Tennis fans invited to make a racket

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TENNIS fans will be allowed to cheer and shout at the exciting bits and pop out for a drink when the match gets boring, under proposals announced yesterday by the rulemakers of the men's tour.

The ATP Tour has also decided to speed up the game by reducing the time between points from 25 seconds to 20 seconds, and to allow television microphones to pick up conversations between players and officials. Spectators will be encouraged to 'express themselves' during points and those seated above the lowest tier surrounding the court will be allowed to move in and out of the stadium during play.

The measures will be introduced in two stages, but will all be in force from the middle of September - except at Grand Slam events, such as Wimbledon, which will monitor their effect before deciding whether to introduce them. While the ATP Tour's decision to reduce the time between points is likely to be universally welcomed, the notion of spectator involvement is bound to provoke tuts in the committee rooms.

Mark Miles, the ATP Tour's chief executive, said: 'We want to give the fans a chance to get into the matches and show the enthusiasm they have for the game. We feel this will be contagious and will bring out the best in the players.' Umpires will no longer interfere with spontaneous crowd reaction during a point 'so long as it is not intended to distract the players'.

As for spectators moving about, 'tour supervisors and tournament directors will determine the delineation between upper and lower tiers'.

The changes stem from the ATP Tour's forum in Frankfurt last November, the tour's falling television ratings, and a stream of bad publicity about lack of excitment and personality in the sport. 'Spontaneous expression' will be encouraged from 18 July, starting with tournaments in Stuttgart and Washington.

Reggie Nadelson, page 17

Wimbledon reports, pages 28-29