US Open analysis: players ignoring the 20-second serving rule


Maria KirilenkoCarl Bialik from the Wall Street Journal made an interesting analysis of the time players take inbetween serves, which is often longer than 20 seconds (“a maximum of twenty (20) seconds shall elapse from the moment the ball goes out of play at the end of the point until the time the ball is struck for the first serve of the next point”). Players do not really pay attention to the rule, probably because it is not enforced much.

Here’s the average among 20 women timed by stopwatch at the US Open: 22.7 seconds and 12.2 pre-serve bounces of the ball. Interestingly, women’s tennis players need shorter breaks before serving after they have won a point – average of 21.6 seconds and 11.2 bounces. However, they need longer preparation after losing a point – average of 22.8 seconds and 12.5 bounces.

And one more thing, even though the second serve should follow an unsuccessful first serve “without delay”, female tennis players take 11.5 seconds and 6.2 bounces. (via: Women Who Serve, photo: © Neal Trousdale)


  1. Interesting article, I think too many players today forget about that rule. I know it seems unimportant, but rules are rules and they are there for a reason! When i’m watching Sharapova or the Williams sisters and some others on the court and serving, I’m a little bit annoyed by their pause- oh, come on, serve already! I think it’s annoying to the opponent, too, and that’s why they’re doing it, and plus to get some extra rest. I think the judge should say them once somethinhg, cause it’s obviously against the rules. Ps. This is not only in womens tennis, check on Nole and Rafa, too. 😛

  2. Different subject: But I noticed that at the U.S. Open the players’ boxes where the family sits have microphones. Someone mentioned that this is done to curtail illegal coaching; thus hand signals and mouthing of words is being done.

    Is this true? Are the microphones used at other slams?

    During the start of one of the men’s matches (won’t mention whose) the Chair accidentally disrupted play with his voice booming on the court checking to be sure the microphones were working b/c he had witnessed some coaching. He apologized to the players for the disturbance.

    Thanks to anyone that can answer this one for me.

  3. Mirjana, the Wall Street Journal also timed the men’s serving breaks, but I mentioned only the women here. According to their analysis, women are slower overall and bounce more times.

    El, look what I’ve found for you:

    “Microphones in Player Boxes: Microphones will be added to the player boxes in Arthur Ashe Stadium as an enhancement for domestic television viewers. All audio will be tape-delayed and nothing inappropriate/embarrassing will be broadcast.
    Please advise your guests accordingly.”

  4. @Marija,

    Thanks for the response. I don’t recall any tape-delayed broadcast during the tournament. Did I miss something? Or have guests decided on their own to only whisper to avoid any possibility of problems?

    Great fact sheet listing the points given for each level. Serena only loses 1200 points for not defending and Kim retains her 2,000 points.

  5. Far worse than the time between points is the truly bizarre and excessive grunting engaged in by so many, particulalry so on the women’s side these days – I’m lookingn at you Azarenka, Williamses, Sharapova. It makes some of the matches unbearably annoying to watch. Rafa used to be bad, but seems to have curtailed it somewhat. Odd that grunting and screaming fad seems much worse on the women’s side.

  6. Thanks again Marija for hunting down that piece. I wonder if all the other tourneys might follow suit w/microphones. This takes the pressure off the Chair-it’s enough to referee a tennis match without also having to referee the family boxes.

    Very good article!

  7. El, I’m glad if I was at least a bit helpful. It’s good for referees, but it’s bad for the privacy of people in the box, but then again, they are there to watch tennis and not talk and distract.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here