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Shot clock liked by players who take their time
Published Aug 12, 2018
The tennis 'shot clock' is finding unlikely favor with players known for taking longer between points, helping them stay within the rules and even providing a few extra seconds.
The clock is being used at ATP and WTA events across Washington, Toronto, Montreal and Cincinnati, following the US Open's decision to introduce it in regular competition.
"I think it's good," said Marin Cilic, who tends to take quite a bit of time before starting his serving motion. "It's what we needed in the game. It has been so much talked about, and I feel also for the referees, the responsibility is taken from them.
"Some referees [were] enforcing the rule, some are very lenient. It's not very consistent."
The change has attempted to balance greater consistency with flexibility. While tennis rules call for players to take a maximum of 25 seconds between points, the shot clock begins when the umpire calls the score, allowing officials to allow for long points or crowd excitement. Umpires can also pause the clock in other instances.
Novak Djokovic, known for his sometimes lengthy ball-bouncing, says he has not experienced extra pressure.
"In contrary, I actually feel like there is more time now than before because the shot clock starts counting down once the chair umpire calls the score. Sometimes it takes several seconds before the chair umpire calls the score if it's a long exchange or a good point and the crowd gets in," he said.
"So I'm pretty comfortable with it. You know, it's good that we have shot clock in the tournaments prior to the US Open. It's basically Toronto, and Cincinnati, and Washington have shot clock because of the decision of the US Open."
But there has been variation among umpires, with much more time given before the start of clock in Rafael Nadal's opening round match than his second at this week's event at Toronto. The Spaniard, who received a time violation warning in the second set but laughed it off, acknowledged that he had noticed a difference.
"It depends on the umpire," said Nadal. "I follow the rules. I just need [to] get used to playing like this, and I have no doubt I will."
WATCH —Match point from Rafael Nadal's win over Stan Wawrinka in Toronto:
Sometimes players can take longer because they know exactly the amount of time they have.
"It's different for our sport," said John Isner, who first played with the shot clock at Washington. "So anything different that catches people's eye, I think can be a good thing."
"I didn't find it to be an issue at all. I didn't feel rushed. And I'm generally one of the slower players as well. I mean, I don't bounce the ball a lot or, you know, pick at things, but I just kind of take my sweet time behind the baseline before I serve.
"But last week I didn't feel like that was an issue. And in a sense, I think if you're smart, and I actually could have been smarter last week, you know, that there was some times when I was ready to serve at 15, but I probably should have taken a little bit more time."
The clock rules require a time violation to be issued any time the clock reaches '0' before a player begins their serving motion. Previously, umpires would frequently warn players before issuing a first violation—something Grigor Dimitrov was still looking for as he began arguing with the umpire about a time violation during his third round at Toronto. He said he apologized following the match.
"I mean, it's my first tournament to play with the shot clock," said Dimitrov. "I think it's actually pretty cool. I like it a lot," "But in such a tough moment to come up with that, I just didn't think it was fair.
"It's like you can warn me a few times."
This is still an adjustment period, ATP VP of Rules and Competition Gayle Bradshaw told TENNIS.com, and more uniformity should be achieved.
"The majority of comments from players have been positives," he said. "Some of the guys have said they feel more relaxed now, because before they didn't know what time they had.
"Everyone's getting used to it, the players, the chair umpires. We're having to work with the chair umpires, setting them on their rhythm, when they forget or they start the clock before, or maybe forget to pause it. So far, it's been pretty good."
But he noted the shot clock might not speed up play, the original goal behind stricter enforcement.
"It could slow down. Guys are able to use the clock to their advantage," he said, noting that the average time between points at Washington was the same as a year ago—18 seconds.
But there are other benefits, he added, saying, "I think this consistency is a success. The [success] is if we have no time violations."
The ATP Board will decide whether to implement the shot clock at the other events on tour.
Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev headline the Rogers Cup in Toronto. Watch live coverage from four courts on Tennis Channel Plus beginning Monday, August 6th at 11:00 A.M.