The first moves to introduce changes to the rules of tennis have been announced by the ITF following trials at last year’s US Open Qualifying tournament and the ATP NextGen Finals in Milan.
Amongst the changes, the Australian Open, the first major of the year, will adopt the ‘shot-clock’ and increase the time allowed between points to 25-seconds rather than 20 which has been the case at grand slams and consequently bring the majors in line with ATP tournaments.
At present Wimbledon is not considering using the Shot-Clock.
In addition, umpires are being told to keep stricter control over the warm-up period.
Players will be allowed just one minute between walking on court and going to the net for the coin toss. They will be given their usual full five-minute warm-up but on completion of that, just another minute to prepare themselves for play.
Violation of these timings could be punished with a fine of up to $20,000.
More importantly though, is a clampdown on first round withdrawals which incensed spectators and organisers as well as upsetting schedules.
There will be a threat of fines if a player goes on court knowing he is unfit just to pick up first round losers money.
The new rules being adopted for 2018 state:
“Any main draw singles player who is unfit to play and who withdraws on-site after 12 noon on the Thursday before the start of the main draw will now receive 50 percent of the first-round prize money. The replacement Lucky Loser will receive the remaining 50 percent plus any additional prize money earned thereafter.
“Any player who competes in the first-round singles main draw and retires or performs below professional standards, may now be subject to a fine up to the equivalent of the first-round prize money.”
This should certainly prevent a repeat of this year’s fiasco at Wimbledon when seven male players and one female retired during the opening round of The Championships. Amongst them Alexander Dolgopolov (v Djokovic) and Martin Klizan (v Federer). Both retired on the same day on Centre Court when just a couple of games into the second set, thereby picking up £35,000 in the process.
There were hopes also that the grand slams would reduce the number of seeds from 32 to 16 as it used to be up to 2001, but this is being left to 2019 for the present which is a shame for currently, the top 32 cannot meet a higher ranked player until the third round leading to plenty of uncompetitive matches in the early rounds.
The ITF have not tackled the problem of false toilet breaks, medical time-outs and on court coaching but perhaps these will be dealt with in the next tranche of changes, whenever that may be.