ATP exec expects Nadal, Djokovic to adapt to serve clock

ATP Tour's officiating head, Gayle Bradshaw says players such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who make several adjustments before serving, will adjust to the new rule.

Rafael Nadal serve clock

Rafael Nadal is known to make several adjustments before serving   -  AP

Serve and warm-up clocks which made their ATP and WTA main draw debuts on Monday will be a positive for players, even routine-filled server Rafael Nadal, predicted the ATP Tour's officiating head.

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“There may be some bumps along the way but I think in the long run it's going to be a positive for everybody,” ATP executive rules and competition vice president Gayle Bradshaw said onMonday.

“I'm optimistic this is really going to be a big plus. I think there's some anxiety because it's new, but once they get out and try it they will be fine with it.”

The US Open tested the clocks in 2017 qualifying and announced plans to use them in main draw matches when this year's Grand Slam event begins August 27 on the New York hardcourts.

The ATP, WTA and US Tennis Association agreed on a protocol that would allow the clocks to be used in pre-US Open events so players could better adjust to the change.

“For myself, it's not going to be easy,” said Japan's 20th-ranked Kei Nishikori, the 2014 US Open runner-up.

“I'm not going to have time to think much about where to put my serve between the points and with the heat it's going to be a little bit tougher I think.

“There are many different players. Some like to play quick. Some guys like to take a lot of time between points. It might be good for fans if they want to see more points and quicker points. I don't know if it's good for players.”

Bradshaw says players such as Nadal, who makes several adjustments before serving, or Novak Djokovic, who likes lots of ball bouncing, will adjust.

“Both those guys, when they see the time, will adapt,” he said. “Rafa, I think it's going to be a benefit, wearing down other guys after chasing down his balls.”

Players and fans both called for faster pace of play, said Bradshaw, who noted ATP directors will meet in New York to consider using the clocks tour-wide next year.

Clocks won't be in place in 2018 ATP Tour events after the US Open except the Next Gen event in Milan where they were tested last year.

A warm-up clock will hasten the pre-match process, allowing players five minutes for hitting and another minute to prepare before the start.

“They don't have to get the ball in play. They just have to be ready to play,” Bradshaw said.

The serve clock will allow 25 seconds for players to begin the service motion, the umpire starting the clock after announcing the score with receivers responsible for playing at the server's place.

“We're going to start the clocks when he starts his motion, not when he's bouncing the ball,” Bradshaw said.

Allowances for applause

Umpires can pause or reset the clock to allow for an interruption and time is allowed for exchanging balls after games.

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“We built a protocol that has common sense built into it,” Bradshaw said. “The things where they should pause should be obvious to everyone.

“If you have a great point, people go crazy, they'll wait until applause dies down. When players hear the score, they know the clock has started.”

After a warning, servers will lose a serve and receivers will lose a point for clock violations.

“To me, this is a success if there are no time violations,” Bradshaw said.

Time discretion deleted

Bradshaw said players liked removing time violation discretion from the umpire and putting a clock on display for all to see.

“Umpires will be expected to give a time violation if it goes to zero if they haven't started their motion,” Bradshaw said.

“A lot of times it has been common sense to do that. A lot of times it has not. It's the inconsistency that frustrates the players.”

And he said “it makes it easier” for umpires,” adding, “They don't want to be so disrupted that they don't officiate the match.”

Don't expect a desperate time-expiring 'toss and no swing' trick to pay off.

“If the guy runs up and throws it up trying to beat the clock, that's not going to work,” Bradshaw said.

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