NEW YORK — When it comes to going to the bathroom, how long is too long? That is, believe it or not, a genuine argument at the US Open, courtesy to a squabble between Andy Murray and Stefanos Tsitsipas about the tennis toilet break the regulation.
The 2021 Grand Slam rule book limits women (who play best-of-three sets) to one trip off-court and men (best-of-five sets) to two excursions “for a fair period for a bathroom break, a change of apparel break, or both,” according to Article I, Section W, paragraph 4.
The debate on Tuesday at, ahem, Flush-ing Meadows centered on whether it was “reasonable” that play was delayed for more than eight minutes because Tsitsipas took his time changing out of his sweaty outfit for a new one between the fourth and fifth sets of a nearly five-hour victory over Murray the day before.
“How do you feel about this? Murray, a three-time Grand Slam champion, was overheard stating to the match official, “You’re umpiring the match.” “I’d want to hear your thoughts… “Do you think this is a good idea?”
Murray, who changed his clothes on his changeover bench before the last set, is one among those who have lobbied for a regulation change.
Put a time restriction in writing, for example. Or face harsher repercussions than Tsitsipas’s mere warning from the chair umpire for a time violation on Monday, when he and Murray were both wet from 70 percent humidity and temperatures in the low 80s Fahrenheit (high 20s Celsius).
“It’s so hazy. Another ambiguous tennis regulation. And I believe that’s what Andy was talking about,” Chris Evert, an 18-time major champion, said on ESPN’s coverage Tuesday. “Let me tell you, eight to ten minutes allows the player time to think about what he has to do, to reset if necessary, and to dig into his luggage and make a phone call. Alternatively, you might reach inside his bag and read a text message. It allows for a lot of things that aren’t quite fair in tennis.”
The USTA said it needs to “continue to review and explore potential adjustments to the rules, whether for bathroom breaks/change of attire or other areas, that can positively impact the pace of play for our fans and ensure the fairness and integrity of the game,” calling pace of play “an important issue on our sport.”
The ATP men’s tour stated that revising bathroom break regulations and those controlling medical timeouts have been a “work in progress” in recent months. “As with any rule, the WTA is always open to dialogue and developing regulations if changes are necessary,” the WTA women’s circuit said, adding: “As with any rule, the WTA is always open to conversation and evolving rules if changes are necessary.”
If Tsitsipas’ goal was to play games, he succeeded.
Murray lost focus, and the extended stoppage in play cooled him down, presenting physical difficulties for a 34-year-old man with a prosthetic hip.
Murray used the term “cheating” on the court.” He branded it “crazy” and claimed he had “lost respect” for Tsitsipas, a 23-year-old Greek who finished second in the French Open in June and is seeded third in New York.
Murray didn’t let it go either on Tuesday. Instead, he sparked controversy by tweeting a photo that included emojis of a toilet and a rocket ship: “Today’s fact.” Stefanos (Tsitsipas) takes twice as long to go to the restroom as Jeff (Bezos) takes to go into space. Interesting.”
This isn’t the first time Tsitsipas — or other players — have faced this problem. Let me give you an example from Monday: After the second set of this three-set loss to Brandon Nakashima in an all-American match Monday, No. 19 seed John Isner left the court for what amounted to a break of more than seven minutes between points.
Alexander Zverev, an Olympic gold winner who is also his coach, accused Tsitsipas of seeking aid from his father, who is also his coach, after a lengthy trip to the restroom during their semifinal at the Cincinnati Masters a little more than a week ago. During matches, coaching is not permitted.
“He’s been gone for more than ten minutes. His father is on the phone, messaging. When he first came out, his strategy had entirely altered. It wasn’t only me who saw it; everyone else did as well. After his triumph on Tuesday, No. 4 seed Zverev stated, “The whole game strategy changes.” “I’m thinking: Either he travels to a really wonderful location or there’s communication there.”
Tsitsipas, according to Zverev, is doing the right thing “Things like this may occur in junior events, Futures, and Challengers, but not when you’re in the top three in the world. You are permitted to do so, but it is an unspoken rule among players.”
Both Tsitsipas and Isner had defenders.
“We’re having a drink. We’re drinking a lot of water. We need to go to the restroom. After advancing to the second round with a win Tuesday, No. 22 seed Reilly Opelka of the United States remarked, “It takes five, six minutes to change my socks, shoes, inserts in my shoes, shorts, shirt, everything, the full nine yards, cap.” “By the time I walk to and from the court…,” she says.