• Djokovic working on picking up his pace

    3/12/13 4:04 AM | Johan Lindahl
    Djokovic working on picking up his pace Novak Djokovic may be a fast mover once the ball is in play, but the No. 1 is hardly setting any speed records for getting on with the game after a point.

    While not as bad as go-slow Spaniard Rafael Nadal, the top seed at the Indian Wells Masters plays in a deliberate manner - and has paid the price recently with warnings as the ATP enforces a 25-second rule between one point and the next.

    Djokovic says that it's not always totally his fault, though he hard expects chair umpires to take his point of view. "I'm not blaming (the ball kids) but several times it took them quite a bit to give me a towel, to understand what I want, dropping the balls. So you're losing a lot of time there.

    "Then I'm stepping on the line and I see that my opponent is not ready. Then when he's ready, I started bouncing my ball, you know, and then it takes another five, six seconds because I bounce maybe more than my opponents do. That's where I lose the time. Nothing else, really."

    The top seed admitted that he was taken by surprise before finally winning his opening match against Fabio Fognini 6-0, 5-7, 6-2 after taking the first set in 19 minutes against the Italian. "I tried not to allow myself to relax and take things in some easier fashion than in the beginning of the match because I knew that he can come back. He can make you work, and that's what happened.

    "In a few games near the end of the second set where I could have done the job earlier. I just stopped working with my legs. It happens, you know, as I said, especially in the opening matches where you try to find your game and see where you stand on this court.

    "Coming from Dubai, it's a huge difference in the speed of the court. At least on centre court it's even slower than the outside court where I practiced. Dubai is one of the fastest hard courts."

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I'm with one of the commentators and think all players should be made to fetch their own towels. Ballkids shouldn't have to handle towels full of sweat and whatever other fluids players wipe every point.

ts38 , 3/12/13 8:02 PM

I agree, I have seen a player wipe his nose with his towel. Fed once wiped some blood on his knee with his towel once and the umpire intervened when he tried to give it to the ball boy. If the players have to get their own towel they'll have to lengthen the time between points.

nadline , 3/12/13 8:12 PM


danica , 3/12/13 9:12 PM

"I started bouncing my ball, you know, and then it takes another five, six seconds because I bounce maybe more than my opponents do. That's where I lose the time. Nothing else, really." The answer is don't bounce the ball so many times, which he himself admits to doing.

As the No.1 player Djokovic should show and set the example of adhering to the time rules, which have been implemented before he began playing tennis. The players joined the tour knowing fully well that those were the rules. It's just that the present crop of players have been allowed to do whatever suits them and disobeying the rules is one of them, taking privileges and pushing the rules as far as they can from the norm. It takes merely a couple of seconds to get their own towels, so why all the quibbling? Suck it up guys, and stop bitching!

As Michael Chang stated a few years ago, the present crop of players are spoilt. In the other eras, players did not use the towel as much as we see nowadays. Are we to believe that the ozone layers have been strripped so much that the present day players are becoming overheated much more than in previous times, as in global warming? Thus, needing to wipe off so much? Heck, they do this toweling off as though it's a ritual, and it's plain to see that a lot of times, there isn't anything to wipe off, especially when the temperature dips.

scoretracker , 3/13/13 7:45 AM

Towel or no towel, it seems that many players went over the time limit. Berdych, Tsonga, Nole, and I'm not sure about Fish, Haas, or Blake. I think Fed is the only one who hasn't got one single warning this year. It seems that it's hard to keep within the time limit all the time. Players need time to adjust and get used to the 25 sec pace. Umpires too has to get used to giving warnings and exercising discretions.

I think the commentators are emphasizing too much about this time between points thing; they practically talked about it during every single match! Just let the umpires do their job and give the players time to adjust.

I'm glad, Rafa is trying his best to adjust, even though he's worried about going over the limit after longer points and the umpires not being flexible enough to exercise discretions. Sometimes, using the towel is inevitable, especially under humid conditions. At least Rafa is smart enough to get two ball boys to each has a towel at each side of his court to shorten the distance to his towel. Also, I noticed he tried his best to towel only during his receiving games and not when he's serving. I can see the efforts he put in to shorten the time he takes between points. Next, I wish to see him shorten the rallies too.

I think Nole only bounces the ball more often when he's about to serve for an important point, when he's a bit nervous or when he needs to be clutch. I don't think he's a consistent offender of the rule to be fair, likewise for Rafa after he returns from his injury.

luckystar , 3/13/13 8:55 AM


I agree with these thoughts. The commentators on the tennis channel spoke about how Fish complained after a time violation warning. He doesn't like the rigid enforcement. So it's not just Rafa that has a problem. A number of players have been getting warnings.

I think that Rafa has been doing well to stay in the 25 second limit. I think his concerns about going over the limit after longer points, is reasonable. Also crowd noise is a factor when fans start cheering so loudly. I think that the umpires should still have discretion in those two instances.

Rafa sweats profusely at times in hot conditions. You could see the sweat dripping off his face when he was serving during the clay court tournaments. It was good that he made sure to have two towels at each side of the court so that he could keep within the rules.

The bottom line is that the players are trying to keep within the 25 second limit. But it's obvious that some of them are not happy about it. It's not just Rafa.

Nativenewyorker , 3/13/13 9:13 AM

25 seconds rule is plain stupid...give them 30 sec and enjoy the tennis...what an idiotic way to torture players...instead on focusing on the serve they need to look at the clock or the umpire to see if they are within limits...I wonder who came up with this rule and on which basis?! ridiculous...

natashao , 3/13/13 10:37 AM

Umpires too has to get used to giving warnings and exercising discretions
luckystar, 3/13/13 8:55 AM

Under the current rule, the umpires are not permitted to use any discretion so there is nothing for them to get used to...

Ravi Ubha ?@r_ubha
Haas given time violation warning by Steve Ulrich at 4-4 in third. At changeover, talking to Haas, Ulrich calls new time rule "crazy."
Retweeted by Beyond The Baseline


Conspirator , 3/13/13 1:15 PM

i.e., Blame the ATP, not the umpires. Currently, their hands are tied.


Conspirator , 3/13/13 1:22 PM

Scoretracker, did you see the perspiration pouring off Rafa in SA because he didn't have time to use the towel between points? Frankly, if Djokovic's rhythm includes bouncing the ball a few more times than other players and it takes a few more seconds, why shouldn't he be able to do it. All players have their own style of play so we can't expect all of them to be identikits of each other.

Rules change from one generation to another; there was a time when the players had to stand up during the change over and all they had to drink was Robinson's Barleys Water. Should we now take their seats away because they haven't always had them and ban them from bringing their own drinks? The 25 secs was plucked out of thin air. Who scientifically tested how much time is needed between points, however long the rallies are. At least now we all know that nearly everyone exceeds the time limit which is one indication that it's a bad rule.

In my opinion, Rafa is playing more attacking tennis because he's avoiding long rallies and I think that's helped his game.

nadline , 3/13/13 1:46 PM

If things should be as they were in the past then scoretracker should go back to Africa and stay on top of trees.

holdserve , 3/13/13 1:52 PM

Oh, so Rafa is right to be fed up of the strict enforcement of this rule if there's no room for discretion by the umpires. It seems that almost all of the players do get a warning now and then, so I think it's high time they rethink the practicality of this rule. With the slowing down of the surfaces resulting in more long rallies being played, it's not realistic to still expect players to adhere to this old rule.

Rafa is right in voicing his concern and his displeasure, even though his detractors jump in quickly and complain about his complaint and 'whining'! Kind of ironical I feel, for his detractors are doing more complaining or whining (about him)

luckystar , 3/13/13 3:12 PM

I was under the impression that initially the time rule was introduced to put an end to the bizarre antics of the original bad boy of tennis - Nastase - who specialised in holding up matches for several minutes at a time while he played to the crowd. Sometimes it was to express displeasure at an umpire's ruling, at others it was clearly designed to disrupt the rhythm of his opponent: but more often than not it was simply exhibitionism aimed at entertaining the crowd. The original architects of the rule would probably be shocked at the current punitive application in force now.

ed251137 , 3/13/13 3:14 PM

You are exactly right ed. Nastase used to try an distract his opponents by interacting with the crowd. He once tried to have the match stopped because of rain and when they refused he got an umbrella from the crowd and played holding it over his head. The crunch came when he was due to play Laver and Laver made it clear that he wouldn't play unless they stopped Nastase wasting time, that's when the time limit between points was introduced and it was fixed at 30 secs.

Players like Connors and Lendl then made full use of the 30 secs between points every time so they reduced it to 25 secs. McEnroe also used to annoy his opponents by untying and tying his shoe laces between points.

Players don't engage in those sort of antics anymore so why the rule with no discretion?

nadline , 3/13/13 3:39 PM

The reason is not far to seek. We know Fed is behind the strict implementation of this ridiculous rule. That's the only way this guy has a chance of winning the three more slams he has set his heart on. Sadly, he is destroying tennis. Rigged schedules, rigged draws, ridiculous rules, constant attempts to tamper with surface speeds,roofs to create indoor tennis....

holdserve , 3/13/13 3:48 PM

Rather than penalise players for exceeding 25secs it would be far more to the point to get tougher on the habit of calling out the trainer to attend to minor ailments and to crack down on what can often be seen to be patently strategic MTOs.

ed251137 , 3/13/13 4:18 PM

25 seconds is fine. if majority of the players can live with it, so can few that use every microsecond of the rule and a bit more.

rfzr , 3/13/13 4:54 PM

The majority of players complain about it every time they are called so that is a false assumption.


Conspirator , 3/13/13 5:13 PM

Constipator: I understand your logic/motives.

rfzr , 3/13/13 5:35 PM

When they were lenient with the rule, then also they were blamed. Now when they are strict with the rule, then also they are blamed.
As I said earlier on another thread, had umpires been more intelligent on implementation of the rule earlier, we wouldnt have witnessed this scenario.

abhirf , 3/13/13 6:18 PM

Who blamed them when they were more lenient???


Conspirator , 3/13/13 7:01 PM

ed251137, 3/13/13 3:14 PM,

Thank you for bringing up Nastase. Also the code of conduct was created because of his antics on the court. He delayed matches for no reason and at the USO one year he actually refused to continue playing in a match with McEnroe. He was given a default and the crowd of fans started throwing things on the court. After some time, I believe the players came out and played.

The umpires should still have discretion, especially in instances of long rallies and crowd noise. It's only common sense.

Who said that the majority of players can live with it? They have all been complaining. Players are entitled to use up the full amount of time. If some prefer not to, then that's their choice.

Nativenewyorker , 3/13/13 7:10 PM

Berdych not a fan:

?I don't like it. I'm not a fan of it. I don't see any single reason why to have this rule. What could be positive on this? What could work? What could be advantage?? Berdych told reporters in Dubai.

The Czech received one warning during his second round 7-5, 6-1 rout of Tobias Kamke, and while he admits he is committing fewer violations compared to the start of the season, he is particularly bothered by the inconsistency shown by umpires in enforcing the rule.

"It's really inconsistent. It's not a matter of only my serve. I mean, what should I do with the ball boy? Should I run to pick up the ball instead of him or what should I do?

"You just stand there waiting for the ball, just waiting for the guy. What you can do? The time is running. And then the referee tells me 'hey, I will talk to them, they are slow. But first I have to give you a warning'. How is this working?

"First they should talk to the ball boys to be faster and then tell me, that I?m doing late."


Conspirator , 3/13/13 7:18 PM

Rafa not a fan:

"I'm slow, I recognise that. But for me, to apply those 25 seconds in all circumstances will affect the quality of the game.," he said.

"If you strictly apply 25 seconds, my US Open final in 2011, especially the third set, and the Australian Open final in 2012 would not have the same level. It?s impossible to keep on playing incredible points one after the other if you don?t have time to take a breath."


Conspirator , 3/13/13 7:20 PM

Delpo not a fan:

Del Potro was serving at 30-40 down when he got the warning and he went on to argue with the chair umpire amidst roaring boos from the crowd.

When asked whether he thought the time warning was necessary, del Potro said: "Yeah, but what can I say now? I mean, we played very long rallies during the match, and he gave me the warning before serving at a break point down.

?It's very important point for the game, for the match. Maybe he doesn't know about that.

?In that moment, if you call a warning or if you do something different, you can lose the focus and that's what happened with me.

Del Potro explained how he was given no warning, stating: "I had no idea tonight. He just gave me the warning. But that's the rule, the umpire can do whatever he wants, and if he wants to give me the warning, he can do it. I don't know who made the rule, but we have to play with it.

?Maybe they can check the rules for the future.?


Conspirator , 3/13/13 7:24 PM

Nole not a fan:

"As a chair umpire, you need to follow the game. If it's a long point, you need to have that little amount of tolerance and patience also for the player.

"It's unfortunate. I understand why he was frustrated."

# RafaIsNotAlone

Conspirator , 3/13/13 7:27 PM

LeMonf not a fan:

#Raf aIsNotAlone

Conspirator , 3/13/13 7:31 PM

@conspirator, Wasnt it the media, commies and above all the fans who earlier complained about the use of such a rule which was never implemented.

abhirf , 3/13/13 7:31 PM

fed fans, fed media and fed commies, yes. That group is not complaining about the new rule. They are happy with it.


Conspirator , 3/13/13 7:33 PM

Muzzard not a fan:

"I?m for them being more strict with the time," he said, "but I think they maybe should have increased the time allowed first."

Murray believes that the game is too physically demanding to ask a server to recover from a 20 or 30 stroke rally in 25 seconds. "25 seconds goes by pretty quick," he said.


Conspirator , 3/13/13 7:36 PM

Tipsy not a fan:

?I hate this rule. I?m not the sort of player who takes too much time between points or uses the towel often, but this is a ridiculously humid place. I?m happy that the Grand Slams are not supporting it because it?s stupid.?


Conspirator , 3/13/13 7:38 PM

No @conspirator, it was the tennis media, tennis commies and tennis fans who were complaining about the previous rule and are complaining about present rule too.

abhirf , 3/13/13 7:39 PM

No @conspirator, it was the tennis media, tennis commies and tennis fans who were complaining about the previous rule and are complaining about present rule too.

abhirf , 3/13/13 7:40 PM

Izzy not a fan:

"When I got called on the warning I was getting ready to serve. I was at the line. I don't particularly like that rule, that's for sure, because it messed with my rhythm, my flow, and I'm sure it's doing that to a lot of other players, too."

"It throws you off. I'm not intentionally trying to stall out there, but I've always moved a little slower. You know, at certain points in the match you need to take five extra seconds.

"I have to go to the towel to wipe off sweat that's dripping off my hat. I really felt like I wasn't able to do that, so I don't like this rule."


Conspirator , 3/13/13 7:44 PM

Feli and Nishi not fans:


Conspirator , 3/13/13 7:48 PM

On a personal note, I would like that the ATP grants back the discretion to the umpires. But the umpires should exercise this power in a more witty manner this time around.

abhirf , 3/13/13 7:55 PM

abhirf, 3/13/13 7:40 PM

There are a lot of Nadal tennis fans and Nole tennis fans and I don't think they are fans of the new rule.

I've only seen minor objections from a few commies. None from journos.


Conspirator , 3/13/13 7:57 PM

Ferru not a fan:

Ferrer and Pablo Andujar, who were also playing in Doha, took to twitter to voice their displeasure, generally saying that the rule is too strict and the chair umpire should have been more aware that Lopez was on the verge of serving.


Conspirator , 3/13/13 8:05 PM

Wait, wait, if Berdych doesn't like it, it must be a good thing.....

deuce , 3/13/13 8:14 PM

great job, Conspi...:)

natashao , 3/13/13 8:18 PM

Haha deuce, you have a point! Thanks, nats!

Baggy not a fan:



Conspirator , 3/13/13 8:24 PM

Federer is a fan:

The link above explains the man behind the new rule and also why there is no shot clock.

#OKStickAForkInMeI mDone

Conspirator , 3/13/13 8:27 PM

Yet the tennis media (federatti) would have you believe it is just Rafa whining because he plays slow.


Conspirator , 3/13/13 8:31 PM

So that's 1 for and 14 against the current change as it stands.

For what it's worth, I'd like a 30-SECOND time clock on court that starts only after the chair umpire announces the score. This gives her some built in discretion after a long point and/or a noisy crowd by waiting 5-15 seconds after the point ends and everyone is aware of when the countdown begins but Fed doesn't want a clock so it's moot.


Conspirator , 3/13/13 8:36 PM


Thanks for posting those player comments. I appreciate you going to the trouble of getting the info. That supports what I said in my previous post. It's not just Rafa! So let's be real about it.

I think it should be thirty seconds. As far as how players managed in previous generations, today's game is more physical, more demanding. The racket technology and the game itself has changed along with the surface.

Seeing Rafa serving in those clay court tournaments with profuse sweat dripping down his face is a powerful testament to the absurdity of this arbitrary rule being enforced with no discretion.

Nativenewyorker , 3/13/13 8:56 PM

Thanks NNY! No trouble at all. I enjoy it and someone should do it given that the media won't putt it all together.


Conspirator , 3/13/13 9:46 PM

One by-product of enforcing the rule with no discretion, everyone now knows that many players never keep within the time limit because the commies used to talk as if it was just Rafa and Nole, but mainly Rafa who exceeded it.

nadline , 3/13/13 10:16 PM

@conspirator, 3/13/2013, 8:27 pm
Stating an article posted more than an year ago doesnt prove your point. There has been no statement by Fed this fall regarding the new rule.
The article you posted clearly shows that granting the discretion to the umpires was a major let down. What's the use of a rule if it's never implemented?

abhirf , 3/13/13 10:51 PM


abhirf , 3/13/13 10:55 PM

No point.

However, just blindly enforcing a rule just because it is there isn't necessarily the right solution either.

One should ask why it wasn't strictly enforced to begin with.

Perhaps the rule should have been scrapped or modified. Those are two alternatives.

The rule as it stands is ridiculous and most players agree.

Posting Fed's comments from last year is completely valid. Making rule changes like that do not occur overnight and the rule change was announced four months ago just eight months after Fed made so much fuss about it.


Conspirator , 3/14/13 12:45 AM

'Whats the use of a rule if its never implemented?'

Exactly! So, do away with the rule! Or, simply replace it with a new one! It's stupid to stick to an old rule that has fast become redundant! I like Conspirator's suggestion, ie, start counting the time after the umpire calls the score. I always feel that should be the way, instead of starts counting immediately after a point ends. The umpire can take into consideration the noises or applauds or whatever from the crowd, gets them to quiet down, before getting the player to start serving. Of course if the player serves an ace, the score would be called almost immediately and so time counting starts immediately. I believe that way, even the spectators get to enjoy those good points/good rallies without feeling hurried to stop cheering.

luckystar , 3/14/13 12:53 AM


I also agree with Conspirator's suggestion. I think that is so much fairer and more reasonable. The umpire should absolutely take into consideration cheering and noise from the crowd and have the discretion to delay serving the next point.

Now I think we know why this rule was never strictly enforced and it was left up to the discretion of the umpire.

Nativenewyorker , 3/14/13 1:19 AM

Current ATP-rankings

1. Djokovic 12 500 pts
2. Murray 8 750 pts
3. Federer 8 670 pts
4. Ferrer 6 970 pts
5. Nadal 6 385 pts

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