Go to Wimbledon, and the crowd follows a very strict decorum: Quiet during service, gentle clapping after a point is scored.

Go watch tennis in the Big 12 Conference, and you can forget about all that decorum. The Big 12 wants its tennis fans to be loud, boisterous -- even downright heckling the players.

The louder, the better. According to a feature in The Wall Street Journal, it's all a part of the Big 12's push to keep tennis relevant among students and fans.

Surprising as it might seem, the changes in rules do have some appeal to certain fans. One student interviewed by the WSJ said that the difference between heckling at a tennis match vs. a football game is that at tennis matches, he feels he has a bigger role.

"It's better than football because they can actually hear me when I talk to them," Burchfield told the WSJ.

More than 600 tennis programs across the country have been dropped over the past 40 years, and many colleges are getting more aggressive about how they try to appeal to students. Free food, giveaways and even changing the game's rules to shorten matches have all made a noticeable difference.

But the freedom to heckle seems to be making a big splash.

It's also enabled tennis teams to draw a more consistent following, even to the point that they've organized cheering sections. While the NCAA as a whole hasn't dispensed of the traditional rules, Big 12 tennis is seeing enough success that it may spur on greater changes soon.

Either way, it's clear that the rule changes are making the sport more accessible -- and popular. Said one student: "Honestly, we wouldn't be here otherwise."

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Youngest Grand Slam Tennis Champions


Australian Open, Women

Martina Hingis, 1997, 16 years, 3 months.


Australian Open, Men

Mats Wilander, 1983, 19 years, 3 months.


French Open, Women

Monica Seles, 1990, 16 years, 6 months.


French Open, Men

Michael Chang, 1989, 17 years, 3 months.


Wimbledon, Women

Martina Hingis, 1997, 16 years, 9 months.


Wimbledon, Men

Boris Becker, 1985, 17 years, 7 months.


U.S. Open, Women

Tracy Austin, 1979, 16 years, 8 months


U.S. Open, Men

Pete Sampras, 1990, 19 years, 0 months

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