NEW YORK – For years, ESPN’s Patrick McEnroe has let it be known – loudly and clearly, on air and in social media – that one of his pet peeves about the sport he loves is wasted time.
It starts at the start: Players take their time to take the court, ignoring stated start times, making for an annoyance if not inconvenience for fans and TV.
“In no other sport do players have as much control to determine when they want to start play as in tennis,” says McEnroe, who has been very busy the last two weeks for ESPN’s coverage of the US Open. Coverage culminates this weekend with the Women’s Championship (Saturday at 4 p.m. ET) and the Men’s Championship (Sunday at 4 p.m., preceded by a preview show at 3 p.m.).
“Imagine getting ready to start an NFL game, a tee time at the Masters, or a World Cup soccer game, and the player says, ‘Hold on! I need to go to the bathroom!’”
An even bigger problem to “P-Mac” – the long-time player, Davis Cup captain and USTA development chief, alongside his ESPN duties since 1995 – is the lackadaisical attitude players have about serving.
The lulls between points provide too much incentive to impatient viewers with a clicker in their hand.
To counter that, the US Open has instituted a “serve clock” – a 25-second countdown on the court for all to see, players and fans alike. Violations will incur escalating penalties.
Count McEnroe as a fan of innovation.
“I am so happy that the US Open is employing the shot clock on court in the main draw,” he says. “This is great for the fans. We have to keep the things moving, change with the times.”