The WTA is reviewing its medical timeout rule and has left open the possibility of changes for next season.
The rule recently received significant attention at the Australian Open, when world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka took an extended medical timeout while leading 5-4 in the second set of her 6-1, 6-4 semifinal victory over Sloane Stephens. Stephens, who had just saved match points as Azarenka attempted to serve out the match, was forced to wait about 10 minutes before her service game, as was subsequently broken to lose the match.
Azarenka appeared to have gone over the time limit, as the rules only allow six minutes for two combined timeouts, and that’s only if the doctor finds two different medical conditions. Azarenka later said she took the medical timeout because of a "locked rib" that made it difficult to for her to breathe.
Azarenka also said it wasn't her fault that the doctor took too long to evaluate her. It’s possible that the doctor did not complete his diagnosis until four minutes had lapsed, and therefore Azarenka would have been within the rules; the 2013 rulebook is vague when it comes to dealing with those types of situations. Under the rules, Azarenka could have received a warning, point, or game penalty, and could even have been defaulted, but no penalties were issued.
“Our supervisors always review various rules-related situations after each tournament, and we have a standard annual review process regarding possible rule changes,” WTA spokesman Andrew Walker told TENNIS.com. “WTA management is in the process of reviewing our medical time out rule and based upon this review we will determine if any rule changes are warranted in the context of our normal rules change process (any rule change would take effect in 2014 and would be decided upon around US Open time frame).”
The Sports Business Journal first reported the story.