x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

The clock is always ticking in between tennis serves

Juan Martin del Porto and several other men's tennis players have spoken out against the ATP and their enforcment of a strict observation of the time allowed between points, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

Juan Martin Del Potro argues with the chair umpire about a time violation following a serve to Novak Djokovic during their men's singles semi-final match at the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Friday. Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters
Juan Martin Del Potro argues with the chair umpire about a time violation following a serve to Novak Djokovic during their men's singles semi-final match at the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Friday. Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters

On Friday, in the opening men's semi-final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Juan Martin del Potro was a set down against Novak Djokovic, but a break up in the second and serving to keep that advantage at 3-1, 30-40 down, when he was suddenly stopped in his service motion by the chair umpire.

Magdi Somat decided to warn the Argentine for a time violation under the new laws which have been brought in to speed up the game.

For the second and subsequent time violations, the server loses a serve while if the receiver is deemed to be too slow that player is docked a point.

It was an ill-timed warning and boos from the stands made it more than evident.

Del Potro himself was far from amused, walking up to the chair and arguing his case before returning to his place.

It took him some time to regain his composure and serve again, defeating the very purpose of the time violation.

"I lost my calm when I started to discuss with the umpire," said Del Potro, who went on to lose his serve in the game as he lost in straight sets. "He called me the warning before I serve a break point down. It's a very important point for the game, for the match. Maybe he doesn't know about that.

"I mean, in that moment, if you call a warning, you can lose focus and that's what happened with me."

The same thing has happened with a number of players this year after the ATP decided to enforce a strict observation of the time allowed between points: 25 seconds.

Over the last week, the world No 1 Djokovic and the No 6 Tomas Berdych expressed similar views to Del Porto.

"I don't know if the chair umpire gave him [an] unofficial verbal warning before that," Djokovic said about the Del Potro incident.

"If he didn't [and he didn't], then I don't agree with that decision.

"I had quite a few warnings myself for time violations and I have really nothing against that if the chair umpire previously gives me a heads-up and says, 'OK, you're taking a little bit too much time.'"

"I am not a fan of this," said Berdych, who was docked seven first serves in Chennai in January for time violation."It's not a matter only on my serve. What should I do with the ball boy? Should I run to pick up the ball instead of him or what should I do?"

It is probable most fans will agree with Berdych.

Does it really matter that Djokovic and Rafael Nadal took 30 seconds between points at the 2012 Australian Open final, when they gave the fans an unforgettable five hour, 53 minute epic?

arizvi@thenational.ae

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