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Monfils tells chair umpire at Qatar Open, ‘I’m black, so I sweat a lot’

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“I’m black, so I sweat a lot,” Gael Monfils’ said in defense of a time violation in Doha.

Last fall, the ATP announced a rule change that eased the penalty for a a player receiving a time violation for taking more than 25 seconds between points. The rule change allows umpires to give a time-violation warning at the first infraction, and then the equivalent of a service “fault” — as opposed to a full point penalty under the prior rule — for each subsequent infraction. The rule change was all fine and good, but the question was whether the umpires would have the courage to actually enforce it. Turns out the answer is yes. Kind of. And the players aren’t too happy about it.

Monfils is one of those players. He received a time violation in the second set of his second round match against Phillip Kolhschreiber in Doha, and instead of shaking it off Monfils grew petulant. He complained to the umpire about the ball kids slowing down his ability to serve in a timely fashion and he blamed the humid conditions. “I’m black so I sweat a lot,” he said.

Asked about the incident after the match, Monfils continued with some rather odd logic.

“I think I let down my concentration (after the time violation),” said Monfils after the win. “Because I think I was up 1-0, and as I told the umpire ‘I’m fit. I’m not (breathing heavy) at all. And if I’m taking time, it’s because I’m just trying to dry my hands. So actually, it’s not a violation.”

So according to Monfils, if you’re fit as a fiddle but just need a few extra seconds to towel off between points you should be forgiven for exceeding the allotted time. The penalties should be reserved for those left huffing and puffing due to their lack of fitness.

“So I think the umpire has to judge if the guy is really taking time because he’s tired or whatever or he’s taking maybe two or three seconds more because of ball kids or whatever.”

Monfils wasn’t the only victim this week. Feliciano Lopez received a warning when he was serving at 4-5, 0-40 in the first set against Lukas Kubot on Tuesday. Lopez clearly went over the allotted 25 seconds, but in years past an umpire probably would have let it go, especially given the scoreline, with Lopez facing three set points on his own serve. Not this time. The umpire issued the penalty, and Lopez was docked his first serve. The Spaniard let his displeasure be known.

You can seen the incident at the 46-minute mark:


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While it’s easy to come down on the players for complaining when they’re clearly breaking the rule — a rule they’ve been told will be enforced in earnest this year — I can understand their frustration. This practice of giving the players upwards of 30-40 seconds between points has gone on for years. The rule has become completely illusory in light of marquee players like Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro, all of whom are not shy about taking their time when they want to. Umpires refused to enforce the rule, players abused it, and now no one knows what exactly the rule is.

Now the ATP wants to enforce the 25-second rule, which I fully applaud. But again, it’s about actual enforcement and consistency. You can’t just call a time violation when you happen to look at your watch and see it’s clicked past the 25-second mark. Enforcement has to be objective, unforgiving and automatic. It doesn’t matter the scoreline, the players or whether the players just played a 45-shot rally and need extra time to recover. You go over 25 seconds, you get dinged. It’s the only way to keep things fair for the players. Show them clear boundaries, and they will adjust.

It will be interesting to see how this rule change plays out. It’s one thing for this to happen to journeymen players at an ATP 250 that no one is watching. It’s quite another if or when you call it on the men who basically bankroll your tour.

  • Published On Jan 02, 2013
  • 11 comments
    Macro Man
    Macro Man

    What happened to just calling in a bomb threat when you need a break?

    stabmasterarson21
    stabmasterarson21

    I would agree, the dude isn't stalling because he's gassing, some people sweat more than others.  

    ShrewdTennis
    ShrewdTennis

    Agree completely. And despite what monfils thinks, I think the enforcement of the rule is particularly needed to improve the tennis fan/enthusiast/person who watches on tv's experience of tennis.I am obviously a huge tennis fan and I'm constantly trying to get others to watch the tennis, just to find them becoming bored within minutes with Djoko bouncing the ball and Nadal adjusting his pants.

    Kudos to the governing bodies for finally enforcing the rules.

    RichLGerhold
    RichLGerhold

    I wonder how well McEnroe in his hey-dey would have taken to this rule change had it happened when he was still playing? I think he'd probably murder a chair umpire for this kind of action no matter what the rule.

    IdaAnnaTaylor
    IdaAnnaTaylor

    To ChrisM, if enforcing the rules means we are no longer subjected to borefests like last year's AO final, then  HALLELUJAH!!  Tennis has been slowed down wayy too much already with the slow courts and the heavy balls!  Then you add players like Nadal and Djoker (to name a very few) who take forever between points and the incessant toweling off after every stupid point and you have a monumentally boring game.  There are plenty of players who stay within the 25 seconds and play great tennis.  It can be done! 

    ChrisM
    ChrisM

    If you want a strictly enforced 25 second rule, then you simply are asking for less explosive, less athletic, less exciting, throwback tennis(i.e. boring).  The 45-50+ rally points of  Nadal vs Joker will become extinct.  You can't have it both ways...if you want tennis that pushes the limits of what was ever thought possible by humans bodies in speed and performance then you HAVE TO ACCOMMODATE SUFFICIENT RECOVERY!

     

    Enforce this rule and watch the game slow down, the points become less dynamic, and the interest wain as well.  I for one am willing to allow up to 45-60 seconds for an unbelievable level of athleticism to be on display.

    MatthewNeiger
    MatthewNeiger

    Yes, there should be a shot clock, and the umpire should have a 'reset to 15', in case there is truly a delay not caused by the player.

    divnadagmo
    divnadagmo

     @ChrisM Well, the type of tennis you seem to favor - which has been favored by the ITF/ATP/WTA so far - might have come to end because for some reason or other they decided to pull the plug on endless towelling and extra-recovery time which was heavily favoring certain playstyles. Though in all fairness, taking extra time is not strictly related to a certain playstyle only for Berdych is also notorious for taking his time inbetween points. 

     

    Enfrocing the 25 sec rule now means these "offenders" have to face limits, literally their very own physical limits also, instead of being allowed to break that rule at their own will to get some extra recovery and second breath for yet another rally. That clearly gave them an advantage.

     

    I think that exhaustion is natural to the game and some players will benefit from that.  Without time time for extra recovery clever play will become key to the game. If you are out of puff, you cannot try to outlast your opponent, you have to come up with other solutions. In fact, shorter time between play makes for a more aggressive tennis, finishing off points quicker instead of outrunning your opponent or engaging in endless boring rallies. At the same time, the ITF needs to step up their bogus testing regime for obvs this will increase the pressure for doping, to aid speedy recovery and boost stamina with the help of illegal means.

     

    So, yes, I applaud that rule change very much. Was about time.

     

    IdaAnnaTaylor
    IdaAnnaTaylor

     @MatthewNeiger

     I think a shot-clock would be great too.  I think the only time the umpire should make a judgment call is in extreme heat OR if there was an incredibly athletic rally or a crowd-pleasing long rally and the ump decides to  let the fans settle down.  The ump should not allow toweling off unless those situations occur either.  I just laugh when I see a player toweling off after every point, or worse yet, in between serves.  I mean, really???

    Penny1
    Penny1

    @IdaAnnaTaylor @MatthewNeiger I agree! During the US Open, (or, well, any time John Isner or Rafa play) there were some rallies that were nuts! After those 25, 30 shot rallies, guys were dripping wet and really needed a chance to wipe down. But in early play, I was rolling my eyes and yawning at the constant toweling for no reason. The officials have to have some discretion in a rule like this one when the conditions vary so much. I want the rule about noise during the serve being a distraction/interference to be enforced. The shrieking is so ridiculous, it makes my skin crawl! The word that was handed down doing the FO was that this current group of players would be adversely affected in their service game, so. It would be too hard to enforce until the next crop of players came up from the Juniors. Ridiculous! I have to turn the sound off to watch when Azarenka plays.

    Penny1
    Penny1

    Sorry--that should say "during" not "doing."