his comments to the media that he’s here to win, and this isn’t simply an exhibition.
Frances ‘Big Foe’ Tiafoe furiously trying to smash over boxes on the other side of the net with his serve while wearing an NBA Lakers jersey and being cheered on by a group of kids epitomises what this event is all about.
Passionate, engaging, interactive and innovative.
It’s just the UTS vibe.
What to expect on Day One of UTS Los Angeles
With play kicking off at 4pm on Friday, fans will be treated to a smorgasbord of action on Day One of UTS Los Angeles. All players will compete at least once, with the following matches being played across the day:
- The Rebel vs El Peque
- The Mountain vs Big Foe
- The Hotshot vs The Great Wall
- Big Foe vs La Monf
- The Mountain vs The Bublik Enemy
- The Rebel vs The Great Wall
Play will last through until 10:30pm, with a similar round robin schedule set for Day Two on Saturday as well.