Stefanos Tsitsipas has come under fire again after taking another unusually long bathroom break during his second-round match at the U.S. Open on Wednesday, prompting other players to call for a rule change.
The 23-year-old Greek tennis player took an eight-minute break between the end of the third set and the start of the fourth in his match against France’s Adrian Mannarino. Upon returning to the court, Tsitsipas was met with loud boos from the crowd.
“I haven’t done anything wrong, so I don’t understand,” he told reporters when asked about the crowd’s reaction. “The people love the sport; they come to watch tennis. I have nothing against them. I love the fans. But some people don’t understand. That’s all. They don’t understand. They haven’t played tennis at a high level to understand how much effort and how much difficult it is to do what we are doing. Sometimes we need a short break to do what we have to do.”
Tsitsipas was called out by Andy Murray after their nearly five-hour match on Monday for what Murrary felt were purposely timed breaks that gave his opponent an advantage.
“It’s not so much leaving the court. It’s the amount of time,” he said. “When you’re playing a brutal match like that, you know, stopping for seven, eight minutes, you do cool down. You can prepare for it mentally as much as you like, but it’s the fact that it does affect you physically when you take a break that long, well, multiple times during the match.”
Murray, who dropped after the first round, said there’s no “coincidence” that Tsitsipas was taking the breaks at the times he was taking them.
“It’s just disappointing because I feel it influenced the outcome of the match … I have zero time for that stuff at all, and I lost respect for him.”
Tsitsipas defended himself on Wednesday, arguing that he isn’t breaking any rules – which is true. The Grand Slam rule book just says players should take a “reasonable” amount of time but does not describe what the appropriate amount of time should be.
“If I break a rule, sure, I’m guilty. I agree; I’m not doing something right,” he said. “If I’m staying within the guidelines, then what’s the issue?”
Mannarino agreed with that, passing the blame on officials.
“He’s not doing anything wrong,” he said. “I think the rule is wrong.”
Former U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, who is a member of the WTA players council, said the rules need to be changed.
“If someone goes to the bathroom for nine minutes, no one says anything,” she told reporters, via Reuters.
“I think now that there is a lot of talk about it, people come into press, people tweet about it, maybe it will get a little bit more attention, that gamesmanship will kind of maybe turn and change a little bit.”
Stephens said she agreed with Murray and found his tweet “really funny.”
“If you ever changed out of a wet sports bra … But that is maybe like a five-minute. When you get into six, seven, eight, nine minutes, OK, what are you doing in there? Do you need help?”
Stephens, who won her second-round match against fellow American Coco Gauff, said the rules are responsible for such poor sportsmanship.
“They make a lot of rule changes for smaller things, like, they took one minute off the warmup,” she said. “I think there definitely needs to be a rule or changes.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.