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Volume 24 No. 236
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Tennis Grand Slam Board Tweaks Rules To Speed Up Game; May Reduce Seeded Players

The Grand Slam Board on Tuesday confirmed that the Australian Open’s "request to raise" the shot-clock from 20 to 25 seconds and "strictly enforce it with an electronic shot-clock had been accepted" and will begin during January's tournament, according to Martyn Herman of REUTERS. The three other slams "will also allow 25 seconds, bringing them into line with regular Tour events, but are not currently scheduled to have shot-clocks." A rules meeting of the Grand Slam Board in London also "agreed to limit pre-match warm-ups to five minutes." Another rule change "could also be in place" in '19, with the "number of seeds limited to 16 instead of the current 32." This year’s four slams "will still have 32 seeds." Speeding up the game and "cutting out 'dead time' has been a priority for the men’s ATP Tour." ATP Exec Chair & President Chris Kermode, who "praised the shot-clock innovation" at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan earlier this month, "believes the five-minute pre-match warmup is still too long" (REUTERS, 11/21). ESPN.com's Leo Spall reported players "will face a fine of up to $20,000 if they are not ready to play seven minutes after they walk on court at next year's Grand Slams." The announcement that the pre-match preparations "would be 'strictly enforced'" was in hopes of "tightening up the regulations to improve the experience for both fans and broadcasters." Any singles player who is "unfit to play and withdraws on-site after noon on the Thursday before a slam starts will now only receive" 50% of the prize money, with the rest "going to the lucky loser replacement." The rules will also "allow for a fine of up to the equivalent of the first-round prize money for any player who retires at that stage or 'performs below professional standards'" (ESPN.com, 11/21).

REVERSING COURSE: FORBES' Danielle Rossingh noted the Grand Slams "reducing their seeded players from 32 to 16" is a "move that had been encouraged" by players such as Roger Federer. It reverses an '01 decision to "double the number of seeded players in the slams to 32." Clay-court specialists had "complained about the lack of protection for them in the early rounds of Wimbledon, which is played on grass." It was also thought the '01 decision "would make the draw more balanced and give the game's biggest stars more time in the spotlight, thus benefiting both sponsors and broadcasters" (FORBES.com, 11/21).