US Open serves up clock during main draw

NEW YORK • The US Open will use a 25-second serve clock at this year's event, the first time such a system is to be deployed in the main draw at a Major tennis tournament.

Players will now have 25 seconds from the end of a point to serve for the next one. If they do not, they will face the consequences: The first violation will incur a warning, followed by the loss of a point and then the loss of a game.

The US Open will also enforce a seven-minute warm-up period before each match to ensure they start on time. Players will have one minute from the time they walk on court to meet at the net for the coin toss. Then they will have five minutes to warm up and another minute before the first serve. Those who violate the rules could be fined US$20,000 (S$26,200).

"Pace of play is a major issue in sports today," said Chris Widmaier, a spokesman for the US Tennis Association, which owns the US Open. "We recognise that and we want to be ahead of it."

The US Open experimented with the serve clock during last year's non-main draw events, like the qualifying and juniors competitions.

Technically, there was already a time limit in place: Players at Grand Slam events were given only 20 seconds between points (25 seconds at other events). But that clock was seen only by the chair umpire and the rule was rarely, if ever, enforced.

Now an on-court clock will be visible to players and spectators alike, similar to the shot clock in basketball and the play clock in football.

The chair umpire will run the 25-second clock and will be given leeway to delay the start of it in certain situations - after a particularly long point late in a gruelling match, in hot and steamy conditions, or if there is fan disturbance.

If the serve clock goes smoothly at the US Open, the other three Major tournaments - the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon - could introduce it at their events as well.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2018, with the headline 'US Open serves up clock during main draw'. Print Edition | Subscribe