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ATP to discuss time-violation rule with players

By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) chief Brad Drewett will meet with players on Saturday and address a new rule aimed at speeding up the game that has drawn criticism from professionals on the men's tour.

This year, the ATP are enforcing a regulation that gives players 25 seconds to serve the ball or face a warning and then the loss of a point for a second violation.

The new rule has sparked complaints from players who have fallen foul of the law.

Grand slams have had a time limit of 20 seconds for a number of years but the rule is rarely enforced and top players like Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic regularly flout it with drawn-out preparations to serves.

The new rule was endorsed by the ATP player's council last month but stricter enforcement at warm-up tournaments ahead of next week's Australian Open has raised concerns from players about a crackdown at the year's first grand slam where five-set matches in extreme heat often feature.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley on Friday indicated players would be afforded some leeway at Melbourne Park, where officials would use "good sense, good judgment" in enforcing the 20-second rule.

"The Australian Open as a grand slam will not be doing anything different to what we've done in the past, we will still enforce the 20-second rule," he told reporters.

Last year's final between winner Djokovic and Nadal took five hours and 53 minutes, a record in grand slam finals, with both players taking breaks of up to 30 seconds between points.

Djokovic, whose drawn-out bouncing of the ball before serves has long irked opponents, said he would fall in line if officials took a hard line in Melbourne.

"I cannot have any complaints when I take more than 20 seconds between the points," he told reporters. "If the chair umpire comes to me and said, 'Listen, you should be a little bit more careful about it', if I do it again, he gives me warning, I can't complain about it. It's within the rules and I will respect it."

Seventh seed Jo Wilfried-Tsonga said he supported more enforcement of the time limits, and said the new 25-second rule should at least be given a trial.

"I think we'll try it and see what (happens)," said the Frenchman. "It's part of the rules to have time violations. It's good to have some."

Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash said policing the limits was a matter of respecting spectators and TV viewers.

"I think they need to enforce them," the Australian said on Friday. "As much as we like Novak bouncing balls between points, I think the fans just want to see some tennis."

(Editing by Alastair Himmer)

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