Finally it was decided to have a US Open Shot Clock setup for the each main draw event. This is huge news!
US Open Shot Clock: A Short History
There have been many times where players have consistently run past the 20 second between points at each major. Some more than others. It may not seem like much but adding 5-10 seconds between the allotted 20 seconds starts to add up. Taking extra time for serve routines: Rafael Nadal’s rituals of underpants pick, nose pinch, hair behind the ear, nose pinch, hair behind the ear again, and ball bouncing; or Richard Gasquet’s having the ball kids retrieve the ball he won the previous point with to serve with again; or even Marin Cilic’s incessant ball bouncing (Novak Djokovic used to be notorious for this practice) before serving. All of these habits add so much unnecessary time to a match. Extending play an extra 30 or so minutes.
So the US Open tested a Shot Clock during the 2017 Qualifying draw and Junior main draw. It seemed to work just fine. There weren’t any real problems, just a few sore losers complained about the clock. “Pace of play is a major issue in sports today,” says Chris Widmaier, a spokesman for the United States Tennis Association, which owns the U.S. Open. “We recognize that and we want to be ahead of it.”
US Open Shot Clock: How Much Time?
Since the digital age, chair umpires had a shot clock with them in the chair but rarely was the expired time ever enforced. There have been many “Time Violation Warnings” handed out but I don’t recall a time where a player was docked points or a game for delaying play.
The ITF (International Tennis Federation) rules state that in majors, players are allotted 20 seconds between points to start the service motion. In smaller tournaments (250, 500, 1000), the rules allow for 25 seconds between points. With the US Open Shot Clock actually being on court, the ITF & USTA have agreed to allow 25 seconds between points, to allow players to become accustom to the new clock and the how that plays in the momentum of the match.
Understand that the umpires will have full discretion with the US Open Shot Clock and when to hand out warnings. If players have long rallies or it is a hot day, they are allowed to not call a warning if a player were to go over. I am a little on the fence about the extra 5 seconds; why not just keep it at 20 and give the umpire the same discretion?
US Open Shot Clock: Remaining Majors
The US Open is a perfect testing ground a service clock. There should be plenty of data after the US Open, in case the shot clock needs some fine tuning. There will also be plenty of player responses; I don’t foresee Nadal giving a lot of positive feedback.
If all goes well at the US Open, the remaining 3 majors (Australian Open, French Open, and Wimbledon) will likely follow suit and add a shot clock to their main draws. The Grand Slam Board, that consists of representatives of all four majors, have to approve of any changes to any of the major tournaments. Expect this to go to the board after the US Open.
What do you think about the US Open Shot Clock? Good idea?
Let me know in the comments below!