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Should the WTA Injury Time-Out Rule Be Changed in Light of Pierce vs Dementieva?


Elena Dementieva played an excellent first set against Mary Pierce in their 2005 US Open singles semifinal, winning it 6-3. Then, Pierce took a 12-minute injury time-out to have her thigh wrapped and her back treated. When they resumed play, Dementieva could not play at the same level, perhaps due to a combination of cooling down and feeling frustration from the delay. Pierce went on to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.

By stringing together two injury treatments, leg and back, Pierce's 12-minute time-out fell within the WTA Tour rules. But, are these rules right?

Some have argued that no injury time-outs should be allowed at all because they are unfair to the other player. Unless a player is injured by some action completely beyond her control, such as stepping on a ball rolled onto the court by a fan, why should her opponent have to suffer loss of momentum and sharpness while she receives treatment? If a player is injured because she's not properly conditioned, has been playing too much, has a biomechanically unsound stroke, or simply runs beyond her limit of control to get to a ball, isn't that her own fault? Dementieva should not have to pay for Pierce's lack of physical durability -- and that's assuming that Pierce wasn't just using gamesmanship. Doesn't a rule that's unfair at best and, at worst, opens wide the door to cheating need to be changed?

On the other side of the question are those who argue that injury time-outs are necessary to help ensure quality matches for the audience and humaneness toward the injured player. If a player becomes injured, she is less likely to perform at her best, and the match is less likely to be competitive and entertaining. It's ultimately the fans who pay for professional tennis, and their interest in entertaining matches comes first. Letting an injured player simply suffer without treatment is harsh, perhaps even cruel, and could lead to further injury if the player continues untreated.

What do you think?

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