Tennis: Fans call time on rest periods

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The Independent Online
AS WIMBLEDON officials formulate contingency plans to finish the championships on time frustrated fans were still asking why so much time is wasted even when the weather is dry and the players are on court.

Clearly, the competitors must have a pre-match knock-up to stretch the muscles and hamstrings but in a straw poll nearly all fans who were asked about the statutory five minutes knock-up before each match said it was fine in normal circumstances but should be cut to, at most, three minutes when there was a threat of rain.

Most frustrating aspect of all for the pounds 42-a-head Centre Court customers is the 90 seconds change-over rest period allowed after every two games.

Michael Strang, of Eastbourne, said: "Nobody wants to take a risk with players' fitness. Tennis can be a demanding game physically and there is a lot of money at stake but I think most people believe the players are too pampered by the rest-period regulations on court."

Steve Senderheim, from Chicago, said: "If you and I play tennis we don't sit down at the side of the court after every two games.

"Obviously, the players have to take a breather now and then but 90 seconds every two games is too much. And the long warm-up every time they come back on court between showers when you know they could soon be running off again seems over-indulgent."

Until 1975, players just stood at the side of the court during the breaks which rarely lasted the full 90 seconds and ended amicably. Then the players' governing bodies, the ATP (men's tour) and WTA (women's), demanded that chairs be placed on court by either side of the umpire's chair so that the competitors could take their full rest.

An ATP spokeswoman said: "Our view is that would not be desirable to alter regulations to the possible detriment of the players, just because a championship event is behind schedule.

"Players were always allowed to take a break after every two games and most people would surely agree that the game is much more physically demanding these days."

However, Gillian Lawrence, an occupational physiotherapist from Ealing and a Wimbledon regular for 25 years, said: "Surely it has gone beyond reasonable bounds when the preparation for the held-over match between Steffi Graf and Kim Clijsters earlier this week lasted longer than the real action."

Graf was leading 6-2, 4-2 when her fourth-round match was completed the day after it started, having been initially stopped by rain. It was 10 minutes from the time the players walked on to the Centre Court to resume to the time play restarted - and the German took just eight minutes to take the two games for victory.