Jelena Dokic has questioned why Karolina Muchova would take a lengthy off-court break just moments after winning the first set against Sorana Cirstea at the US Open on Tuesday (local time). Muchova completely blitzed Cirstea in the first set of their quarter-final clash, winning it 6-0.
Despite the bagel, the set was actually very hard fought and sapped the players of energy amid oppressive humidity. Muchova had all the momentum on her side, but opted to leave the court after the set and was gone for a prolonged period.
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Cirstea was left fuming at the chair umpire when she wanted to continue the match, only to realise that Muchova wasn't back on court yet. "I am the one waiting for her to serve," Cirstea said to the umpire in a testy exchange. "I don't understand what you want from me."
Dokic was miffed as to why Muchova would head off court for so long and break her own momentum. "She went for a change of shirt and usually you don't do that when you've got the momentum," the Aussie said in commentary for Channel 9. "Not only the momentum but she won 6-0."
Should tennis officials change the rules for breaks?
The issue of 'tactical' off-court breaks has plagued tennis for a number of years. Daniil Medvedev was gone for about 20 minutes after he dropped the first set to Alex de Minaur on Monday, before coming back completely refreshed and turning the tide against the Aussie.
Todd Woodbridge was highly critical of the rules that allow such lengthy off-court breaks. "Why do you need to leave the court for that long?" the Aussie great said on Channel 9.
"It's not a toilet break, is he changing his full kit? Shouldn't that be at a certain time? I tell you, I think our sport really has to do something about these change-overs. It's just such a crutch that everyone seems to go to when they're down, and it's just not part of the game.
"It shouldn't be there, I implore our rules officials to get in and stop all this stuff going on, because it's just momentum changes in matches that we shouldn't have. Let's keep the game moving. It's not great for us as broadcasters, and I think it's really gamesmanship and it needs to be taken out. It’s such an annoying part of our game. You’re not supposed to be doing this. And the umpire is letting him get away with it”.
Tactical timeouts have caused controversy in tennis
Muchova has some infamous history in regards to tactical breaks after she took a medical timeout en route to beating Ash Barty at the Australian Open in 2021. Muchova lost the first set 6-1 and looked completely overwhelmed by the Aussie, but was a completely different player after the timeout.
Addressing the controversy after coming back to win, Muchova admitted she wasn't injured but just needed a breather. "I was a bit lost on the court and my head was spinning so I took a break and it helped me," she said at the time. "I started feeling a bit lost by the end of the first set. Ash started very good. She played like no mistakes. It was very tough."
Asked if she was actually injured, she admitted: "No. It was more they just checked my pressure because, like I said, I was a bit lost. I was spinning. So they cooled me down a bit with ice and it helped me."
Stefanos Tsitsipas was blasted by Andy Murray when he took a long off-court break at the US Open that same year. Murray said he'd lost all respect for Tsitsipas, who eventually won in five sets after the break allowed him to regroup.
Muchova will play Coco Gauff in the semi-finals after beating Cirstea 6-0 6-3. Gauff had earlier blitzed Jelena Ostapenko 6-0 6-2 after Ostapenko sensationally beat World No.1 Iga Swiatek in the fourth round.
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