SBD/July 7, 2017/Events and Attractions

U.S. Open Qualifying To Add Shot-Clock, Allow Coaching In Effort To Modernize Tennis

The U.S. Open tennis championships are preparing to "introduce a shot-clock at its qualifying event" in August in an attempt to "address concerns over slow play between points," according to Simon Briggs of the London TELEGRAPH. Observers have "long complained about warm-ups continuing beyond their allotted five minutes and medical time-outs beyond three minutes." Now with a 25-second "visible clock on the court, such details will be more transparent and defined." U.S. Open qualifying will also "allow coaching at any time during matches," except when the ball is in play. The moves are "part of an adventurous package of reforms that were put forward during the French Open" by USTA Chief Exec of Professional Tennis Stacey Allaster. However, the changes "do not have widespread support from the other majors at this stage," so the USTA has been "given a waiver to test out these ideas as an experiment." They will operate at the U.S. Open in "everything but the five main draws." Some are "concerned that the crowd" in N.Y. might "join in by shouting 'five, four, three ...' as the clock reaches its later stages." Again, the umpire would "have to try to control the noise, but this might become more difficult as the day wears on" (London TELEGRAPH, 7/7).

COACHES' CORNER: Allaster said the moves to improve tennis' pace of play will come "one step at a time." Allaster said that in addition to the shot clock, there has also been talk of a "prematch countdown clock that will limit the warm-up period to five minutes; and, potentially, a change-of-attire clock to control the length of time players are absent from the court." In N.Y., Christopher Clarey notes there is a "25-second time limit between points on the ATP Tour, and a 20-second limit at Grand Slam events, although players are rarely penalized." Allaster said that the chair umpire would "control when to initiate the countdown procedure after a point concludes." But Clarey writes the "most radical change" is the coaching component. Coaching during matches, although "allowed on changeovers on the WTA Tour, is banned at the Grand Slam tournaments and on the ATP Tour." But players are "rarely penalized for infractions." Allaster said that coaches "would not be allowed to disrupt the flow of play and could communicate verbally with their players only when they are on the same side of the court." Otherwise, they will be "permitted to use signals" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/7). 
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