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Player to Player: Excessive Time Between Points

June 3, 2012 05:11 PM
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Real Tennis Players - Like You! - Asking For and Offering Advice on the Sport They Love
Player to Player is USTA.com’s regular feature in which everyday tennis players are given a forum to ask advice on the sport they love – and their fellow players will dish out advice. We’ll post a number of the best responses we receive to our question of the week.

Player to Player:
This week's question from Teofila:
How can I help boost the confidence of my 11-year-old so that he plays tournaments with enjoyment and not fear? He has a hard time managing his emotions, becomes paralyzed on the court and ends up forgetting all his tennis skills.
Please share your thoughts by e-mailing Player@USTA.com, and include your name and hometown.
Got a question of your own? Send that along, too!

Last week's question from Jackie
(Please note: There is no need to send additional responses to this question.)
Why are pro players now allowed to wipe off after every shot, and why can they take so long to serve? I thought they are only supposed to take 25 seconds between points. Nadal and others with the antics take too long.
Player Responses:
Coach Leonard, Concord, Calif.

The time between points is often misunderstood. The second count ceases once the server is in position to serve. There may be allowances if a ball needs to be retrieved or cleared. If time was counted until the ball is put into play, there potentially could be a lot of violations.

Consider when Jimmy Connors would do his 14-bounce ritual before every serve. Djokvic isn't any quicker. Then there are the re-tosses due to the wind or sun position. I personally don't mind the time lapse. It allows the players to recover and refocus.

The courtside towel off has become more popular now. Back in the '60s, all players would rely on their flimsy wristbands. Also, the men used to pocket the second ball, too. Wanting to speed up a match while reducing the quality of play is not positive for the sport of tennis. It's like eliminating pit stops in an auto race. I say let pros do it "Karate Kid" style. Whack on the court, and wipe off between points.
Kenny S., Chicago

The worst is watching golf, when the man or lady takes 100 practice swings, changes clubs and then hits the ball. In tennis, you're allowed, I think, 20-25 seconds between points. Sometimes you really need to catch your breath and get focused again.

Most players have a routine for their matches. Some like to grab the towel and keep things at a slow pace, while others like to go from point to point without any stop.

If you're serving, you sort of control the pace but have to wait till the player is ready to return the ball in position. A lot of servers like to bounce the ball three to five times, which is good. Others like to go up there and keep it moving fast. As long as the time between points and games is within the rule book, then it is what it is.

Jerry, Islington, Ont.

Jackie, you're absolutely right! The rule is quite clear -- the ball has to be delivered into play within 25 seconds from the end of the previous point. And that's just the minimum! The server may serve within reasonable time even sooner, and the receiver has to be ready. So no toweling off or walking to the corner and turning back to the server, as Sharapova is doing. Time violations are the most abused rule of the rules of the court. This is squarely the chair umpire's fault. They are supposed to know the rules and enforce them.

As an example, when Andy Roddick kept insulting the line umpire during the US Open for some 15 minutes because she dared to enforce the foot-fault rule when he was serving, what did the chair umpire do? Absolutely nothing. He was supposed to ask him to play, and if Roddick didn't start serving again in 25 seconds, he could have had and should have had to charge him with time delay under the code violation. Instead, Roddick kept on asking the line umpire which of his feet caused the foot fault, even though, as he admitted to the chair umpire whom he engaged in a conversation, he perfectly knew it couldn't have been his right foot. And the chair umpire still did nothing, except confirm that he had never seen in the past Roddick's right foot touch the service line.

So why is there such an important rule to make the play continuous that is not meant to be used? Anybody's guess. I suggest that a clock should be installed on the court that would start running at the end of the point and start buzzing after 25 seconds or even 30 seconds (a clock similar to those used on basketball courts). If the ball is not delivered to start the next play by that time, the chair umpire would be obligated to use the time violation rule and assess a point penalty, either to the receiver or to the server, whoever caused the time delay.

Jake, Clearwater, Fla.

The simple answer to why pro players can take so long between serves: Because court umpires seldom strictly enforce Rule 29 a., as printed in the ITF rulebook: "Between points, a maximum of twenty (20) seconds is allowed.

When the players change ends at the end of a game, a maximum of ninety (90) seconds are allowed. However, after the first game of each set and during a tiebreak game, play shall be continuous, and the players shall change ends without a rest."

I share Jackie's annoyance on this issue. I don't think it used to be common to see a player taking half a minute or more to towel off, adjust his shirt or shorts, etc., after every point. It usually seems to be the men who do this (although women players more often violate another rule with excessively loud grunting or shrieking).

To bring about an end to the nonsense, umpires should start quietly informing the players before a match that the continuous play rule will be strictly enforced -- and then enforce it.
*Please note that any advice given out in this forum should in no way be confused with actual medical advice. Before starting any new exercise regimen or altering your existing one, we strongly urge you to consult with your regular physician.
Click here for USTA.com's Player to Player Archive.


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