The ATP are planning to relieve ball-boy butlers of their towel duties and accelerate plans to instal back-court towel-racks for future events in the wake of Fernando Verdasco’s theatrics last week at the Shenzhen Open.
Midway through the second set of his semi-final against Yoshihito Nishioka last week, the 34-year-old flailed his arms in the face of a ball-boy who he deemed had scampered too sluggishly to the baseline with his towel.
The ATP have already been teething the towel-rack initiative at lower-rung qualifying events this year due to the increasing presence of slow play in the sport.
Officials hope that having to visit the rack themselves will deter players from drying down after every point.
The policy will be debuted in the game’s upper tier next month at the ATP Next Gen Finals in Milan, but Rafael Nadal, whose inter-point rituals have drawn particular scrutiny, is one of many players who’ve found the initiative hard to fathom.
“They want us to go faster between points,” he said. “And now we have to go behind the court and go running for the towel.”
It’s not the first time Verdasco has lost his temper on court this year. In Hamburg in March, he hurled his towel at the feet of a ball-boy before dismissing him with a wave, again without discernible provocation.
Judy Murray weighed in on the histrionics on Twitter and wrote: “What about a rule that makes players get their own towels? And the ball kids just look after the tennis balls.”
Verdasco's behaviour is commonplace on the tour. Novak Djokovic was warned after angrily snapping at two ball-boys at Roland Garros this year and at Wimbledon 2017, while Adrian Manarrino bumped the shoulder of a ball-boy before questioning why the tournament’s local volunteers were treated with any added respect.
“I don't think he hurt himself,” the Italian said afterwards. “It wasn't a big bump. In fact, he went into me. I don't know who has priority on the court. Is it the players or the ball boys? Can you do Wimbledon with just ball boys? I don't know.” He was subsequently fined £7,000.
One former ball-girl told The Independent the temperamental outbursts by the sport’s senior stars has rubbed off on junior players who were the “rudest and most arrogant of all” and would “throw their towels at them from less than a metre away splashing them with sweat.”