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After US Open drama, long bathroom breaks may soon be history

The ATP may soon put an end to lengthy bathroom breaks or medical timeouts taken at critical moments during men’s tennis tournaments.

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - October 3, 2020 Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates during his third round match against Slovenia's Aljaz Bedene REUTERS/Charles Platiau

The practice has long been seen as a tactic utilized by players to break their opponent’s momentum when they are losing, but it hogged headlines lately when Andy Murray accused Stefano Tsitsipas of gamesmanship after taking more than seven minutes in the toilet at a critical point in their US Open match.

Murray furiously vented his exasperation at the officials for their inaction on what he saw to be delaying tactics by the world number three, which he felt affected the outcome of their first round match.

Tsitsipas, who eventually beat the former number one, insisted he had not broken any rules with his actions.

ATP and WTA rules on bathroom breaks

Currently, the Association of Tennis Professionals rulebook states that a player is allowed one toilet break during a best of three set match and two toilet breaks during a best of five set match. These breaks should be taken on a set break and should be used for no other purpose.

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Meanwhile, the Women’s Tennis Association regulations allow a player one bathroom break per match. The WTA says if a toilet break is taken during the set, it must be done before the player’s own service game.

Although there is mention of the limit to the number of toilet breaks, there is no specific time limit for them.

No more loopholes in breaks?

ATP sources told Reuters that there will be changes in the rules for breaks requested during tournaments.

“I hope that before the next season begins in January, we will have a stricter rule when it comes to toilet breaks and medical timeouts,” according to the source.

“It’s been an issue for a long time but we are taking quite a serious approach now to try and change it,” the source added.

The WTA meanwhile says it was “always open to conversation and evolving rules if changes are necessary”.

If the ATP changes its rules, it would only apply to tour events. To have regulations changed at major tournaments like the US Open and Wimbledon, the Grand Slam Board would be the one to implement any desired amendments.


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