The on-court shot clock has made several appearances over the past 12 months, starting with the qualifying tournament at the US Open last year, the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan and more recently during the US Open Series events.
Next week, it will make its Grand Slam main draw debut at the US Open in efforts to limit time taken between points and ensure players adhere to warm-up and changeover times.
The shot clock, which counts down from 25 seconds between points and is started manually by the chair umpire when he/she calls out the score, has been met with mixed reviews from the players who have experienced it in the past few weeks in Canada, Cincinnati or other events.
Some find it useful, others find it stressful, and some imply it actually helps them slow down before serving, which perhaps means the shot clock might end up adding time to an overall match rather than the other way around.
Here’s what some of the top players had to say about it.
“I think it’s really important to keep the game authentic. I think that sometimes we try to get a little bit too creative. I think that the shot clock is another human, like, to start it, to stop it, whatever. It’s all human, whatever.
“I think at a point in the match where it’s really close and all of a sudden you get a shot clock violation but two points before that it wasn’t even started on time, like, I think those types of things are just kind of up in the air.
“But I think, I mean, it’s okay. Like, it’s not bad. I mean, you have to pay attention more. Something else to focus on, something else to look out when you look up before you serve. But, I mean, we’ll see if it stays, it goes, what happens.”
“Actually I’m fine with that. I got a time violation already, but I don’t think it was my fault, but okay. Overall it’s fine.
“I got some talks sometimes before [about my speed between points] from the chair umpire but I really try. No I think I was okay playing the matches in Montreal [with the shot clock]. I don’t think I’m that slow.”
“It’s actually quite cool because I’m always so quick so now I can take my time more. It does help definitely because I think I’m really, really quick. Sometimes I don’t even make a decision where I’m going to serve next so now I can see that I still have 15 seconds and I can take my time to think about what I’m going to do.
“I think only Nick Kyrgios is the quickest player ever. And Federer as well.”
It’s time to get our heads around the #serveclock ⏰ @Petra_Kvitova, @CaroGarcia, @KaPliskova, @juliagoerges, @ARadwanska, @Daria_gav and @CoCoVandey break it down…#CTOpenTennis pic.twitter.com/eaZHjmElRi
— Connecticut Open (@connecticutopen) August 23, 2018
“If I’m looking forward to [playing with the shot clock]? Not Really. I think a lot of people will struggle with that because I know some people are slower, some people are faster. I’m pretty normal I think. Sometimes you’re a little too slow but sometimes you have a 45-balls rally, so it’s understandable. It’s, I don’t know. We’ll see how I feel but I’m sure people will be a little itchy.”
“I think it’s alright. I thought it was going to be faster. But actually it starts when the umpire says the score so sometimes there’s a bit of a delay between the end of the point and the time he’s saying the score so most of the time I still have 15 or 10 seconds and I’m alright. I think it’s good because it’s fair for everyone and you can see it, you don’t have to ask the umpire. It makes it more clear for everyone.
“The first match I was looking at it a little bit because I had no idea how slow I was going but now I know my timing is pretty okay so I’m alright.”
“The shot clock, it’s not bad. I think it’s good, it’s interesting for the fans. The only thing for us is we need to still adapt to it. In some cases you’re watching the clock when it’s going to wind down and you’re not sure exactly how much time you have left and you can see the guys before the serve watching how many seconds they have left. I think the guys are going to get used to it.”
“I’m still not sure about the shot clock how I feel about it. I play pretty fast to be honest. I noticed in Montreal last week that the only thing that a couple of times I got close was getting out of the chair when they call time. By the time you get from the chair over to get your ball and then get ready for the serve I’m like ‘oh gosh, I have five seconds left’ and you’re like stressed. So maybe that’s one point where I’m like ‘okay, give us a little time’. But other than that it isn’t something that I would really stress about or anything.”
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They’re both former US Open champions, share a long history together, and have been drawn to potentially face-off in the third round in New York, but Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro enter the final Grand Slam of the season in very different places and with contrasting approaches.
Del Potro is ranked a career-high No. 3 in the world and has won 37 matches this year. Only three players have posted more victories on tour in 2018. The 29-year-old Argentine has finally moved past the three wrist surgeries that nearly ended his career and is back to becoming a force to be reckoned with on the tennis court.
Already a two-time titlist this season, Del Potro has made two semi-finals and one quarter-final in his last four Slams and is now back to his beloved US Open, where he has experienced his first and only major title triumph back in 2009.
“I’m feeling good. I’m in good shape. As everybody knows, this is my favourite tournament on tour, which I have big expectations at, playing in New York,” said a cool and confident Del Potro on Friday ahead of his first round against American qualifier Donald Young on Monday.
The ‘Tower of Tandil’ has reached the quarter-finals or better in five of his nine US Open appearances and has a 29-8 win-loss record at the tournament.
New York often has a magical effect on Del Potro and last year, he came back from the brink against Dominic Thiem despite being ill and trailing the Austrian two-sets-to-love. He went on to defeat Roger Federer in the quarters before losing to Rafael Nadal in the semis.
Buscando un poco de ritmo. 😂🕺🇲🇽 pic.twitter.com/ZNkOkpw9fC
— Juan M. del Potro (@delpotrojuan) July 30, 2018
While he still has to be meticulous when it comes to his body and recovery, Del Potro is miles away from three years ago, fighting so hard to salvage his career.
“The most important thing that all my injuries and problems is completely in the past. Now I’m feeling good. Sometimes I have to deal with any pain on my wrist, which is normal after all my surgeries,” he explains.
“But I think it’s amazing for me just thinking about tennis, don’t talk anymore about the injuries, which is the most important thing to myself and come to this tournament thinking about my highest ranking or my big expectations playing the tournament. It’s the best things I could feel before a tournament.”
For Murray, expectations will have to remain in check for now as he slowly recaptures his pre-hip surgery form. The Scot will be contesting his first Slam since Wimbledon 2017 and is just seven matches into his comeback from injury.
He skipped the last six months of 2017 then had an operation in January that kept him sidelined until June this year. He opted out of playing Wimbledon, which means the US Open will be his first best-of-five test in 14 months.
“It feels slightly different, this one because for the last 10 years or so I’ve been coming and trying to prepare to win the event, whereas I don’t feel like that’s realistic for me this year. It’s a slightly different mentality for me coming in than what I have had the last 10, 11 years of my life,” said the 31-year-old Murray. “That feels a bit odd.”
The US Open is where Murray captured his first Grand Slam title, in 2012, after losing all of his four previous major finals. The former world No. 1 opens his campaign on Monday against Australia’s James Duckworth before a possible second round against either Feliciano Lopez or Fernando Verdasco. Del Potro could be waiting for him in round three.
“I’m happy that I’m able to be back competing again here. It was tough missing it last year. I was pretty upset at the time. Yeah, really, really pleased to be back. I’ll try to enjoy it as much as I can,” said Murray, who is currently ranked 378 in the world.
Will his body be ready for best-of-five matches?
“I need to see. I haven’t played one, so you don’t know until you actually get out there and do it. That’s the thing,” said Murray.
“I played some long matches in Washington. They were all over two-and-a-half hours, and a three-hour match. Three of them in four days. The benefit of the slams is having that day off to recover in between, which will help me.”
Ons Jabeur survived heat, illness and a battling Alexandra Dulgheru to book herself a spot in the US Open main draw on Friday.
The Tunisian threw up on the court during her 63 76(4) win over Dulgheru and admits she was relieved to close out the match in two sets, unsure how things could have gone in the third.
This will be Jabeur’s third US Open main draw appearance, having lost in the first round on her Grand Slam debut in 2014 and she made the second round here last year.
“I think with the heat and everything it was kind of tough,” Jabeur said of how she was feeling on the court.
“It happened to me at the French Open (in May) and I saw the doctor after that in Tunisia but nothing was wrong. I hope it’s just the heat and the stress.
“I’m drinking water and I feel it’s all coming up. It was tough rallies and she was holding up pretty good and she made my mission more difficult. But I needed to be there, I was there when she broke me at the end, I had to get it back. I’m really happy with this win.”
The world No. 114 is here without her coach Bertrand Perret, who is suspended for three months “for breaching the sport’s anti-corruption code by attempting to change the doubles partner of his former client, Peng Shuai, after the sign-in deadline,” according to the Tennis Integrity Unit.
Peng Shuai was also suspended for three months.
The incident that was the subject of the TIU investigation happened at Wimbledon 2017 when Perret was coaching Peng Shuai.
The suspension however was announced this month and it means Jabeur will be without her coach until November.
In US Open qualifying, players were around to speak to their coaches on the sidelines during the changeovers. Jabeur did not have that luxury though.
“I’m not that kind of player that likes to speak to the coach mid-match, even in WTA events, I don’t usually call him, I just do because he wants to come to the court more than I want him to. I kind of forgot that he’s not here. It’s a good thing, it’s not in a bad way. I was really focused on playing and winning the matches that I forgot. He’s with me all the time because we’re texting,” she said.
“It’s a shame though that the trial was one year after the incident happened and it ended up affecting me and I had nothing to do with what happened. But I’ve got to say, he’s a very good coach. He puts work before money and it’s tough to find a coach like him. He’s very honest and I can’t wait to practice again with him in November.”
Jabeur is looking forward to the main draw and admits that the idea of potentially drawing Maria Sharapova, who has a qualifier in the first round, is intriguing.
She feels New York often brings out the best in her, and if her form from qualifying is anything to go by, Jabeur, who turns 24 on Tuesday, can feel good about her chances this tournament.
“It’s amazing [to qualify for my third US Open]. I think I played well every time, except one year when I came here a bit sick and I also threw up on the court, I clearly have a problem here,” she said with a laugh.
“I think it’s pretty good. I have a lot of American friends here, they come all the time to support me in the qualies. I like it here, maybe it’s Manhattan and everything.
“And my birthday is always here, so in case anyone is reading this, it’s on August 28 and I like everything. Bring presents. I’m happy I qualified so I can go to the gift shop they have a lot of presents there.”