US Open Adjusts to Post-Handshake Era

Chair umpires get their shoe tapped when a match ends
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 7, 2020 1:15 PM CDT
At US Open, Players Replace Handshakes
Daniil Medvedev of Russia, left, taps the shoe of the referee after winning his match with Federico Delbonis of Argentina last week.   (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

When he was disqualified from the US Open for unintentionally hitting a line judge with a ball after losing a point, Novak Djokovic walked to the sideline and extended his right arm toward his foe, Pablo Carreño Busta. Carreño Busta didn't hesitate to grasp Djokovic's hand, the AP reports. After all, that's the standard way tennis players show sportsmanship at the end of a match, usually at the net. Standard in normal times, anyway, but less so in today's socially distanced world. Handshakes and hugs are few and far between at Flushing Meadows—even as NHL playoff series still end with the traditional handshake lines and walkoff wins and a no-hitter in Major League Baseball inspired full-contact celebrations reminiscent of pre-pandemic days. "You've spent your whole career doing things one way," said Kevin Anderson of South Africa at the Open. "But we have to make an adjustment. It’s obviously indicative of much larger things at play."

The popular replacement gesture is a racket tap. "The point gets across,” said Jessica Pegula, a 63rd-ranked American. Generally, one player holds the racket vertically, with the strings facing the winner, who then touches that waiting racket face with the edge of the frame. That doesn't work with the chair umpire after a match; some players use their racket to pat one of the official's shoes. "For me, it's actually fine," said Elise Mertens, a Belgian seeded 16th, adding, "Everybody’s trying to adapt." The adjustments weren't instant. When Frances Tiafoe first played after the shutdown, he and Andy Murray each extended an arm over the net. They avoided touching hands but wound up somewhere between a fist bump and a forearm smash. “We didn’t know what to do," Tiafoe said. "It was an awkward moment."

(More US Open Tennis stories.)

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