Re: Do the Rules on Medical Timeouts Need Tightening Up?
I voted for the 2nd last option because there will always inherently be a MASSIVE blurring of the lines between "Treatable Medical Conditions" and "Non-Treatable Medical Conditions" under ITF rules. The problem is that players can literally complain of any musculoskeletal discomfort or medical illness under the sun with on-court trainers and doctors having absolutely 0% ability to ascertain whether the problem the player is complaining of even exists. These are internal problems that players are complaining of. If a player complains of back-pain, there is no way of determining if the pain exists. The word of the player must stand and treatment is issued. In essence, it's just technically impossible to enforce tight rules and regulations governing problems that nobody can 'see.' The fact that the decision of whether an injury/issue falls in the treatable vs. untreatable category lies in the hands of the tournament doctor and trainers is an unavoidable problem. I have raised this point a couple of times today, but a doctor/trainer will ALWAYS treat the player for the concern they raise (assuming it isn't cramping). The reason why is professional integrity. If a player complains of back pain for example, they will ALWAYS receive treatment because if they were denied treatment and the condition worsened, the trainer/doctor are going to have a substantial amount of explaining to do (they would be held accountable).
I'm not entirely sure the option about MTOs being taken before a player's own serve is all that great. I mean, it's going to disrupt rhythm either way. There would still be loopholes around it. I mean, a player could fake acute back pain that would warrant treatment before their opponent's service game under that rule anyway. It wouldn't matter.
One rule I would possibly argue needs tightening is the treatment of compound problems. According to current ITF rules "A player is allowed one (1) Medical Time-Out for each distinct treatable medical condition. All clinical manifestations of heat illness shall be considered as one (1) treatable medical condition. All treatable musculoskeletal injuries that manifest as part of a kinetic chain continuum shall be considered as one (1) treatable medical condition." Citing Azarenka's recent MTO, a 10 minute time-out was permitted because the treatment was on her knee and back which were considered to be two separate medical conditions. This is a massive gray area in the rule-book. Not only could a player fake injury/pain to receive a 3-minute MTO but they could also cite another issue to extend their delay. I think they should get rid of compound treatment altogether. No player should be able to have 2 different injuries treated in the same MTO. They should have to wait until the next changeover to have their other injury treated. Allowing 3 minute MTOs is acceptable. But a 10 minute MTO on compounding non-linked injuries is just ridiculous and excessive. At least if that happened the possibility of cheating would at least be limited/restricted.