Thursday 29 September 2016

New US Open champion Wawrinka hits out over injury hold-ups

Simon Briggs

Published 13/09/2016 | 02:30

Wawrinka: Victory over Djokovic Photo: REUTERS/Tony Pyle
Wawrinka: Victory over Djokovic Photo: REUTERS/Tony Pyle

Stan Wawrinka, the new US Open champion, called yesterday for the public to be given more information about the medical timeouts that have become such a regular part of grand slam tennis - and which brought a late edge of controversy to Sunday night's final.

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Wawrinka was irate when his opponent Novak Djokovic broke up the rhythm of play while trailing 3-1 in the fourth set, claiming he needed treatment on a toe injury.

The rules say that you should wait for the changeover - which would have come one game later - unless you have an "acute" problem. But Djokovic invited accusations of gamesmanship by calling play to a halt for seven minutes before Wawrinka was due to serve.

"I was just surprised with the timing," said Wawrinka yesterday at a photocall on top of Manhattan's Rockefeller Center. "Normally you don't take it before your opponent is going to serve.

"I was really starting to struggle physically. I was starting to cramp - during the match when you are still warm you can keep it, but I didn't want to get cold.

"I think sometimes some players abuse the rules for sure.

"When he took the second timeout they told me it was because he was bleeding, and I have no problem with that. But sometimes I feel also from outside no-one tells people what's happening. People outside or behind, they cannot see."

It is hard to believe any grand slam has been as heavily affected by medical issues as this one. Tennis becomes more physical every year, without cutting back on its overstuffed calendar, and the addition of the Olympics has made 2016 the most demanding season we have seen. Add in a fortnight of hot and humid weather in New York and it is a wonder anyone is still standing.

Wawrinka and Djokovic did not fall out over the medical timeout incident. Djokovic apologised directly to his opponent while the treatment was going on, and then again when the players embraced at the net after Wawrinka's 6-7, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 victory. Both times, his gesture was accepted without pique.

Indeed, Wawrinka became tearful at the presentation ceremony as he explained how important his friendship with Djokovic (the two men practise together whenever possible) has been to him.

Yet the elements of interpretation surrounding these incidents are surely too elastic - there was a 22-minute pause after Johanna Konta's collapse in her second-round match.

As the athletes are forced to play hurt more and more often by tennis's crazy schedule, the tours should consider appointing some sort of medical supremo, both to safeguard their health and to oversee a more consistent policy on mid-match timeouts.

Irish Independent

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