Norcross, a former college competitor, said the bathroom break is “definitely a strategy to break up momentum – like in a basketball game when they call a time out.”
“It’s more of a mental thing and it happens in all sports,” he said. “There is also a controversy around coaching and they are not supposed to have any coaching on a bathroom break.”
Life-long tennis player and sports psychologist Andrea Corn agrees.
“I have to think it all goes to the heart of regaining mental and emotional composure,” she said. “I would agree, more self-talk and self-psychological communication is what’s going on internally. Plus, just removing oneself from that environment - crowds, noise, and seeing one’s opponent is a way to mentally wipe the brain and body from its heighten arousal state."
She adds that for a tennis player, "their greatest weapons are how they control their thoughts and feelings. What each tennis player does on the court is akin to going to battle -- it’s their passion, their livelihood; and life’s work."
They need to control their anger, she said, in a misplayed shot or other error. "The frustration and irritation directed inward can hurt the next shot, and onward. ... apprehension creeps in, along with the fear of possibly losing, so it is best to withdraw from the court, regroup mentally and emotionally, calming the mind and body."
Others were not so charitable.
“Tennis already is perceived as a ‘sissy’ sport because it is non-contact,” writes Bleacher Report blogger Ryan Solomon. “Allowing immature behavior doesn’t help the image of professional tennis.”
“If a player is losing, he or she should accept defeat and not resort to bush league behavior in order to win,” Solomon writes. “Permitting players to work the system not only hurts tennis, but it also sets a terrible example for young players hoping to compete.”