SBJ/February 11-17, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

WTA to review medical timeout procedures

The WTA Tour is reviewing whether changes to its medical timeout procedures are necessary in the wake of the controversy engendered by world No. 1 player Victoria Azarenka and her stoppage at a pivotal moment of her Australian Open semifinal victory.

Azarenka went on to win the tournament, but the semifinal incident drew sharp and immediate criticism in the media and has been viewed by many as a black eye for the sport.

Azarenka’s timeout came as American teenager Sloane Stephens was attempting to rally late in the match. While players are allowed medical timeouts, the issue of players taking timeouts for strategic, rather than medical, reasons long has been viewed as a problem in tennis.

Azarenka did not mention an injury as the reason for the 10-minute stoppage when she was interviewed immediately after the match, but she did later cite a rib injury as the reason for leaving the court.

WTA Tour CEO Stacey Allaster said she has instructed her staff to look at the issue for the sport. The tour already penalizes players financially for taking more than six medical timeouts in a year. It is too early to say, Allaster said, whether more changes are necessary, such as a point penalty for a timeout as is done in the college ranks.

The ATP, in a statement, said, “We’re confident the WTA would liaise with the ATP Medical Services Department if they have any changes/recommendations going forward on the rule on medical timeouts, or the application of the rule. Whilst we’re always looking at ways to improve, we would not have anything further to comment at this stage.”

Any changes the WTA or ATP were to make would not affect the four Grand Slam events, which are individually owned and managed by their respective national governing bodies or, in the case of Wimbledon, a private club.

Among the observers who criticized Azarenka’s timeout were ESPN commentator Patrick McEnroe, who tweeted, “So let me get this straight. She had a lot of nerves and that’s why she left the court. Unbelievable.” A New York Times story on the incident was headlined, “A Timeout Jeered Round the World.”
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