Stacy Allaster, who is the chief executive of professional tennis at the United States Tennis Association(USTA) has said that the USTA has raised a few questions and is working on them in order to improve the pace of the game and make it more friendly for the people sitting at home in anticipation of some wonderful tennis on their television sets. The topics discussed were as follows:
- Tiny cameras placed on the player’s body to get a different angle on the TV
- Net serves to be actually considered as a fair game
- The server is on a 20-second clock to start the point
- Eliminating the pre-match warm up of players
- Stricter policies of player’s bathroom and injury breaks
When a person viewing a tennis match on the television sees a certain player serving at speeds of 220km/hr, all he can do it is hear the commentators and the live audience appreciating the player’s skill. It becomes more interesting when the opponent hits a return winner. Joy for the player, joy for the crowd, joy for the live audience. What about the one seeing it on television? The viewer can see how fast the bowl is traveling but he can’t appreciate the fine details when the server fires down the ball and how such high speed serves are returned. In order to make this happen, the concept of tiny cameras being placed on the player is being talked about.
The US Open was one of the first tournaments who introduced the ball spotting technology which determines whether the ball is in or out. Apart from this, it is the only tournament to consider tiebreaks in decider sets. Except for Wimbledon, all other grand slam tournaments have incorporated three sets for men’s doubles tournament. Also, the US Open has now removed the concept of Advantage point after a deuce. A deciding point at deuce will determine who will win the game and the players no longer have to win two consecutive points to win the game. The USTA is now planning to count the net serves “in” and playable. Bringing this rule in effect will further lower down the time spent on serving and the players will have reduced double faults and chances of having higher first serve percentages.
“We want to innovate, but we have to do it in such a way that we bring the players along”– Stacy Allaster
Baby steps were taken in this year’s junior and collegiate invitational tournaments at the US Open when an experiment was made with a 20-second service clock. In the first 260 matches, 24 serve clock warning had been issued. A major development was that none of the players committed that error twice which could have given away a penalty point to their opponent. Bringing such rules at the professional level would be possible when more tournaments at the junior level will give favorable results.
“I don’t know who has six hours to watch a tennis match, I certainly don’t. What these guys can do out there is unbelievable. But to watch five sets of some of these guys playing 40-ball rallies, it’s just hard to think that that’s going to be, from the business side of tennis, a good product.”– 2016 Mixed doubles finalist, Rajeev Ram
In the men’s semi-finals, both Kei Nishikori and eventual champion Stan Wawrinka were warned by the umpire regarding slow play. In the second semi-final, even Gael Monfils was warned about the same to which he replied, “If you want me to speed up, penalize me.” The slow rate of a game can be reduced right from the beginning of the game if the warm-ups were to be barred. Every player, be it a pro or a junior enters the tournament with a certain confidence and a preparation to win matches or even the tournament. Considering the word “professional” being a part of ATP’s full-form, do we really need pro players to do a warm-up before the match? Don’t they already get warmed up with their coach and team a few hours before the match? Same applies to the women’s category. If this rule goes under operation, the matches will also begin on scheduled time.
What sparked a controversy in the men’s final was the way World No.1, Novak Djokovic used up his trainer rights at key points during the match. When Wawrinka was leading 3-1 up with a break in the fourth set, Novak called upon his trainer at a time when the rest between the serves was not allowed. Wawrinka, who was only three games away from the title was agitated as it broke his rhythm. Djokovic did apologize for the break but he called up for a trainer once again after two games. This was not the only incident in the entire tournament when Novak called upon his trainer at a vital moment of the game. The Guardian reports:
He was cruising against Kyle Edmund in the fourth round until broken in the third set, and immediately called for the trainer, who massaged his right elbow. Djokovic recovered quickly and won in style.
In his weird semi-final against Monfils, again Djokovic was in command, albeit struggling briefly to cope with the Frenchman’s eccentricities in the first set, until his shoulders gave up on him: first the right, then the left. Each time he benefited from the rest and recovered steadily from a break of service to complete the win.
Yet he maintained in both incidents that there was no problem, that he was physically OK and he would be in good condition for his next match. There was nothing underhand about this, but the denials didn’t seem to fit the picture. If Djokovic was fit, why call for the trainer?
In the Open era, this has been the only incident when a player has reached a grand slam semi-final so easily, giving up just 40 games in 6 matches with 2 of them unfinished. 1987 Wimbledon champion, Pat Cash wrote on his blog,
“Players will complain of a minor injury, real or imagined, while actually getting relief from the physical rigor and mental strain of the match, often after being broken, as well. Perhaps reputation helps, sometimes.”
Patrick McEnroe, brother of the legendary John McEnroe and an ESPN commentator stated it as a “complete abuse of rules.” In his defense, Djokovic said, he was allowed to take it, so he did. This brisk statement from Djokovic might just tilt the debate in his favor. For once let us ignore the timing at which Djokovic called for his trainer. What leaves us with is liberal policies on player’ medical breaks. If it’s in the rulebook, you are doing it right. But bringing back the “timing” at which Djokovic called for his trainer in more than one instance in the entire tournament will definitely raise suspicions.
“I think sometimes some players abuse the rules for sure. Yesterday when he took the second time-out they told me it was because he was bleeding, and I have no problem with that. But sometimes I feel also from outside no-one tells people what’s happening. People outside or behind, they cannot see.”-Stan Wawrinka