© Ella Ling

US Open

Time to ditch the let cord and the knock-up?


Which rule would you like changed?

Nick Bollettieri: Scrap the let cord.
“Getting rid of the let cord would speed the game up – they do that at the moment in American college tennis. The ball could bounce anywhere and the players would have to play everything. I would be keener on that change than on getting rid of the second serve. I think giving a player just one serve would make tennis very boring. It would mean that everyone would just play safe and just concentrate on getting the ball in.

“I wouldn’t advise that, and I also wouldn’t advise getting rid of the on-court warm-up. Without a warm-up, there would be a greater risk of injury, and I also think that you would end up with slower, less intense starts to matches. A warm-up allows opponents who haven’t played each other before to study each other before the match. Take the warm-up away, and they will do the studying in the match.”

Richard Evans, of Fox Sports: Reduce the warm-up from five minutes to three.
“Cut warm-up period to three minutes flat and have players warm up properly on an adjacent court. This would increase pressure on tournaments to make top four or five courts identical which they are often not now. Also, keep stricter time allowed between points, including ball bouncing, but have umpires use common sense after 30-stroke rallies. Eliminate ATP ranking points for Davis Cup. Unfair on several counts. And create two-week Davis Cup finals bonanza to increase understanding, visibility and revenue of one of the great team competitions.”

Doug Robson, of USA Today: No drinks or towelling off during tiebreaks.
“I can’t stand that players stop and take a drink, towel off, etc., during changeovers on tiebreaks. This is supposed to be continuous play. Or how about requiring on line challenges to verbally say ‘I challenge’ as opposed to a hand, head or racket gesture? Or a coin toss for the final set (third or fifth) to decide who serves?” 
Simon Cambers, of The Tennis Space: Don’t let players take towels to the back of the court.
“Unlike a lot people, I have absolutely no problem with the time taken between points because the points themselves are absolutely brutal. But when a player hits an ace, or is aced, for example, and then goes to the towel, it’s an utter waste of time. It’s just for routine and habit and looks stupid.”
Jonathan Overend, of the BBC: Scrap the knock-up.
“The tennis knock-up is the most unfathomable waste of time. Let’s scrap this unnecessary and, let’s admit it, inexplicable charade. In how many other elite sports do opponents help each other warm-up? Yes, we need several attempts to get the ball over the net when we’re at the local park, but shouldn’t pros be properly prepared so they’re ready from the start? The majority already are. They just have to go through the motions because that’s the way it always has been.

“The argument in favour of the knock-up says players need to get a ‘feel’ for the ball, the strings and court. This is understandable; they may look a bit average if they don’t get their five minutes of forehand pampering. Egos will take a hit. So what if it takes players a little longer than usual to develop their ‘feel’ and get into the match?”

  • Scambers

    Jonathan – if they didn’t have a warm-up, how would radio and TV fit in all the introductions of the players!

  • http://twitter.com/StevenDMHub Steven Edmund

    Agree with Nick, scrap net cord reply on serves

  • Ian

    There’s a clue in the fact that every one of these suggestions would result in a shorter match time…

    As capitivating and epic as a Nadal vs Djokovic marathon may be, such matches – and many other, less grand occasions – can feel like a drag these days, bloated with dead time.

  • gibbsbarrister

    Maximum 3 bounces before serving and no towelling between points – just get on with it

  • abacus

    Ban ridiculously loud screaming by the women – Vika and Masha come to mind.

    • abacus

      I agree.

  • skip1515

    As means to shorten matches, shortening or eliminating the warmup and ignoring service lets are like raising the fence 3″ to better keep the cows in when the problem is that the bloody gate is open.

    Being scheduled for the 2nd, 3rd or 5th match on a court means players routinely wait, and wait, and wait to get on court. Responsible attempts to be warmed up ahead of time are easily thwarted. Are we really talking about so much time – during which spectators settle in, besides which – that the players should lose the chance to get a feel for the court and the conditions when they’re outdoors?

    And how much time is lost to net cords, really? Is it a total of 3 minutes per match? I highly doubt it. American college players and WTT players may be ready to lose a set or match on a dribbling net cord off a 125 mph serve, but I’m not sure that’s best for pro tennis if we want the game taken seriously. I mean, c’mon folks, we stop the match when there’s a dodgy spot on the court in Melbourne, and we should allow Isner’s serve to hit the net and fall over for a winner?

    If anyone’s serious about shortening matches, and affecting the real pace of a match, the time taken between points is the place where change has to occur.

  • Kevin Mitchell

    Sit down only between sets. Have noise readings. No towels. Anywhere. Any time. One racket. Two balls. Mates to umpire. Loser gets them in. Actually have to eat a bagel if bagelled.

  • http://twitter.com/yogi_3333 David Simpson

    I actually don’t have a problem with the 5 minute warm-up. I think when you get on court, you want to get a feel for the conditions, the lighting, your opponent, the crowd, warm up your muscles a bit so you don’t get injured.

    Anyway, the toweling off between every point, getting 4 balls to figure out which 2 to play with, the grunts and shrieks after every ball — those would be my pet peeves. The other tweak I would make is if you challenge a call and you get it right, your bank increases by 1 challenge.   

  • Sacha

    Why do we have to change something? Just apply the rules that we have now correctly. (25 sec between points).

    • 6point3

      Exactly !!

  • John-smith

    The only way to shorten a match is to have umpires actually enforce the 20 second rule between points. Only when they enforce it properly can they even think about reducing the time to, say, 15 seconds or less. Until then, nothing can be done. Dropping the let cord is silly as it won’t necessarily lead to shorter matches and will almost certainly increase the risk of injury, especially on sloppy grass and clay courts. Dropping the warm up will lead to all sorts of difficulties with televised broadcasts and may lesser the quality of the match, especially the first set. And Doug Robson’s suggestions of a second coin toss and a formal challenge requests are two of the most ridiculous suggestions I’ve ever heard and will only lengthen the match further.

  • Mark Meadows

    change of serve after 1 serve in tiebreak. If player breaks and holds serve twice, he is then 3-0 infront and tiebreak almost over

  • Martynherman

    No tactical toilet breaks, no towels and no tiebreaks in final set at any majors….and scrap the ball change after seven games….make them play with the bullets we have to use in weekend leagues!

  • http://twitter.com/ossianshine Ossian Shine

    No sprinting for the sidelines at the first sign of a shower. If you don’t want to fall on your backside, slow it down a bit — it is called adapting to the conditions… most sportsmen manage it. 

  • Nora

    Seems like this is more about journos talking about shortening matches than changing rules. Maybe just turn tennis into football, play 90 minutes and who ever’s up at the end wins? You even get extra time if it’s a tie when time’s up.

    Personally, I have no problem with match length; some are long and some are short, the variety appeals to me. The rules I’d like changed are the limited number of challenges (no limit), no coaching (allow it, it’s sport not an old fashioned gentlemanly duel, that’s what coaches are supposed to do), and reduce the number of mandatory tournaments so the players don’t get injured as much. (And maybe introduce an offside rule …)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Davies/607266369 Scott Davies

    Stop all working class boys and girls playing our middle class sport!  All they do is bring the sport down!

  • David

    To eliminate the let service, like D1 college (due to cheating by the self-calling players) and World Team Tennis (to speed up the game), net cord tension inconsistencies must be cured.  As the overall pro game heads this way, there is a device that was extensively tested last year to measure the net cord tensions so they all play the same.  It will be used on all 20 courts at the US Open in 2012.  They call it the TNT Gauge, and I found it at http://www.tightcable.net.