At US Open qualifying we’re going to be seeing shot clocks on the court for the first time. I’m torn about this. I love the innovation, and the game needs to be speeded up. Like any change, it’s a matter of implementing this idea and letting people get used to it. If they do it right, it could work really well.
But when I put my player hat on, particularly at the US Open where the conditions can be devastatingly hot, there are times when an umpire needs to give a player some leniency. If you’ve played an epic 45 shot rally, you can’t start the next point that quickly. So the umpire needs to be able to make an assessment, but that would make the shot clock redundant.
Of course, part of the game is about fitness and recovery: if you can’t recover between points then you’re not fit enough. But you have to remember that players may have to do 60-80 meter sprints within a point. During the Olympics, athletes will do the 100 meter sprint and their event is over. These guys are doing it up to 300 times during a five-set match.
There’s another part to this: you’re in an epic match, it’s 6-5 in the deciding set tiebreak and the shot clock goes off… the match is over. That’s great drama and it’s a huge story, but is that the right thing for the game? Not in my opinion.
As a player, the time your opponent takes between points is never that much of an issue. Perhaps it is when you have someone like Rafa or Andy who gets away with it more than everyone else. Again, that’s where the shot clock becomes more relevant because it forces them to adapt their routines between points.
But even for players like that, I go back to my primary concern: if it’s 42C and they’ve played an epic rally, what’s the umpire going to do? The players – and the match – are already under stress, and the shot clock just adds to it. I wouldn’t want to be in an umpire’s shoes in that situation if and when the shot clock goes off.
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