PARIS, May 31 (Reuters) - Rafa Nadal is pleased by his performances so far at Roland Garros but is definitely not happy about being told he takes too long to serve.
The eight-times French Open champion’s pre-serve routine seems to get more extended every time he appears at the tournament and Pascal Maria, the chair umpire for his three-set defeat of Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer on Saturday, takes a hard line on how long it all takes.
A rule introduced in 2013 sets a time limit of 25 seconds for a player to serve. Nadal was called twice by Maria during a match in Monte Carlo in April and again on Saturday during his third-round match.
“After the warning I frowned a little and then I continued, I accepted,” Nadal said. “Sometimes I think that this is fair, because it’s true to say that I’m slow. So these warnings are fair. But today, no.
“With this judge, there are always one or two warnings with him, and this is the way it is. I have to accept it.”
Nadal said he decided he could not afford to take his towel from a ball boy to wipe away the sweat on a sunny Philippe Chatrier court in case he got into trouble with Maria.
“When Pascal is here I don’t even take my towel, otherwise it’s too long,” the Spaniard added.
“I don’t see sport this way, but there are rules. There are rules that we have to comply with.
“It is strange, because we have a framework of rules, but with him I always have problems, always there is more pressure than usual.”
Nadal believes umpires should be flexible when the server faces a break point. Players serving receive a warning on the first call, and for subsequent calls lose a serve.
“There are umpires who know how to interpret rules better than others, whereas others follow very strictly all the rules and they’ll use the timer. They really are a timekeeper.
“I think the best thing would be to have a big clock with a countdown on the court, and then when there are no more seconds to go, we would have to serve.
“But, again, I think that tennis is a sport where we should be able to think. This is really truly what I think. It’s physical; it’s mental; there are strategies.
“Otherwise, you know, it’s just about keeping an eye on the clock.” (Reporting by Robert Woodward; editing by Ken Ferris)