With a small number of players exploiting the rules and taking far too long between points is it about time Tennis introduced a stop clock so that Umpires could start enforcing the rule better?
From 2013 onwards both the ATP World Tour and ATP Challenger Tour decided that a time violation between points (25 seconds) will be penalised in the first instance with a warning. For the second and all subsequent violations, the penalty will be a fault for the server and a point penalty for the receiver. The ITF has the exact same rule but only allows 20 seconds. This slight rule change was introduced to allow Umpires to enforce the rules more consistently after numerous players were exploiting them but not facing the consequences.
However, Umpires are doing a terrible job at ensuring this rule applies to all players. At the French Open Final between Sharapova and Halep, the Russian took over 30 seconds between first and second serves but wasn't given a single warning in the entire match. Nadal was a similar offender in his 2nd Round match against Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon often taking 30 seconds between points. And when we have John McEnroe saying:
It shouldn’t be a big deal. Think of how many tickets this guy sells. If all he does wrong is takes a couple of extra seconds in between points, his opponents should be able to live with that.
Which in short basically says that the top guys are bigger than the sport itself and they can shape the rules as they wish. In other words, a completely uneven playing field. As if the homogenisation of courts wasn't enough to protect the Cash Cow's the ATP, we have respected pundits giving them free reign over the rule book.
After Nadal's excessive time between points in his 2nd round match, the debate was raised again by Lukas Rosol and Roger Federer who believe the game needs to be sped up. ESPN also ran a section on the topic with Brad Gilbert and Daren Cahill who both agreed that time between points, and toilet breaks etc need cutting out. Gilbert said he played over 800 matches in his career and didn't leave the court once. Either players bladders are getting weaker or they're taking the piss 🙂
You cannot take 25 seconds. I mean, I know you need to focus. That you can do in 10 seconds. Just can’t be that we only see two points per minute. I just feel like we need to keep up the pace and obviously play according to the rules.
Federer on time between points
I personally think a shot clock is long overdue. I think one of the main reasons Umpires don't enforce the rule is because they're scared of a players reaction but also getting the crowd on their back. All good umpires want to have as little impact on the match as possible and they don't want it to appear as though their decisions play much part in the outcome if they can avoid it.
A shot clock removes that fear for them, it's there for the whole world to see – the players, the crowd, the umpires and the TV viewers at home. They can clearly see when a player is cheating by taking too long between points, there's no debate about it – the clock doesn't lie.
If a shot clock were introduced it would also level the playing field which can only be a good thing. Firstly we'll start to see more attacking Tennis for everyone to enjoy. By removing the shorter recovery time between points players will have to decide whether they want to play overly defensive, side to side tennis or a more attacking style. It's a cost benefit analysis for them and I think they'll have to take the shot making route to end points quicker otherwise they're going to run out of gas much quicker.
It also makes it far better for TV viewing if points are played at pace, nobody wants to sit around for 5 hours watching the same match with so much dead time n between points. Snooker had a real problem with players taking too long between shots so they introduced a 25 second shot clock at all Premier League Snooker Events, Sky's Flagship Snooker Coverage, no surprise that viewing figures went up as a direct result :). I can only see the same happening for Tennis.
Should Leeway Be Given for Long Rallies?
This is where I disagree with Fed who says after a long rally you should get more time. I don't really think players who engage in a long rally should get any special dispensation. I can't think of any other sport where the rules say “well that last minute, point, quarter, spell etc was so intense, you can have a bit longer to recover”. In boxing, you don't get longer in your corner if you burnt yourself out in an earlier round by throwing bombs and missing, in Basketball you don't get to take a longer break if your opponents are tiring you out. One the clock starts, it starts. Simple.
When you start giving leeway you instantly introduce the possibility of players trying to game the system. If the shot clock is set to 20 seconds, there's no questions whatsoever and all that's rewarded is smart play and physical fitness.
I think the sooner this is introduced the better. Will the powers that be risk upsetting a handful of their top starts? Doubtful but we'll see. Maybe Stan the Man can become the enforcer on the Player Council and make it happen.
What do you guys think? Should there be a shot clock in all forms of Tennis from Challenger through to Grand Slam?