One of the biggest disappointments of my tennis-watching life was seeing arguably the best tennis player of all time, Roger Federer, take a bathroom break at this year’s Wimbledon quarterfinals against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
After winning the first two sets, Federer, who had never lost a grand slam match, was feeling pressure because Tsonga had won the third and fourth sets. He reverted to a tactic many players use when they are about to lose. He went to the bathroom to disrupt Tsonga’s momentum and to stall for time.
Other players fake injuries and take bathroom breaks, but not Federer.
As much as I respect Federer and hoped to see him play Novak Djokovic in the next round, I quickly shifted my allegiance.
The bathroom charade didn’t work, and Federer’s subsequent loss to Tsonga seemed even more devastating because Federer had stooped to the level of players he had easily demolished in the past.
The ATP and WTA should put an end to unsportsmanlike antics. They should ban bathroom breaks, injury timeouts and arguing with the umpires.
Tennis already is perceived as a “sissy” sport because it is non-contact. Allowing immature behavior doesn’t help the image of professional tennis.
If a player is losing, he or she should accept defeat and not resort to bush league behavior in order to win.
Permitting players to work the system not only hurts tennis, but it also sets a terrible example for young players hoping to compete.
Currently, men and women are allowed two bathroom breaks in grand slams. That is one break too many.
The injury timeout is a joke and should not be allowed, period. It has become normal to see at least one injury timeout in a match.
Often players who are writhing in pain during an injury timeout manage to miraculously rally and show no signs of any physical problems when playing the next opponent or the next tournament.
Because there are so many instances when injury timeouts have been taken to stop an opponent’s momentum, I will restrict myself to a few notable ones.
This year at Wimbledon before a first-set tiebreak against Juan del Potro, Rafael Nadal took a nine-minute break to retape his heel. Players are allowed three minutes only for injury timeouts.
Del Potro is one of the few guys who can give Nadal trouble, and Nadal knows this. Nadal won the match and the first set.
Elena Dementieva is known for taking timeouts, but the tables turned on her in the 2005 US Open semi-finals when she played Mary Pierce.
Dementieva won the first set. Then Pierce took a timeout to “treat” her thigh and back.
Her 12-minute break was acceptable because she was treating two different parts of her body. Pierce won the match.
This injury timeout rule needs to change. Players are allowed one timeout for each distinct medical treatment. Each treatment is limited to three minutes.
There should be no injury timeouts. Fight through the pain like most other athletes.
Yes, sometimes players are legitimately injured. If that happens, oh well. They will have to retire, just as they do in other sports. The trainers can’t do anything for a broken leg.
Usually, players complain about cramping. That’s their problem. Eat more bananas and get into better shape. Other competitors shouldn’t have to pay for their opponents being shortsighted.
In sports such as baseball, if a player is injured, he can choose to leave the game or play injured. The rules should be the same in tennis. Either play injured and don’t complain or retire from the match.
Another tactic, which is probably worse than injury timeouts or bathroom breaks, is arguing calls.
Arguing shows the immaturity of a player, and on top of that, it shows how low a player will go to throw off an opponent’s rhythm.
Andy Roddick is a classic example of excessive arguing. He has made a fool of himself many times, but one instance stands out and will forever scar his reputation.
In last year’s US Open third-round match, Roddick played Janko Tipsarevic. He had multiple run-ins with the umpire.
First, he argued that Tipsarevic took too much time in challenging a call. When in reality, Tipsarevic had challenged right away.
Next, he argued with a lines person about a foot fault. Well, it turned out she was right, but he continued to argue his case for about two minutes.
Some may say Roddick was trying to pump himself up. There are ways to get into a game other than calling out an innocent person.
The arguments can unnerve an opponent.
In the women’s game, Caroline Wozniacki had a similar situation against Aleksandra Wozniak in the second round in the French Open. Wozniak was up 5-3 in a second-set tiebreak when Wozniacki hit a ball out, making it 6-3.
Wozniacki argued the call, and that threw Wozniak off. After that outburst, Wozniacki won the second set.
In almost any other sport, players are penalized for arguing calls, and the referees don’t let them talk back. In baseball, basically the managers argue, not the players, and managers have been thrown out of games.
In basketball, if you argue with a ref, you receive a technical foul. Too many technicals leads to game suspensions.
In football, a ref throws a flag resulting in penalty yards.
For tennis, an umpire can use his or her discretion about point penalties. The umpires need to be stricter in enforcing this rule.
Another rule the umpires need to implement concerns the amount of time allowed between points.
Players are allowed 15 seconds in between points but always go over. It adds more time to the match, and it often frustrates opponents because they are waiting to return a serve, while the server is in the shade getting a towel.
Fifteen seconds is too little time, but if an opponent keeps going over the time frame multiple times, he or she should lose a point.
Many tennis rules give too much discretion to players, and they make the sport laughable. A few tweaks to the rule book would make tennis more interesting, faster paced, less susceptible to tactics that have nothing to do with the game and all in all, a far more respectable sport.