“The tennis, boss! The tennis!”
Ever wanted to pull together a dream roster of tennis players, and have your own successes and failures measured against their successes and failures?
Well, now you can – and unlike Mr. Roarke’s Fantasy Island, it’s completely free.
Enter Racket Rally, a new fantasy tennis game launched by Ben Rothenberg of The New York Times and Jeff Sackmann of Tennis Abstract. The site, which is essentially how life would be if the stock market was determined by Maria Sharapova’s second serve, has debuted in time for the 2015 season. Racket Rally dives into a fantasy sports market where tennis is notably absent, but it is not the first of its kind.
“I think about tennis way too much, and at some point the idea of wanting to develop the wildly under-nurtured fantasy realm came to me,” Rothenberg said.
Where others have failed, however, Racket Rally hopes to succeed. The site’s appeal ultimately lies in its simplicity. After signing up, a player can select a combination of up to 20 ATP and WTA players and purchase shares of them with a budget of $100,000; the price of each player corresponds to his or her ranking points, and he or she earns points for the Racket Rally player for every match win.
The amount of points earned for each win correspond to the number of ranking points the player himself or herself earns. That number is then multiplied by the number of shares owned. If the owner feels a player is under-performing, shares can also be sold.
This “stock market-esque” idea came to Rothenberg early last summer, but he knew that he couldn’t fully realize the vision without help.
“I knew I could never build any sort of website on my own,” Rothenberg said. “I am a huge fan of what Jeff had done at Tennis Abstract, and his ability to make something from nothing and cull unique, powerful data out of the limited spigot of tennis information – and then put it online – made me think immediately that he would be the perfect for this venture.”
The two held their first meeting of the minds at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. in August, and began to seriously hammer out specifics in December. According to Rothenberg, the site was born from many “long phone calls and Google Docs that spun into 50-60 pages.”
The two hope that the site can provide some staying power for fantasy tennis, while simultaneously remaining unique and tailored to the sport’s niche fan base. While Rothenberg called the pool of fans “awesome and unbelievably devoted,” he admitted that it “can’t match the size of the oceans of NFL, NBA, and Champions League” in terms of the fantasy sports market.
Shares of the entire ATP and WTA Top 300, as well as some injury-protected players, can be purchased each week, allowing for casual fans and diehards to manipulate their rosters and play the game however they would like.
“The length and unevenness of the season makes [fantasy tennis] tricky,” Sackmann said. “Obviously there’s lots of interest during the Slams, but coming up with a format that could be fun during Slams and also enjoyable for hardcore fans…who might want to put together the perfect roster for Baku [is a challenge].”
“Following challengers adds a whole other layer to the tennis addict experience, and it’s one I wanted people to be able to use on the game if they wanted,” Rothenberg added. “I didn’t want it to be one tournament only, though our game certainly allows for people to join and play for just one tournament.”
With nearly 2,000 users already registered, the game will launch in earnest when the first ball of main draw play is struck at the Australian Open. After that, Sackmann says that their goal is simple.
“We’re mainly focused on putting something together that people enjoy, and if we succeed in that, other good things will ensue.”
Are you ready? Play.