Is Stefanos Tsitsipas a cheater? Or does he just have severe intestinal troubles?
Bathroom-gate continued to churn in Flushing Meadows Tuesday as players called out Tsitsipas, the No. 3 player in the world, for taking two long toilet breaks, including one that lasted eight minutes, during his marathon five-set victory over Andy Murray in the first round of the U.S. Open on Monday.
After losing the match - 2-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 - Murray told reporters that he had "lost all respect" for Tsitsipas.
Tuesday, Olympic gold medalist Alexander Zverev took that a step further after defeating Sam Querrey in the first round of the U.S. Open. Tsitsipas also took a long break during a match against Zverev on Aug. 21 in the semifinals of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati.
"It's happening every match. It's not normal," the fourth-ranked Zverev said. "It happened to me in the French Open, to Novak [Djokovic] in the finals at the French Open. You know, I think in Hamburg against [Filip] Krajinovic he was complaining, against me in Cincinnati was ridiculous, and now here again. I think players are catching up on that."
Against Murray, Tsitsipas, the No. 3 seed, took bathroom breaks at the end of the second and fourth sets. He also took a medical break after the third set.
There are no rules about the length of bathroom breaks in Grand Slam tennis. In fact, I can’t think of a single sport that regulates how players relieve themselves during games.
Yet, there is a clear rule in tennis that bars players from receiving coaching or having any kind of outside interaction during a match. (See Serena Williams U.S. Open loss to Naomi Osaka three years ago.) The buzz around the tour is that Tsitsipas might be taking his mobile phone into the stall with him during those breaks. In fact, Tsitsipas’ father has been seen typing on his phone in the stands during his son’s bathroom breaks.
But even if that isn’t the case, the long breaks and their timing are incredibly disruptive.
Murray complained that the breaks caused him to lose adrenaline and stiffen up. After the match, he said he had lost respect for Tsitsipas and called on tennis to do something about players who abuse the rule that allows players to take restroom breaks or call for medical timeouts.
"Yeah, it's just disappointing because I feel it influenced the outcome of the match," Murray said. "I'm not saying I necessarily win that match, for sure, but it had influence on what was happening after those breaks……I think he's a brilliant player. I think he's great for the game. But I have zero time for that stuff at all, and I lost respect for him."
After his win Monday, Tsitsipas said he has never broken any rules by taking his bathroom breaks and shot down accusations that he was using his mobile phone to communicate with his father during the break.
"I have never in my career done that," he said. "I don’t know what kind of imagination it takes to get to that point. That’s not something I want to take seriously because it’s absolutely ridiculous to be thinking about that."
Zverev isn’t buying the denial.
"He's gone for 10-plus minutes. His dad is texting on the phone. He comes out, and all of a sudden his tactic completely changed," Zverev said. "It's not just me but everybody saw it. The whole game plan changes.
"Either it's a very magical place he goes to or there is communication there."