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Saturday, September 25, 2021

3 toilet breaks in 2 matches: Why Tsitsipas’ lengthy off-court trips irk opponents

US Open 2021: The New York crowd, Andy Murray, and a handful of other players have spoken out against Stefanos Tsitsipas' disruptive tendencies.

Written by Shahid Judge | Mumbai |
Updated: September 9, 2021 1:40:20 pm
Stefanos Tsitsipas, of Greece, talks to the crowd after defeating Adrian Mannarino, of France, during the second round of the US Open tennis championships, Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Stefanos Tsitsipas has played two matches at the US Open so far, but taken three toilet breaks, one medical time-out, and decided to switch racquets mid-game as well. In none of these instances has he gone against the rules, but the morals have come into question. And the New York crowd, Andy Murray, and a handful of other players have spoken out against the Greek’s disruptive tendencies.

Why have people been booing and speaking out against Tsitsipas?

In his first round match against three-time Grand Slam champion Murray, Tsitsipas took a lengthy toilet break that went on for around 8-9 minutes. He took another eight-minute long toilet break after the fourth set, but not before taking a medical time-out and even halting play to switch racquets while he was down 0-30 on his serve. “It’s not so much leaving the court. It’s the amount of time,” Murray said after the match. “I have zero time for that stuff at all and I lost respect for him.”

Against French player Adrian Mannarino in the second round, Tsitsipas again took a toilet break after losing the second set before coming back to win the match in four sets.

Why is that a reason to complain?

Each incident has been seen as a moment of ‘gamesmanship’ from the 23-year-old simply because it comes at a time when the opponent has built up momentum – in other words, its suspect Tsitsipas does it to break rhythm. And the Greek has become a serial offender when it comes to this.

Murray complained in as many words, saying that “stopping for seven, eight minutes, you do cool down.” Mannarino meanwhile practiced serves to keep his shoulder warmed-up while Tsitsipas was off court.

Andy Murray, of Great Britain, complains to an official between sets against Stefanos Tsitsipas, of Greece, during the first round of the US Open tennis championships, Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

There has also been a charge of cheating, as Tsitsipas – usually under the guise of changing his clothes – carries a bag with him to the toilet. That bag also contains his phone, as Alexander Zverev called out at the Cincinnati Masters last week. The German alleged that since officials cannot enter the washroom while a player is inside, there’s a chance Tsitsipas may be using the phone to communicate with his father and coaches.

“He’s gone for 10-plus minutes; his dad is texting on the phone. He comes out, and all of a sudden his tactic completely changed. It’s not just me but everybody saw it,” Zverev said after his opening match against Sam Querrey.

Coincidentally, as Zverev complained to the umpire while Tsitsipas was off-court during the semi-final match in Cincinnati, cameras panned towards Tsitsipas’ father Apostolos who was seen typing into his phone.

A day after his match, Murray took to social media to tweet: “Fact of the day. It takes Stefanos Tsitsipas twice as long to go to the bathroom as it takes Jeff (Bezos) to fly into space. Interesting.”

What do the rules say?

Toilet breaks can be taken at the end of a set. One break is allowed in best of three set matches and two in best of five sets. The rules state that players can take a “reasonable” amount of time without mentioning an exact time-frame. “He’s not doing anything wrong. I think the rule is wrong,” Mannarino said.

How has Tsitsipas reacted?

In general, the Greek has asserted that he gets sweaty easily and uses the break to change his clothes. In the press conference after his second round match though, he accused Murray of also using the break to disrupt his opponent’s momentum when the Brit called for a bathroom break before the fifth set in the 2012 US Open final he went on to win.

“I remember watching it when I was younger. Can you please check when Andy Murray faced Novak Djokovic at the final here, before the fifth set, that break, can you please look it up and let me know next time?” Tsitsipas reportedly questioned during his interaction.

The break Murray took however, lasted three minutes.

Is Tsitsipas the only player to disrupt play within the rules?

World No 1 Novak Djokovic, more earlier in his career than now, used to take injury time-outs often when he was on the backfoot. He also had the tendency to bounce the ball for long ahead of his serve to catch his breath or keep the opponent waiting.

Meanwhile Rafael Nadal too has been accused of taking too long on many occasions. The Spaniard, known for his long list of pre-point rituals, often takes more than the stipulated 25 seconds to start a point. Murray too, in the incident Tsitsipas mentioned, used a toilet break to reset before coming out to win his first Grand Slam title at the 2012 US Open.

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