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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I am watching the Del Potro v. Coric match and was pleased when John McEnroe was the lone voice of reason about the sweat on the court problem. He said it should have been taken care of. He also said that Coric, seeing that the umpire was too incompetent to take care of it, should have used the towel himself. He said that's what he would have done and I was thinking the same thing before he said it. If someone isn't going to take care of a problem, there is no reason to risk falling on a hard court and becoming seriously injured — instead of getting a serve clock warning. I was glad that at least one commentator was able to think rationally and logically, instead of doing what the Gilbert was doing (blaming the player for being weak-minded). It was either Gilbert or P. Mac. The bottom line is that only John McEnroe was right on this issue and took the effort to say so several times. So, kudos to him.

However, the entire commentator box went off the rails when Del Potro changed his clothes for the third set. They were unanimous in their idea that players shouldn't be allowed to wear dry clothing for a set. Instead, they're supposed to stay on the court, covered in sweat (which is really good for blisters, unless they think they should be allowed to change their socks, with their shoes, on the bench). One commentator said the rule should be 5 minutes between sets in the locker room and another said "even that's too much". 5 minutes? For an entire set? What the hell is wrong with these people? They're clearly out of touch from sitting in their air conditioned box chattering away instead of being out there in these conditions.

But, dry clothing is apparently far too much for players to have access to between sets. No... They had to rail against bathroom breaks, too. This "5 minutes" and "5 minutes is too long" thing had both a clothes change and bathroom time together. Good luck walking in and out of a locker room, especially if you're hurt and tired, and changing clothes (especially if taped) and taking a restroom break in 5 minutes or less.

So, one of them also suggested that there should be a bathroom timer. So, if a person has difficulty getting their bowel movement out they should come onto the court and crap their pants? Is that high-quality sport and entertainment value? That seems to be the great reform in the minds of our illustrious ESPN box. I am not surprised that there aren't any women in that box because only men could be that out of touch with reality when it comes to physical needs and decent accommodation of those. Men like to live in a hyperbolic bootstraps fantasy where no one has problems crapping and people who are hobbling from cramps and injuries can jump in and out of a set of clothes like superheroes — flying to and from the court through the air as well.

The only way there can be a legitimate bathroom timer is if some kind of computerized sensor system is set up that is sophisticated enough to determine whether or not someone is in the process of a bowel movement or not. I have been stuck in a toilet for 20+ minutes in the past, and that is as a young person (age 18) as well as recently at a much older age. It can happen to people and can't be predicted.

All this said, the rules about playing according to the server's pace and the break times are both very poor. They say "reasonable amount of time", which is nearly meaningless. Arbitrary decisions about what is and isn't reasonable is not a recipe for player happiness and good-quality sport. So, yes, the "reasonable" stuff needs to be replaced with specificity. However, there is a difference between reasonable specificity and unreasonable "one size fits all" settings like "3 minutes between sets for changing and pooping", or 5 minutes.

The implication that this is terrible gamesmanship is contradicted by the most famous example of a player taking a long break to try to recover from a drastic momentum loss: Hingis vs. Graf at the 1999 French. Hingis took a long enough break to be whistled and booed by the crowd and Graf routed her, even though Hingis was winning comfortably until her meltdown. Every time I've seen a player suffer because of break gamesmanship it has been because of lengthy fake injury timeouts. Yes, they will sometimes combine that with lengthy changing times in the locker room. But, although it is possible to police someone's changing, by having a chaperone and a checklist, the only way to police the bathroom is with sensors. It's obviously not reasonable to suggest having people monitor your use of a toilet directly.

The commentators were so worried about time wasting that even a paltry 5 minute break between sets is "too much" but they're not worried about all the time wasted by having 5 set matches? That is the big turkey, when it comes to time usage — not players getting into dry clothes and being able to use the toilet.

I have long advocated eliminating 5 sets for everything except the final and adding in one more round. Play the first two rounds as extra-long sets (8 games rather than 6). This would get more players into the spotlight and reduce the injury rate. Coric is a young guy and he was popping NSAIDs again today. The tour lives on those and they're not good for injury recovery nor for the liver, heart, etc.. I think tennis has far bigger priorities for time usage and sport quality than saying players shouldn't be given enough time to get into dry clothes between sets and use the toilet.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
It should also be mentioned, since they were talking about Federer holding up Kyrgios' quick serving... that a rule that gets rid of the nebulous "reasonable" in front of "play at the server's pace" drastically advantages young players. The older a person gets, the more time they need to recover between points, typically. When Connors reached the semis of the US Open in 1991 at the age of 39 one of the things that was noted was how much time he needed between points to catch his breath.

That run was beloved by a lot of people and yet the current draconian "hurry hurry hurry!" commentators' mindset would rob us of things like that. They'd have rushed Connors right out in the first round. Ironic that today is his birthday, as they mentioned.

Did I even hear the commentators say the reason the serve clock was brought in was because the commentator booth was unanimous in thinking it needed to be implemented? Yikes. 10 seconds is too short, especially in certain circumstances. If the reason it was implemented was because a bunch of guys sitting in an air conditioned booth chatting about matches thought it was needed then I am not impressed with the tennis governance.

There is more to tennis than acting like every player is an identical robot. More accommodation should be made for older players, for instance. That's how we got magical runs like that one from Connors. I'll gladly give him a bit more time between points for the spectacle of his determination winning against youth any day.

If you're so worried about wasting time, once again, then get rid of the bloody 5 setters. That would also help older players remain viable, an added benefit. It would reduce NSAID abuse, since tennis is so intent on keeping everything on hard surfaces and using hard strings and racquets. Save the 5 set match for the final. Or, if you like 5 set matches a great deal for an entire tourney, switch from hard to fescue mix grass. That will speed things up. Of course, it's also possible to just have 5 setters in the semis and final, or from the quarters up. It's absurd to have them for an entire tournament, even with fescue grass. Today's equipment is too hard on the body.
 

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I was at the US Open this week and I have to say I very quickly became supportive of every innovation designed to speed up play, including the shot clock. Watching home from the television, I thought it was a solution in search of a problem. Not any more. It became very apparent from the stands that the biggest problem with the sport is every second/minute that goes by where balls aren't being struck. It just lags and creates an emptiness that nothing can fill. I went from being disgusted by the shot clock to now thinking they should reduce the break between points to 17 seconds!

On the other hand, I don't support shortening the number of sets players have to play. They could play all day as far as I'm concerned. People just want to see points played.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I was at the US Open this week and I have to say I very quickly became supportive of every innovation designed to speed up play, including the shot clock. Watching home from the television, I thought it was a solution in search of a problem. Not any more. It became very apparent from the stands that the biggest problem with the sport is every second/minute that goes by where balls aren't being struck. It just lags and creates an emptiness that nothing can fill. I went from being disgusted by the shot clock to now thinking they should reduce the break between points to 17 seconds!

On the other hand, I don't support shortening the number of sets players have to play. They could play all day as far as I'm concerned. People just want to see points played.
Yes, I agree with all this. It's not about the athletes' needs. It's all about what is most ideal for the audience.

Let them play until they drop dead. And, when they're taken off on the stretcher, let them be served cake.

(In reality, there was a lot of the audience that was pleased to see Connors' epic 1991 US Open run to the semis, regardless of the fact that he needed more time between points because of being 39 years old. Who needs real history to inform decisions, though?)
 

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I was at the US Open this week and I have to say I very quickly became supportive of every innovation designed to speed up play, including the shot clock. Watching home from the television, I thought it was a solution in search of a problem. Not any more. It became very apparent from the stands that the biggest problem with the sport is every second/minute that goes by where balls aren't being struck. It just lags and creates an emptiness that nothing can fill. I went from being disgusted by the shot clock to now thinking they should reduce the break between points to 17 seconds!

On the other hand, I don't support shortening the number of sets players have to play. They could play all day as far as I'm concerned. People just want to see points played.
I was at USO as well and there are many things that can be done between points. You could see the reply of the last point, you could say something to the person next to you, you can simply patiently wait for the next serve, you could check a score on your phone from the other match. Why not reduce the time between points to 10 seconds and just have battle of who can recover quicker?

That warning to Coric was the cruelest thing but umpire had to do it. What else? That whole thing with shot clock almost has to be rethinked.
 

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I was at USO as well and there are many things that can be done between points. You could see the reply of the last point, you could say something to the person next to you, you can simply patiently wait for the next serve, you could check a score on your phone from the other match.
All of that is comparably boring and not what I paid for. Also, they are distractions. If I'm paying to watch a match, that's where I want my focus to be.

It's especially bad when there are long breaks in a match filled with unforced errors and few rallies. Maybe they should coordinate break times with rally lengths. A two shot "rally" (a serve followed by an error) should not be followed by a 25 second break. And a 30 minute set in good weather should not be followed by a 10 minute restroom break.
 

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Yeah, my immediate thought was just that Coric should do it himself and just eat whatever insane warning the ump gave him, because it probably would have just been a warning. Umpire should have just allowed it to begin with though.
 
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