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TIME FOR A CHANGE

Posted By Peter Bonadio  
14/09/2021
12:04 PM

Over the years there have been interesting medical time-outs at crucial points in matches and as we have seen over the past two weeks at the US Open 'time off court in general' has been a big topic of debate about what is reasonable time.

In regards to medical time outs, now these could have been genuine injuries, however, you can’t help but think the timing was more than a little suss.

During a third-round match at Wimbledon this year, there was some controversy around Jelena Ostapenko’s injury timeout after being blown out of the water in the final set against Ajla Tomljanović. 

The Latvian citied an abdominal injury trailing 4-0 in the decider. Along with Tomljanović questioning the legitimacy of the injury, fans on social media also expressed their views on the medical timeout. 

Further back in time at the 2013 Australian Open, Victoria Azarenka's medical time out made headlines around the world during her semi-final against Sloane Stephens. After squandering five match points, Azarenka took a medical timeout. Following the extra break, the Belarusian took the match and booked her spot in the final. 

Aside from medical timeouts, the first week of the US Open sparked debate as well with Stefanos Tsitsipas taking an eight-minute bathroom break in his first round match against Andy Murray.

Is there a simple fix for these ‘suss’ medical or bathroom break time-outs? Would an introduction of a timeout that a player could call at a change of sets for no reason be a solution?

Speaking on the First Serve, Sam Groth suggested a time limit on bathroom breaks with a penalty for the time taken over the deadline. However, there is no need for a separate timeout.

“It [length of breaks] probably hasn’t risen up as much as this week, at this tournament. It has been spoken about in bits and pieces, but I think the way it is being portrayed in New York right now it needs to be fixed.” 

“I don’t think it is a great look…If someone goes for a break for five minutes, maybe then every time the 20 seconds ticks over [five minutes] you lose a point. Like you would if you are not ready to play.”

Something similar is already in place through the WTA with the coaches being able to come on court. However, it may be time for something more permanent to be put in place across grand slams and the ATP.

Hypothetically this is what the timeouts could look like and how it could be implemented.

Allowing players to call a timeout at the change of ends would potentially stop the questionable medical timeouts.

It would be useful for those players that find themselves in a slump at a particular point of the match.

A timeout that would not have been questioned if in play at Wimbledon during the Ostapenko match. 

Although there would be strict rules behind the use of this timeout. Players would be able to use the strategic timeout once per match with an additional timeout given in the final set of a match. 

The timeout can be called at the change of ends, extending the length of the break between sets. Just with that sentence, do you mean can be called at the change of sets not ends?  No coaches will be allowed to be called out to court during this break as it is the player's time to collect their thoughts and regroup. 

The players have also been versed with rule changes like this before with the introduction of the serve clock.

“If you put a time frame on it, then people will get back on time” said Groth.

Successful implementation of a new timeout system would result in better use of the medical timeout and stop players/media from questioning medical timeouts when a player takes one when the score isn’t in their favour. 

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