How shot clocks are impeding players in Melbourne


Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal were both displeased with the chair umpires in their respective matches at the 2023 Australian Open and for pretty much the same reason. While the Serb vented his frustration against chair umpire Damien Dumusois in his semi-final win over Tommy Paul on Friday, Nadal voiced his fury against chair umpire Marijana Veljovic in his second-round defeat to Mackenzie McDonald.

Interestingly, both the greats were incensed by the way the chair umpires utilized the serve clock. Both players were annoyed that the chair umpire began the 25-second timers a tad too early, without factoring in the time it takes for players to collect their towels after a point is played.

For the uninitiated, the serve clock is deployed by the chair umpire to ensure that players do not take longer than 25 seconds between points.

Now, let’s take a look at why Djokovic and Nadal were frustrated with the chair umpire in their respective matches:

Why did Novak Djokovic lose his cool in his match against Tommy Paul?

Novak Djokovic lost his cool against chair umpire Dumusois in the first set, complaining to the latter that he started the 25-second timer earlier than he should have. The Serb argued that he should have been given more time to go and collect his towel after a long rally. The chair umpire had seemingly begun the timer as the nine-time champion began walking towards his towel, thereby leaving the latter with very little recovery time between points.

It is pertinent to note that ball kids are no longer allowed to hand over towels to players. This means players must walk to and fro their towel boxes between points, which in turn takes up a considerable amount of time.

Djokovic was seemingly affected by this argument as he proceeded to lose back-to-back service games to watch Paul level the score to 5-5 from 2-5 down.

Why did Rafael Nadal lose his cool in his match against Mackenzie McDonald?

Like Djokovic, Nadal, too, was hampered by the towel as well as the clock timer. While trailing 1-4 in the first set against McDonald, he argued with chair umpire Marijana Veljovic that his towel was placed considerably further away from him due to the dimensions of the court.

He pointed out that walking to his towel was unnecessarily eating up his 25 seconds, giving him very little time to recover and prepare for the next point. The 22-time Major champion even went as far as to insinuate that Veljovic had a habit of beginning the 25-second timers a bit earlier than usual in his matches.

“Every time, I am in rush, even serving normal. Without the towel, every time, I see the clock at 5… 4….. With you it is always the same,” Nadal said with disapproval. “It’s okay. For you it doesn’t matter. But I cannot take the towel every time. It is out there.”

Unlike Djokovic, though, the defending champion ended up losing his match, bowing out against the American in straight sets.

What is the foot injury that has troubled Rafael Nadal over the years? Check here

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Edited by Sudeshna Banerjee

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