Grand Slam board approves rule changes

Published by Reuters

Novak Djokovic played out an epic against Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open 2012 final, a match that, it was reported, would have lasted 70 minutes less had both players observed the time limit between points; Getty Images
Amendments to time between serves, pre-match warm-ups, seedings and the rules around first-round retirements have been approved at a meeting of the Grand Slam board in London.

Time between serves has been increased to 25 seconds at Grand Slam events from 2018, and is expected to be monitored more strictly via a shot clock.

Grand slam tournaments have previously allowed players 20 seconds between points but the time permitted will be increased, bringing them into line with the ATP tour. WTA rules permit 20 seconds between points at their tour-level events.

Rather than being left to the discretion of the umpire, however, an electronic shot clock will tick down in the corner of the court, as was the case at this month’s Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.

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The Grand Slam board, responsible for the rules at the four majors, confirmed on Tuesday that the Australian Open’s request to raise the time from 20 to 25 seconds and strictly enforce it with an electronic shot-clock had been accepted.

The three other slams will also allow 25 seconds, bringing them into line with regular ATP tour events, but are not currently scheduled to have shot-clocks.

The Australian Open will be more specific than the current grey area, allocating players one minute to walk on and be ready for the umpire’s briefing at the net, followed by a five-minute knock-up, plus one minute to prepare for the first point.

Those not ready to play within the permitted time could face fines of $US20,000 ($A28,000).

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In other rule changes made by the board, any player who withdraws or performs below professional standards during a first-round singles match at a Grand Slam tournament could be fined.

The board says a player who is unfit to compete and withdraws before the draw will receive 50 per cent of the first-round prize money. The replacement will receive the remaining 50 per cent.

It is an attempt to stop players who are not fully fit from playing in the first round just so they can collect prize money.

Another rule change, which could drastically alter the complexion of majors draws, could also be in place in 2019, with the number of seeds limited to 16 instead of the current 32.

Next year’s four slams will still have 32 seeds.

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