One day after Andy Murray went ballistic about Stefanos Tsitsipas’ propensity to take long restroom breaks in the middle of tennis matches, Alexander Zverev continued the pile on Tuesday and said Tsitsipas’ tactics were reminiscent of something you’d see in junior tennis, not the pro ranks.
“It’s happening every match. It’s not normal,” said Zverev, who beat American Sam Querrey 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 to begin his U.S. Open. “It happened to me in the French Open, to Novak (Djokovic) in the finals at the French Open. You know, I think in Hamburg against (Filip) Krajinovic he was complaining, against me in Cincinnati was ridiculous, and now here again. I think players are catching up on that.
Tsitsipas, the No. 3 seed, left the court for roughly eight minutes before the fifth set of his first-round match against Murray on Monday. Murray, who complained that the amount of time caused him to lose adrenaline and stiffen up, immediately had his serve broken and lost the deciding set 6-4. After the match, he said he had lost respect for Tsitsipas and called on tennis to do something about players who abuse the rule that allows players to take restroom breaks or call for medical timeouts.
Zverev had been in a similar position on Aug. 21 in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. After winning the first set 6-4, Tsitsipas took his bag into the restroom with him, presumably to change into dry clothes.
But during the lengthy break, Zverev accused Tsitsipas of taking his cell phone into the restroom and texting with his father/coach Apostolos, which would be a violation of ATP rules. Tsitsipas denied that he’s ever done anything like that when asked Monday night, but Zverev doubled down when asked about it Tuesday.
“He’s gone for 10-plus minutes. His dad is texting on the phone. He comes out, and all of a sudden his tactic completely changed,” Zverev said. “It’s not just me but everybody saw it. The whole game plan changes.
“Either it’s a very magical place he goes to or there is communication there. But I also don’t want to disrespect him. He is a great player. He is No. 3 in the world for a reason. He’s winning tournaments and playing incredible tennis this year for a reason, so it’s not only that. But I do believe, and Andy said it, as well, there is some level of respect that everybody needs to have between players. I feel like, yeah, sometimes – or he might just go to the toilet. We don’t know that. That’s also possible. But it just happens too often, I would say.”
Though Zverev said Tsitsipas’ actions violate an “unwritten rule” between players, Tsitsipas has maintained that he is only using that time to change clothes. And there are some players who agree with him.
After beating Soonwoo Kwon in the first round, American Reilly Opelka said with the hot and humid conditions, plus the physicality of the tennis, it’s not surprising that players need some time to change into dry clothes during a long match.
“To change or to go after, you know, two sets we’re drinking, we’re hydrating a lot, we have to use the bathroom,” he said. “To change my socks, shoes, my inserts in my shoes, shorts, shirt, everything, the whole nine yards, hat, it takes five, six minutes. Then by the time I walk to and from the court.
“If people don’t understand that, then clearly they’ve never spent a day in the life of a professional athlete or come close to it.”