Ash Barty’s premature exit from the French Open has reignited debate about the sport’s controversial medical time-out rule.
The world No. 1 was forced to withdraw from her second round match against Poland’s Magda Linette on Thursday evening (AEST), ending her Roland Garros campaign.
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Barty, who won her maiden grand slam title in Paris two years ago, battled a hip injury throughout her first round match against Bernarda Pera.
Unfortunately, that injury once again hampered her performance against Linette, with the Australian eventually pulling the pin early in the second set.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Barty told reporters in her post-match press conference.
“We have had such a brilliant clay-court season, and to get a little bit unlucky with timing more than anything, to have something acute happen over the weekend and run out of time against the clock is disappointing. It won’t take away the brilliant three months that we have had, as much as it hurts right now.”
Barty was in immense discomfort throughout the match and after losing the opening set 6-1, she left the court to undergo treatment.
Linette read her game-plan notes while waiting for Barty to return from the medical time-out, as some fans questioned whether the momentum-breaker was unfair.
Importantly, players with a pre-existing medical condition are permitted to receive one medical time-out if it’s aggravated during play. Although Barty cannot be accused of exploiting the rule, calls re-emerged for the controversial law to be amended.
Former pro turned coach Brad Gilbert, who works as a tennis analyst for ESPN, tweeted: “I still struggle with players leaving the court for injury evaluation and time-out, especially for existing injury in the case of Barty Party for hip, penalises the player on court and u (sic) never know how long it will last, it’s not the player I fault it’s the rule that bothers me.
“Injury should not be allowed in middle of game, that should cost u (sic) the game, and the evaluation time has gotten out of hand used to be 3 mins just for injury time-out.”
However, tennis reporter Mike Dickson pointed out on Twitter: “Some credit there to top seed Barty for not calling on the physio until the end of the first set. Gave it a proper go.”
The incident was reminiscent of Barty’s defeat in the Australian Open quarterfinals earlier this year, where a contentious medical time-out turned the match against Karolina Muchova on its head.
Barty was steam-rolling her way towards the semi-finals, up 6-1 and a break in the second set when Muchova called for her neck to be examined.
After a nine-minute break, the Czech star emerged from the changerooms and dominated the rest of the contest, ultimately ending Barty’s Australian Open campaign.
“It’s completely within the rules for her to take it,” Barty said at the time. “That shouldn’t be a massive turning point in the match. I’m disappointed it did become a turning point.”