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Serve clocks, in-game coaching headline 2017 innovations

The US Open will remain at the forefront of tennis innovation this summer when a number of changes will be trialed to increase the speed of play and enhance the fan experience.

In a bid to create consistent standards for competitors, new in-game rule changes will be implemented across a variety of events at the 2017 US Open. Starting during the US Open Qualifying Tournament and also for the junior tournament, US Open Wheelchair Competition, American Collegiate Invitational and Champions Invitational, the enhancements will see several differences in timing and coaching.

The new enhancements will not be instituted in the main draws of singles, doubles or mixed doubles.

The most noticeable change is the introduction of a countdown clock, which will be visible for fans and players. Players will be given 25 seconds to serve following the completion of a point. This is a five-second increase from the stated rules of tennis. The clock will begin after the chair umpire announces the score, and time violation penalties will be assessed on infractions.

The on-court clock will also be utilized during the warmup. At the completion of the five minutes, the umpire will announce the end of the warmup period. After making this announcement, players will have 60 seconds to begin play.

The final change related to timing and set to be tested at the 2017 US Open is for changing clothes. Players will be given five minutes to complete an attire change, during set breaks only. As not all courts have the same proximity to changing areas, the clock will not begin until a player enters the changing area, and it will end when a player leaves the changing area. Time violation penalties will be assessed on infractions.

The second major innovation to be unveiled this year at the US Open is in-match coaching between points.

Coaches in the designated player boxes will be able to communicate with their players between points. Verbal coaching will be allowed while the player is on the same end of the court as the player box, while signal coaching will be permitted when the player box is on the opposite end of the court.

“The US Open has always been at the forefront of tennis innovation, from blue courts to electronic line calling, and beyond,” said Gordon Smith, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, USTA. “Throughout the years we have consistently looked for ways to enhance the experience of both our players and our fans, and we think these changes will continue to move the sport in an exciting direction.”

The innovations were reviewed by the Grand Slam Board in consensus with the WTA and ATP World Tour and were approved by the ITF Rules of Tennis Committee.

Stacey Allaster, Chief Executive, Professional Tennis, USTA said: “Both throughout the event and following its completion, we will gather and analyze data and reaction, and determine the next steps for future usage, as well as the potential for further innovation in other areas of the game.”