MELBOURNE, Australia -- At last year's U.S. Open, Nicolas Almagro took a medical time out before serving for the match because of cramping in his legs in a second-round match at the last U.S. Open.
He returned to hold his serve and beat American Robby Ginepri in five sets.
Under the same set of circumstances this year at the Australian Open, that scenario could not occur -- taking a medical time-out solely for cramping will not be allowed under new rules instituted on Jan. 1 by the International Tennis Federation and the men's and women's tours.
The ATP says the new rule "strikes a compromise between the rule that has just been replaced and the old rule that didn't allow treatment of any kind."
Once the physiotherapist and/or tournament doctor have determined that a player is suffering from muscle cramping, then treatment is allowed during two full changeovers or set breaks, not necessarily two in a row. But a player can't receive a medical time out, which is three minutes, solely for muscle cramping.
A player who stops play claiming to have another ailment, but is determined by the chair umpire to have cramping, will be ordered to resume play immediately. If he or she can't continue, they'd have to forfeit points to get them to the end of a game or set break to receive limited treatment.
If muscle cramping is caused by a spasm related to an injury, the new rule won't be invoked. And heat illness -- always a threat at the Australian Open -- also is not covered by the cramping rule because its symptoms -- dizziness, nausea and elevated temperatures, are far different from those for cramping.