What is the free mobility rule of tennis?

Tennis is a popular and old racquet sport that is played in almost every country. The sport has been structured such that the governing bodies of the game have developed a circuit for professional players to tour through which they can better their ranking.

Professional tennis requires immense focus and concentration. Players usually play in front of a packed crowd that see the match intently. In between play, it is a mandate for the spectators to not make any unwanted movement or sound which distracts the players.

Previously, as per the rules, spectators can stand up and move out only at the change of ends. This change of ends of the players takes place after every three games. The total duration given to the players to settle down at the change of ends is 90 seconds. However, at the 2024 Australian Open, a new rule was introduced where the audience can now move after every game.

The free mobility rule has garnered mixed reviews from players as they have often felt distracted when the new game is about to begin. This is especially disturbing when the spectators are seated right behind the players. Players usually prefer a still background during the ball toss when they make the service motion.

The free mobility rule has nevertheless faced a dilemma. Though the rule was introduced to reduce the match duration and make it quick, the constant movement of spectators has led to the chair umpires be tasked with ensuring that they settle down as fast as they can before the start of each game. This in turn defeats the purpose of reducing the match time as spectators take their own time to settle down.

The free mobility rule though recently introduced, has a hazy future ahead.

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