Time out

The momentum swings in your direction during a singles match and, in the middle of a game, your opponent says, “time out!” Can they do that?

Joe McAleer and I were playing a friendly match this week on a hot Naples day and he had taken some anti-biotics, which were impacting him. So, while I was serving 30-30, 2-4, he asked if he could sit for a minute and take a “time out.” I, of course, agreed.

But he went on to point out that he believed it was “legal” to take a time out – for any reason you want – at any time during a match.

He said it was done to him in a tournament match, when he was serving 5-4, 40-15. And he is sure his opponent did it just for the psychological impact – and it worked! After the time out, his opponent broke him and went on to win the set.

So, does anyone know the rule…

Can you take a time out at anytime?

Even without a claim of medical needs?

P.S. Joe came back from his time out with me to break my serve and go on to win the set.

7 thoughts on “Time out

  1. Here is a discussion on Time Outs from http://www.usta.com Rich Kaufman,Director of Officials from the USTA
    “During a doubles match, my partner and I were leading 3 – 0 and one of our opponents left the court without explanation. When we asked her partner where she was going, she told us that her partner was going to wrap her hand which had been injured prior to the match. Our opponent returned to the court 10 minutes later with a wrapped hand and we resumed play. (When confronted later, she claimed that she had gone to the bathroom) Is this a rules violation?

    KAUFMAN: Players do have the right to take a break to go to the bathroom (reasonable time for most amateur events) or take a Medical Time Out for an injury. There are time limits when taking a Medical Time Out. However, it is inappropriate to walk off the court and say nothing or not be truthful. The opponents could make the assumption that one is retiring from the match if no clear explanation is given.”

    There is a reference to stalling, but not time outs in The Code – helps to have a copy handy for unofficiated matches – http://dps.usta.com/usta_master/sitecore_usta/USTA/Document%20Assets/2008/05/29/doc_13_22409.pdf

    In the USTA Offical Rules of Tennis, play is generally CONTINUOUS and at the pace of the server. There are SPECIFIC times allowed for changeovers, medical timeouts etc, you cannot “just call time out” cause you want to in the middle of a game
    http://www.usta.com/AboutUs/Rules.aspx

  2. George — this sounds nuts. I don’t believe you’re allowed a time-out to regain strength or for that matter, to psyche out your opponent either. On a quick search I found this link describing a junior tennis incident. It cites some rules that may be relevant. http://en.allexperts.com/q/Tennis-Instruction-328/rules-time-sets.htm

    (Note: this is the end of Marc’s link…. Finally, there are no time-outs for exhaustion or for a player to recover strength, etc. We officials sometimes allow a trainer to determine if it’s fatigue or something more serious, to err on the side of caution. After all, we’re not medically trained. But if a player asked me if he could rest or take a bathroom break because he was tired, the answer would be an emphatic, NO!
    If he did so, he’d be subject to code violations and possible default.
    I hope this helps. Good luck. ) george

  3. George: This is another close call issue and falls under the category of “It depends,” in my opinion. Isn’t there some rule that says “play shall be continuous….”, etc.? I start from that basic rule and, therefore, think the matter is governed by common sense as an exception to that rule. While I would never deny somebody the right to take a break if he/she truly felt sick or had an injury, it is hard to know when that crosses the boundary from a legitimate reason to take a break to gamesmanship. Injuries, especially on court injuries, are one thing. Usually with an injury, you can see what has happened to the person to cause the injury in the middle of the match and there is no reason to dispute that the injured person is truly injured. For example, he has twisted his ankle running for a ball. However, injuries that you cannot see, like illness, are more susceptible to being faked, or at least exaggerated, to gain unfair advantage on the court. If a person is not feeling well in the middle of a match, how is that really different from one person just being more physically fit than his opponent and that fitness differential is causing the more fit person to win the match? Tennis is, after all, a sport. If you walk on the court not feeling your best one day, then perhaps you should not really be playing tennis that day at all. In my opinion, if you show up to play, then you have made the decision that you are going to play through the match and not take breaks. Personally, I have played through matches with issues like wheezing, chest pains (which scared me), a terrible headache, and even an asthma attack once. When I did that, I did not feel it was appropriate for me to take a break in the middle of the match because “play shall be continuous….” If I truly felt too ill to continue playing, then I would have excused myself, told my opponent that I could not continue playing, and gone home — giving my opponent a default. Of course, it is a little different when you are playing a “friendly” match than it is in a tournament, but basically the rules remain the same. So this is a long winded way of saying that, while I certainly have no reason to doubt the sincerity of Joe’s not feeling well, I think I would have done it differently if you and I had been playing a match, George. Unless I was feeling so bad that I could not continue playing at all, I would have “toughed it out” and not taken a break in the middle of the match, as Joe did. Just MHO… YMMV.

  4. Play is meant to be continuous barring an injury time-out, equipment time-out, and toilet/change-of-clothing time-out (if announced ahead of the match) and of course, time when changing sides of the court and between sets (and a referee called time-out).

    Nick – but the question still is, “can you call a time out during a game, whatever your reason?” george

  5. in defense of my actions, we all must remember, this is a “friendly match” for practice. george and i could have drilled fro the hour and a half. could i take a break then?
    how many times during a “friendly match”, have you said to your practice partner,” let’s just play a tiebreaker if the score gets 5-5″? when i was in the situation i was in, i realized that it was just “practice” and why take a chance with anything.
    had i been in a tournament, i would not have requested a time out at that time (i would have waited until changeover). my comment was more of an observation of the rules.
    a guy name bob stock (top national player), did that to me, and i knew it was gamesmanship. it was in an intersectional event with referees. i think (10 years ago) they agreed with him.

    Joe – i had ZERO PROBLEM with you asking to stop with me! It was, in fact, just a friendly game and we can do what we want. my question was more on what Stock did to you… and whether that was legal. george

  6. You can do anything in a friendly game. The heat will bother some players and they need to sit for awhile. However, in match play, Rule 30, sect. b states that play shall never be stopped, delayed or interfered with for the purpose of enabling a player to recover his strength, breath or physical condition. So Joe is wrong!!!

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