Next Gen players having issues with towel rule being trialed at event

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Court Report: Who's going to next week's ATP Finals in London?


Among the several rule changes being trialed at this week's ATP Next Gen Finals, players having to get their own towels between points has generated some of the most vocal reaction.

Instead of ballkids giving players their towels, as has long been the case on the ATP tour, players have to walk to the back of the court and use the provided towel rack. The issue of players frequently calling for towels and slowing down play is not new, and is a reason for the trial. But since the move was announced, there has been increased scrutiny of player behavior towards ballkids on social media. 

Top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas was not in favor of the towel rule, raising the issue following his opening round-robin win. He was also among the players criticized for not being courteous to ballkids when he irritatedly tugged his racquet away as it was removed from its protective wrapper at the Swiss Indoors in Basel. He later apologized for the incident.

"One thing that I didn't like that much was the towel thing," he said. "I was always, you know, had to run for the towel."

Tsitsipas, 20, who used to be a ball boy fetching towels himself, added that he had been playing events where towels were brought to players since he was 14 or 15 years old.

"Basically when you play in high level, you have the ball kids give you the towels, so it's a bit unusual to not have that when you play a match," he said. "I think having the towels whenever you need it, it's very helpful. It's one thing less that you have to think about. 

"So I believe to be playing your best game you just don't need to think about whether you're going to take your towel. You can just call the ball kid. I think the ball kid, it's their job to provide towels and balls for the players."

Tsitsipas also noted there was confusion about whose towels were being used.

"It would be very nice to have two boxes on each side with each player's name," he said "so you can just go there and leave your towel on one side and have another one on the other side."

Frances Tiafoe also experienced problems with the towel placement at the back of the court.

"Only rule I don't like," he said. "I mean, because especially we're going pretty quick, and then, you know, I walk pretty slow, so I knew I couldn't quite get there. I had some time violations.

"But, I mean, I don't know what the other guys have said, but I kind of need the ball boys to get the towel for me."

While Andrey Rublev isn't against getting his own towel, he's still getting used to the trial rule.

"I was okay with that. If they put this rule, I was okay," he said. But he added, "I was walking almost to the half court till I realized that I forget the towel and I need to come back. And after I think the third set, I forgot completely the towel, and they make me come back all the way to pick it up. So I think you can find a balance."

The ATP Next Gen Finals, which also uses altered scoring, player coaching and a no-let rule, does not provide tour ranking points.

This Week on Tennis Channel:

Fed Cup Final (Sat. 11/10 to Sun. 11/11)
Petra Kvitova leads the Czech Republic against defending champions USA. Live coverage begins Saturday at 8:00 am EST.

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