Serve Clock Started

Clock next to ball kid

For the first time that I have seen, a big tournament has started using an on-court clock to control the time the server (or returner?) takes between points.  Is this a good idea?

Hawk-Eye Accepted

Remember how disruptive it was when players like John McEnroe would take several minutes disputing line calls (that were never changed)?  But now, the players accept the decision of the electronic line calling system and play moves along smoothly.

The clock was used at the D.C. Citi Open and will also be used at the U.S. Open during main-draw matches, which begin Aug. 27. Last year the clocks were tested during qualifying matches at the U.S. Open.

The Serve Clock Rules

The serve clock rule, originally implemented during the Next Gen Finals in Milan in 2017, will make a clock visible to enforce a previously existing but largely unenforced rule which allows players 25 seconds to serve. The clock begins when the chair umpire announces the score and turns off when the server lifts the racket to signify the serving motion. After even-numbered games, the clock will start when the balls are in place on the server’s side of the court.

If the clock runs out before the player begins the serve (which does not include bouncing the tennis ball) the player will receive a warning for the first violation and will lose a serve on subsequent violations.

We’d like the pace of play to speed up,” said Gayle Bradshaw, the ATP’s executive vice president of rules and competition. “The other thing is the enforcement. … But it’s the inconsistency from one court to another, from one chair to the other, that frustrates the players. So this is the way that kind of brings us some consistency, and it seems like it’s just a natural next step.”

What do you think of this innovation?

Know someone who should read this?  Send them a link and if you are not on my “new posting alert email list” and want to be (I promise, no other uses of your email address!), just drop me a note at

My Book: if you’d like to get a copy of “Senior Tennis”, just click on the link on the upper right of this web page to go to, look at the list of places under “My Book” on the bar above, or ask me what clubs are carrying it!

6 thoughts on “Serve Clock Started

  1. I’m OK with it. I didn’t watch much of the Citi Open, but at one point the announcer commented that the server could actually take longer between points because he could watch the clock and let it wind down before serving (to catch his breath). So, it could occasionally slow down play. But still, I’m OK with it and it lets the players know where they stand.

    Question: if the clock runs out does the player lose the point, or does it count as a missed first serve and he gets a second serve?

    Terry, i saw the same “clock watching”! The first violation is a warning and second is loss of first serve (what happens if it is a second serve??).
    The chair umpire starts the clock after calling the score. Maybe he restarts after calling “fault”???

    I also heard that the umpire will have “some discretion” as to when he starts or actually pauses the clock, depending on what is happening on the court. george

  2. I think it’s time they enforced the already existing rule. Just like the players can’t argue with the replay (except when Isner did recently!), the players will see the clock and know how long they have. I am anxious to see how Novak deals with it. Maybe he’ll keep his bounces to under 10 now!!

    Steve, and Rafa too! thanks, george

  3. I think it is overdue. Players like Novak and Rafa, to name only two, become aggravating to watch when they abuse the current rule through no enforcement. Then when a chair umpire has the audacity to actually enforce the rule, they act surprised and even petulant. A rule that us not evenly enforced is worse than no rule at all.

    I am not concerned that some may watch the clock and use this as an opportunity to slow down because they will know they have more time. First, I doubt that too many of the fast servers who don’t use all of the time available to them will see any benefit in disrupting a rhythm that works for them just because they can. Their serves depend on regular pacing and most will not want to screw around with this. Second, even if it results in a few servers taking more time, it will at least curb the abuses and, on average among all players, is bound to speed up play.

    Marty, i agree… most servers have a rhythm they will want to stick to; and only after a long, grueling point may they stretch it some. thanks, george

  4. Love it – I don’t like to sit down cross overs. The quicker the better for me, which may be something I should slow down. I just like to keep the game moving especially on warm days – I think I can deal with heat better then most.

    Larry, that is what years in Florida will do for you! thanks, george

  5. Isn’t ‘bouncing’ time the typical biggest delay? It is not eliminated because this is a necessary time for the sever to handle his / her concentration. So is the clock really going to be worthwhile?

    Bill, i believe the biggest time consumer is “going to the towel” after every point. Like the baseball players stepping out of the batter’s box and readjusting their batting gloves after every pitch. thanks, george

  6. I believe the rule states that the player must be in the process of raising their racquet arm by the time the shot clock hits zero. Unfortunately, the umpires are already accommodating the serial abusers like Rafa and Novak by not starting the clock for a few seconds after a point ends. I can see allowing them some leeway after a long point, but they do it after an ace or service winner. The players need to do their part in keeping the sport “watchable” by those of us at home.

    George, I apologize for injecting a new topic into this thread, but I think it goes hand in hand with this one. I also have a problem with doubles partners conferring between every point. Isn’t that what hand signals are for? I admit that I haven’t noticed whether they are using the shot clock for doubles, too. If so, then this will no longer be a problem.

    Jim, i agree on both of your points! The doubles guys talk after every single point! thanks, george

Comments are closed.