Next Gen Finals stars forced to change ends mid-game as umpire left confused
There was an unusual incident on day one of the Next Gen ATP Finals when Luca Nardi and Arthur Fils were forced to change ends in the middle of a game when the umpire realised they should have swapped over earlier on. Mohamed Lahyani stopped the first game of the second set and told the players that they had to change ends with Fils leading 40-0.
Nardi had taken the first set 4-2 with the fast-four scoring format used at the tournament. The Frenchman looked to start the second set on a positive note after dropping the opener and raced to a 40-0 lead on his serve before being informed that he had to stop and walk to the other end of the court.
With the 21-and-under event using unusual rules and innovations, chair umpire Lahyani forgot that the players were supposed to swap over before the second set got underway. When he realised his mistake, he asked them to change ends before the first game was over.
Fils looked confused as the official explained: “It’s 40-0, you go there and serve. It’s how it is. It’s 4-2, you have to be there.” The world No 36 still didn’t understand as he replied: “I lost this game, it was 3-2, 4-2.”
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Lahyani continued: “You have to be on this side.” Nardi then approached his chair, also puzzled. “But why? Because it’s the rule?” he asked. When the umpire confirmed that it was part of the regulations at the tournament, the Italian added: “Every set? Doesn’t matter what is the score?”
The pair then swapped sides when Lahyani clarified that it was his mistake and he had since discovered that they were supposed to swap over at the conclusion of the set. “You should be there, yes. So now you go there, 40-0 you go there, when they discovered it correctly,” he said.
Fils went on to win that set 4-3(6), with the fast-four format seeing players go to a tiebreak at 3-3. And he came back from a set down to secure the first victory of this year’s Next Gen Finals 2-4 4-3(6) 4-2 1-4 4-2.
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The Next Gen Finals is known for introducing unusual rules and trialling “innovations” that could be rolled out across the tour. At the inaugural edition of the event back in 2017, the 25-second shot clock was tested out on the court and proved successful, as it was implemented across the circuit the following year.y
The use of a towel box, where players collect their own towels instead of having ball kids bring them over, has also been introduced since it was first used at the Next Gen Finals. And some brand new rules have been introduced for 2023, as players do not get a warm-up when they enter the court. There is now also a shot clock for the time between first and second serves, with players given eight seconds.
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