Tiafoe vs Musetti – Proof That the ‘Rain Rule’ Needs to Change in Tennis?

It’s no great secret that the 2023 Italian Open has had its fair share of rain. In fact, the tournament has been heavily affected by downpours over the last week or so. This has caused major changes to the Italian Open schedule, and it has resulted in some hefty disputes between players and tournament referees. There was no match where this was more apparent than the Tiafoe vs Musetti clash, however. 

Rome Masters Rain

When these guys played their third-round match in the Rome Masters, the weather took a turn for the worse late in the second set. The rain was pretty heavy to be perfectly honest, and spectators all around the stadium threw their umbrellas up. With that said, play continued – much to the disgust of Frances Tiafoe. Ultimately, he lost the second set and went a break down in the third before play was officially suspended.

Naturally, Tiafoe had plenty to say about the situation both during and after the match. And to be fair to the American, he had some very valid points. So when you bundle this whole situation together, it prompts the question – does the rule need to change regarding rain disruptions in tennis? Let me share my two cents now.

Pouring Rain, Slippery Lines, and a Fuming American – An Ideal Catalyst for Rule Changes

If you watched the game between Musetti and Tiafoe, it would be hard to argue the point that play should have continued when it did. Both players were absolutely drenched, and I can’t imagine that the court was in an ideal state. In fact, it was probably getting dangerous for the players out there. And this wasn’t the first time that the Rome Masters has been involved in controversy surrounding the weather. 

With that said, here’s where the whole situation gets a little crazy – allow me to explain.

Other Courts Had Been Suspended

The most bizarre thing about this match was that play had been suspended on all of the other courts. Bear in mind that all of the courts are in close proximity to one another. So the rain was just as heavy on all of the other courts where play was stopped. However, play continued for Tiafoe vs Musetti for another 15/20 minutes. This was enough to completely swing the momentum in favor of Musetti, which infuriated Tiafoe, understandably.

Suspension Is Decided by the Umpire

Because play had stopped on other courts while it continued for these two, it shows that the decision on whether to stop or not lies with the umpire. In some cases, the tournament referee joins the umpire on the court to assess the situation too. However, given that it is the players out there on the court and not the umpire, it begs the question of whether the umpire should have the final call or not. After all, they can only look at the court and the lines – they don’t ‘feel’ the surface when playing.

Ulterior Motives?

The most controversial part of this whole saga is that the court that continued involved an Italian player. Tiafoe even stated on the court that the only reason they were still playing is because one of them was Italian, and the tournament is obviously in Rome. To be honest, many people can probably see his point. So again, this brings into question whether any bias takes place in the decision of whether to stop play or not. 

Of course, this could be completely eradicated if rule changes were brought into play. 

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