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Tebbutt Tuesday: Pet peeves

Dec 03, 2018
written by: Tom Tebbutt
written by: Tom Tebbutt

Many tennis fans reading this would probably like to have a ‘pet peeves’ list of their own – so pardon Tebbutt Tuesday’s self-indulgence but we store these up all year and like to get them off our chest.

BALL BOUNCING: In the 1980s there was an American player named Mark Dickson who was known to bounce the ball as many as 40 times before serving. Things aren’t quite that desperate nowadays but it’s certainly out of control with several players including Novak Djokovic and Marin Cilic.

A major factor seldom mentioned is that excessive ball bouncing before serving is blatantly unfair to the returner. He or she can lose concentration, distracted by wondering when the opponent is finally going to stop bouncing and serve the ball. It’s a form of gamesmanship.

If a player wants to have a ‘think’ ahead of his or her serve, let them do it before they start bouncing – not on the returner’s time.

Umpires seem to loath giving time warnings or penalties once a player starts bouncing. There were examples of that during the ATP Finals championship match in London when Djokovic went well past 25 seconds while bouncing but was not sanctioned.

There should be a rule – NO MORE THAN FIVE BOUNCES! How hard would that be to enact, enforce and practice? And – no starting and stopping.

BATHROOM/COMFORT BREAKS : Let’s get something straight right from the start – 80 to 90 per cent of ‘bathroom/comfort breaks’ have nothing to do with players having to relieve themselves, particularly in men’s tennis. Bladder control cannot be that much different than in past generations – even if there’s a greater emphasis on hydrating. Players leaving the court is basically an attempt to re-group and re-orient a match.

At the end of sets, it has now become almost routine.

With tennis trying to speed up matches by making players get out quickly for the coin toss, start matches promptly after the warm-up and observe the 25 seconds between points rule, all those precious time savings go down the tubes when someone casually saunters off at the end of the set and stays away as long as they want.

There should be an automatic ‘you lose the first point’ upon returning if the time away is more than three minutes (two minutes end-of-set plus one minute) and the first two points back if it’s more than a total of five minutes. (Some allowance could be made for players going to bathroom facilities that are not easily accessed.)

As well, the opponent’s coach should automatically be allowed to visit his or her player while the departed player is absent.

This may seem harsh but there should be consequences to the growing entitlement players feel about leaving the court after sets.

Bottom line – if you gotta go, be prepared to pay for it in points.

REVERSING SCORES: At ATPWorldTour.com when head-to-head scores are viewed they are listed straight forwardly after a ‘W’ (win) and ‘L’ (loss).

But in the list of a player’s tournaments under ‘activity,’ if he’s beaten by a 7-5, 6-7(3), 1-6, 6-2, 7-5 score it’s listed after an ‘L’ as 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-1, 2-6, 5-7.

The point here is that the ‘L’ suffices to show that a player lost – there’s no need to reverse all the set scores. Many a reporter on deadline has cursed as he or she has had to transpose sets as they’re pounding out their copy.

WIMBLEDON IS WIMBLEDON: If you are looking for a player’s results at Wimbledon on the ATP World Tour website, you simply click on the list of tournaments under ‘W’ that includes ‘Wimbledon.’

But not on the WTA website! Good luck trying to find Wimbledon listed alphabetically under ‘W’ in a player’s results in the ‘matches’ category.

It’s listed under “T” for ‘The Championships – Wimbledon.’

Gimme a break!

CROWD SHOTS AT THE END OF MATCHES: This is a favourite pet peeve of a long-suffering tennis fan. You watch a hard-fought, competitive match for hours and then the TV director cuts away to a crowd shot right after the ultimate match point. Viewers are invested in the players and their struggles and want to see their reactions after the climactic moment.

There’s tremendous human interest in both players’ emotions and in the handshake that follows. Anonymous faces in the crowd suddenly appearing is a ridiculous interruption. This often happens because TV directors aren’t that familiar with tennis – but maybe tournament directors should inform broadcasters that they shouldn’t break a golden rule of tennis coverage.

PRONUNCIATIONS: The main one here happens to be the No. 1 men’s player in the world – Novak Djokovic. It’s hard to believe that divergence still exists on this one – is it JOKE-O-VITCH or JOCK-O-VITCH?

It doesn’t help that, using the pronunciation icon on Djokovic’s ATP website page, his own pronunciation actually allows for ambiguity and interpretations both ways.

Still umpires pronounce it ‘Joke-o-vitch’ and that’s most obvious at the Italian Open every year when umpires say “joco (game) Djokovic” using the ‘Joke-o-vitch’ pronunciation which rhymes with ‘joco.’

In this video from his visit to the former on-court ‘bunker’ in Rod Laver Arena during the 2013 Australian Open, Djokovic definitely seems to give the Joke-O-Vitch pronunciation. Listen here:

And here are four Serbs pronouncing Djokovic’s name.

With Karen Khachanov of Russia emerging as a future great player, it’s probably best – as fortunately has happened with Canada’s Denis Shapovalov – to get his name right from the start.

It’s ‘ha-CHAN-ov’ with a silent ‘K.’ In fact, none of the ‘ov’ and ‘ova’ names have the accent on the last syllable. But English speakers tend to find it hard to avoid doing that.

EXHIBITION: If you were around when ‘exo’ came into the tennis vernacular in the 1970s as shorthand for the exhibitions that players sometimes participate in, you would wonder why it has sometimes today evolved into ‘exho.’ The short form ‘exo’ is just fine. Who needs that ‘h?’

SIMPLY HELEN’S SURNAME: This may seem arcane but past women’s champions should basically be listed by their maiden names – unless it’s someone like Aussie great Margaret (Smith) Court who prefers to go by her married name.

The best example is 1920s and 1930s American legend Helen Wills who won 19 Grand Slam singles titles, including eight Wimbledons. She was married to Frederick Moody part way through her career and later divorced him and married and divorced a subsequent husband Aiden Roark.

In the Wimbledon Compendium – the bible of all things Wimbledon – Wills becomes Mrs. F.S. Moody for her last five titles after being Miss H.N. Wills for her first three (1927-29). Wills died in 1998 at 92 and one suspects she would prefer being remembered as simply Helen Mills sans the name of a man she was once married to.

The Compendium also lists more recent champions such as Chris Evert and Evonne Goolagong as, respectively, Mrs. J.M. Lloyd (married John Lloyd) and Mrs. R.A. Cawley (married Roger Cawley) for their post-marriage Wimbledon triumphs.

Evert, after her marriages, is known today as Chris Evert, and Goolagong, still married to Cawley, as Evonne Goolagong.

To give this a modern analogy, if Serena Williams had won her eighth Wimbledon last July, she would have been listed in the Compendium as Mrs. A. K. Ohanian not Miss S. J. Williams as she was for her previous seven.

Needless to say there’s no chance of men on the honour roll of champions adopting the name of their spouses. So neither should that be the case with women.


GRAND SLAM FINAL SET TIEBREAKS: Wimbledon has announced there will no longer be ‘advantage’ final sets in all the events at The Championships beginning in 2019.

Mostly that’s a result of extended men’s singles matches and specifically a reaction to the Isner – Mahut 70-68 final set in 2010 and the Anderson – Isner 26-24 fifth set in this year’s semi-finals. They proved to significantly affect the winner’s ability to perform in his next match, as appeared to be the case for Anderson in the final versus Novak Djokovic last July.

It’s unfortunate that the ‘dizzying’ exhilaration of witnessing mounting final sets such as Roddick – El Aynaoui (21-19 in 2003) and Rubin – Sanchez Vicario (16-14 in 1996) at the Australian Open will now be lost at Wimbledon.

While it’s sensible to make the change, having the final set tiebreak at 12-12 seems like a lame compromise. The Australian and French Opens currently play out fifth and final sets. There really should be a uniform policy at all the Grand Slams with a tiebreak at 6-all as it is at the US Open.

Here’s an idea. Just to recognize the added significance of a deciding set tiebreak, why not make it a match tiebreak as in some events today? It would just be slightly extended with the winner being the first player to 10 points by a margin of two.

16 SEEDS: There was talk for much of this year about reverting to 16 seeds at Grand Slam tournaments – going back to the way things were in the year 2000. It was believed that would make early round matches more competitive and interesting.

Thankfully that idea got shelved. Tennis needs its best players in the later rounds of major events for a myriad of reasons (fan appeal, TV ratings etc.) and any little advantage such as having 32 seeds is a good idea.

It’s worth remembering that when Pete Sampras won the US Open (his final Grand Slam) in 2002, he was seeded No. 17. What might have happened if there had only been 16 seeds? Similarly – Roger Federer won the 2017 Australian Open as the No. 17 seed. Who knows if that unforgettable victory would have been possible if he had started out as an unseeded player?

NEW ATP NAME: It’s great to see the ATP World Tour finally come to its senses and revert to its former ATP Tour (new logo above) name. It was the ATP Tour from 1990 up until 2001 when it became simply the ‘ATP.’ Then in 2011 it changed to ‘ATP World Tour.’ The ATP World Tour is an organization representing players from all over the globe and ‘world’ is an English word that’s jarring for some non-English speakers. When the change was originally made to ATP World Tour a journalist from a Latin-speaking nation complained about the word ‘world.’ He said there were too many consonants (not enough vowels) in ‘world.’ It’s highly unlikely that was something ATP officials considered when they adopted ATP World Tour eight years ago.

Now all we need is for the WTA to add ‘Tour’ to its name and we would have some harmony in international tennis nomenclature.

PROPER SHORTS: Let’s hear it for tennis shorts (Stefanos Tsitsipas above) trending to actually being short. Several players have gotten away from baggy shorts that drape down below the knees. For aficionados of the male physique – thighs are back in vogue. And need we add that the tighter fit also exposes more of the players’ gluteus maximus muscles?


On Wimbledon High Street the Saturday evening before Wimbledon 2018 began, we spoke to Vasek and father Milos Pospisil, Nick from Channel 7 (Australia), Patrick McEnroe, Jean-Julien Rojer as well as tennis writers Akatsuki Uchida Kobayashi from Japan and Italian Ubaldo Scanagatta – with cameos by tennis writers Matt Cronin and Kamakshi Tandon. Check it out here: