The U.S. Open is getting strict about the time allowed between points, saying that there will be a “serve clock” of 25 seconds during the matches at this year’s event, according to the New York Times.
Currently, at Grand Slams, there is a 20-second time limit between the end of a point and the start of the next, but time is kept by the chair umpire and the rule is rarely enforced, especially against top players like Rafael Nadal, whose sweat-toweling, hair-tucking, wedgie-picking, nose-touching, ball-bouncing routine before every service point regularly puts him over the 20-second limit. With this new change, the clock will be visible in the stadium to plays and fans alike, adding an extra bit of mental gruel to what is already the most mentally grueling sport. The Times wrote:
The U.S. Open experimented with the serve clock during last year’s non-main draw events, like the qualifying and juniors competitions. According to [USTA spokesman Chris] Widmaier, there were no major issues, other than minor grumbles, mostly from losing players.
Though the penalties for taking more than the allotted time have not been finalized, the Times reported that “the first violation could incur a warning, followed by the loss of a point and then the loss of a game.” Similar to the newly implemented pitch clocks in MLB, the feature is meant to keep the games moving along and the match from taking forever, and like baseball, the rule probably won’t actually do much to speed things up. Long rallies will still lead to long games; tight sets will lead to tiebreaks; good, competitive tennis will be long tennis. If the U.S. Tennis Association really wanted to tighten up the length of matches at the U.S. Open, and also create a more equitable sport for men and women, men’s Grand Slam tennis matches would be best of three sets, like they are in every other non-slam tour event.