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9:53 AM Wed, Oct. 17th

Column: 2018 Grand Slam rule changes, and others that are being considered

'My Point'

The Grand Slam board concluded their two-day meeting Nov. 21 and decided on several changes in what will take place in the four major tennis tournaments, including the Australian, French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open of 2018.

In lieu of players entering first round draws injured, just to receive the larger prize money offered and then retire injured, those who withdraw on-site before midday on the Thursday before the start of the main draw willainjured unable to play to their normal level because the prize money in Grand Slam events enables many of them to make sense of playing professionally as a career.

This past Wimbledon saw at least eight first-round players retire after their matches began, which is quite unfair to the paying spectator who expects to see a full match take place and at a high level of play.

With that in mind a follow-up rule change will allow and include sizable fines for players who retire or perform “below professional standards” in first-round matches. Thus if players go ahead and decide they want to collect all of their first round fee (while injured) they better be prepared to pay the piper.

Another change is to revert back from 32 seeds to 16. Protecting the Top 32 players seemed to give the better players a much easier ride into the second week and disallow good/better matches for spectators to view in the first week of play.

There will be the introduction of a 25-second shot clock between points starting at the Australian Open in January.

Previously it was a 20 second rule, but no official clock was on court to manage the time frame. Now it will be enforced to 25 seconds with this new on-court clock system.

Players like Rafa Nadal, who is known for taking a long time between points and incurring warnings from umpires will have to hurry up their routines or lose points for the infringement.

“It depends on what the fans want. If the fans want short points and players playing without thinking, maybe it is good,” Rafa replied to PA Sport.

The Board also voted in favor of a $20,000 fine if a player violates the timing of the pre-match warm-up (five minutes plus a strict one minute).

Other discussion centered around “shorter matches” and “on-court coaching” of which Wimbledon chief executive Richard Lewis said to ESPN.

“We believe it is a gladiatorial sport, an individual sport; you go on court and the whole premise of tennis is that you are on your own. That is one of the beauties of tennis compared to most, if not every other sport.”

Other topics were “no line judges”, “playing lets”, “no-ad scoring”, and I might add allowing two tosses for the serve - where if you make the toss, it counts as one of your two tries.

It looks as if tennis is doing its best to keep fan interest while maintaining its rich traditional ways.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 45 years of in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or choward4541@gmail.com.