NEW YORK -- Maria Sharapova wants to put an end to players abusing the medical timeout rule, and she offered a creative solution to curb the problem: Players should have to pay to see the trainer.
After winning the last 10 games to defeat Maria Kirilenko 6-4, 6-0 in the first round of the U.S. Open on Monday night, Sharapova was asked what rule in tennis she would want to see changed.
"I'd probably start charging for medical timeouts," she said with a laugh. "I think we'd all see who really uses them and who doesn't. I don't know what we put on it, maybe like $2,500 or something. Yeah, I think we should do that. That would be fun."
It's easy to understand why the medical timeout policy was on Sharapova's mind. Kirilenko called for the trainer to assess a left foot problem on Monday. And in Sharapova's last match -- a three-set loss to Ana Ivanovic at the Western & Southern Open -- she was visibly annoyed when Ivanovic asked to see the doctor in the middle of the second game of the third set, complaining of nausea. After Ivanovic continued to play and Sharapova saw no signs of illness or injury, she openly mocked Ivanovic's medical timeout.
In fact, Sharapova has a history of letting her opponents' medical timeouts get under her skin. When Victoria Azarenka took a medical timeout against her at the China Open in 2009, Sharapova was miffed.
"Is her last name, Jankovic?" she asked the supervisor, referring to Jelena Jankovic, who had retired to her in the final of the Tokyo Open a week before.
Over time Sharapova says she's learned how to manage the stoppages in play.
"Sometimes [medical timeouts are] shorter than others," she said. "Sometimes they don't go through the whole medical timeout. Sometimes the evaluation itself is longer than the three-minute timeout. Sometimes it's an off-court medical, which is even longer. I think from my end it's just a matter of keeping that focus, not sitting down for that whole time, moving a little bit, swinging, maybe hitting a few serves if it's a longer one."
When pressed further, Sharapova said the stoppages don't actually bother her that much. But based on her comments and actions over the last two weeks, it's pretty clear that the lady doth protest too much.