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In 1968, commercial pressures and rumors of some amateurs taking money under the table led to the abandonment of this distinction, inaugurating the Open Era, in which all players could compete in all tournaments, and top players were able to make their living from tennis. With the beginning of the Open Era, the establishment of an international professional tennis circuit, and revenues from the sale of television rights, tennis's popularity has spread worldwide, and the sport has shed its middle-class English-speaking image (although it is acknowledged that this stereotype still exists).
Modular tile systems are the newest cushioning option on the market and offer the benefits of easy snap-together installation, long service life, and minimal maintenance. These systems feature interlocking, 12-inch square tiles made of high-impact polypropylene. The tiles rest slightly above the base surface to allow for better drainage and eliminate puddling. The downside of this cushioned comfort is the cost, which can run as high as high as $3 per square foot installed (or over $21,000 for a 60 x 120-foot tennis court).
While traditional sets continue until a player wins at least six games by a margin of at least two games there are some alternative set scoring formats in use. A common alternative set format is the eight or nine game pro set. Instead of playing until one player reaches six games with a margin of two games, one plays until one player wins eight or nine games with a margin of two games. A tie-break is then played at eight or nine games all. While the format is not used in modern professional matches or recognized by the ITF rules, it was supposedly used in early professional tours. It is commonly utilized in various amateur leagues and high school tennis as a shorter alternative to a best of three match, but longer than a traditional tie-break set. In addition, eight game pro sets were used during doubles for all Division I college dual matches, until the 2014–2015 season.
Tennis is played by millions of recreational players and is also a popular worldwide spectator sport. The four Grand Slam tournaments (also referred to as the Majors) are especially popular: the Australian Open played on hard courts, the French Open played on red clay courts, Wimbledon played on grass courts, and the US Open also played on hard courts.