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Sunday, August 14, 2022

Let the coaches be the coaches? Men will try tennis after Wimbledon

Wimbledon, England ( Associated Press) — Like many sports, tennis has well-known coaches. Unlike other sports, tennis does not always allow them to coach.

Indeed, at Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic may not receive any instruction from Goran Ivanisevic on center court during Friday’s men’s semifinal. No other players and coaches should have communicated during the match, either, whether it was Simona Halep with Patrick Mouratoglu, Andy Murray with Ivan Lendl, Rafael Nadal with Carlos Moya, or anyone in the women’s or men’s singles bracket. And yes.

Whereas the WTA Women’s Tour has tried various forms of in-match coaching over the past decade – for example, allowing face-to-face conversations and broadcasting during transitions – the ATP Men’s Tour continues its main tournament. Staying away from it. Apart from a brief test run in the late 1990s (end-of-season programs for young players there have been test runs involving chat via headset).

And coaching has been banned during Grand Slam matches. So far.

After Sunday’s play at the All England Club, the ATP will follow the WTA’s lead and begin trial runs for the rest of this year to allow limited in-stand conversations between people on the court and their staff. That means coaches will be able to offer help to the women and men at the last major US Open in 2022, which begins August 29 in New York.

“It’s exciting for coaches because now, all of a sudden, all the stuff and tactics you talk about before matches, you can talk about during matches. You can tweak things. If things are not going well, you may have a chance to look at Plan B or C,” said Brad Gilbert, a former player who rose to No. 4 in the rankings and is a coach for Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and others. .

“Any innovation is good,” Gilbert said at Wimbledon for ESPN. “And before you say something isn’t good, you need to look at it and see how it goes.”

The ATP’s announcement that coaching was coming started a debate in the game. There are those who advocate for change to pique fan interest, and those who say such a thing goes against the basic one-on-one, stand-alone element of tennis.

Djokovic is one player, and French Open runner-up Casper Roode is the other, who said he sees merit in both of those positions.

“I admire (ATP) for trying something new,” said Rood, a 23-year-old from Norway who has been coached by his father, a former pro Christian. “At the same time, it’s the beauty of our sport that we have to figure out the game and everything on our own.”

A key moment in the conversation about coaching in tennis came during the 2018 US Open final between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, when Mouratoglu – then working with Williams – was spotted by the chair umpire, and later took his seat. Giving a hand signal from. Mourtoglu has been a strong voice in favor of allowing coaching during matches.

There are others, such as 32nd-ranked American Tommy Paul, who recognize how much coaching goes against the rules these days.

“It would only be a mistake if people weren’t already doing it,” said Paul, who reached the fourth round of his debut at the All England Club. “I don’t want coaching, per se. I don’t think sport should be like this. But people do it so much that it’s become normal now.”

Or as three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka summed up the situation: “It’s not something completely new. It’s something that’s being allowed.”

Others raise the issue of equity: what if a player doesn’t have a coach at all? Is this going to create some sort of unfair advantage?

“You can play people – travelers traveling for many years – who can’t afford a coach. Maybe they are traveling with their friend or brother,” said Frances Tiafoe, an American who 28 and made the fourth round this week. “And then you have a guy who’s paying $5,000 a week to someone who knows everything about everything.”

Jessica Pegula, America’s two-time major quarterfinalist who finished ninth, has experienced legal coaching on the women’s tour and isn’t sure it’s going to make a significant difference to the men’s game.

“Some people think it’s going to be a big, big thing that changes matches. I don’t think so. You can’t really call that a play in tennis. The sets aren’t plays. It’s like football or basketball. No,” she said. “And some players might not want to hear it. They’re going to be like: ‘Stop talking to me! Shut up!'”

The Grand Slam rulebook explicitly forbids coaching: “Players shall not receive coaching during a match (including warm-ups). Any communication, audio or visual, between a player and a coach shall not be permitted by coaching.” can be considered as.”

As of Tuesday, three women have been fined for coaching at Wimbledon, including $3,500 for 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza and $4,500 for Lecia Tsurenko.

ATP guidelines state that coaches will sit on designated seats; They can only talk to their players when both are on the same end of the court, but hand signals are always fine; They will be allowed to speak and use gestures “only if it does not obstruct play or create an obstacle for the opponent.” Speaking should be limited to “a few words and/or short phrases”.

Gilbert had been working with Agassi when the ATP decided to coach some tournaments more than 20 years ago – and he’s glad the tour is giving it another chance.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Gilbert said. “And if a match is one-sided, maybe that can lead to fans watching a better match sometimes.”

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More Associated Press Wimbledon coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/wimbledon and https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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