Both Stefanos Tsitsipas and Novak Djokovic raised a few eyebrows this year with their long bathroom breaks between matches. Now, the ATP has decided to clamp down on the time taken by players for a trip to the toilet.
Starting from the 2022 season, ATP players will be allowed to take only one bathroom break per match, at the conclusion of any set. The break cannot last more than three minutes, with the time count to start when the player enters the toilet.
The ATP will permit a couple of minutes extra if a player is looking to change his clothes. Thus, they would have to be back on the court in a maximum of five minutes if they also opt for a change of outfit.
If a player is unable to return within the allotted time, he will face a time violation.
The new rule was trialed at the recently-concluded Next Gen Finals in Milan. After looking at its success, the ATP has decided to go ahead and implement it on the main tour too.
The news was first reported on Monday by French publication LÉquipe, who got access to the new rules intimated to players via email. The men's tennis governing body later confirmed the changes to several news agencies, including AFP and Reuters.
ATP modifies medical time-out rules as well
The ATP has also decided to act on medical time-outs, which have been a contentious issue for a long time.
While the time limit for a medical time-out continues to remain three minutes, ATP has made it clear that it can now only be taken at the end of a set or during a changeover. LÉquipe has further reported that a player will have to concede points if he can't continue until then.
Stefanos Tsitsipas & Novak Djokovic were at the center of bathroom break controversies this year
Questions have been asked of the ATP whenever it appears that a player has taken advantage of the bathroom break rules. In 2022 there were two top stars, Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas, who were the subject of such controversies.
Tsitsipas' long toilet breaks were called out by his peers during the North American hardcourt swing. At the Cincinnati Masters, Olympic champion Alexander Zverev accused the Greek of receiving coaching from his father-cum-coach during his lengthy trips to the bathroom.
At the US Open, the issue blew up even further. Former World No. 1 Andy Murray accusing Stefanos Tsitsipas of gamesmanship during a near-eight-minute break during their first-round face-off.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has also invited criticism for a couple of his bathroom breaks this year. At the French Open, during the fourth round, the Serb went off the court to change his underwear while trailing Lorenzo Musetti by two sets to love.
He then repeated the act in the final, while facing a deficit of two sets to love against Tsitsipas. In both cases, Djokovic managed to turn the match around and win in five sets.
Since there was no time limit until this year, neither Stefanos Tsitsipas nor Novak Djokovic did anything against the rules with their toilet breaks. But starting from 2022 onwards, they will have to stick to a time limit during ATP events.
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There is no intimation yet about whether the Grand Slams (which are governed by the ITF) will follow suit and implement the rule at Majors too. But going by how the serve clock was implemented at all events a few years ago, it seems likely that the bathroom break rule will also be enforced across the board.