MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Coaches have welcomed the WTA Tour’s decision to allow them to help players from the stands this season after the issue became a hot topic following the 2018 U.S. Open final when Serena Williams was controversially penalized.
Williams’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou gestured to Williams during her defeat by Japan’s Naomi Osaka at Flushing Meadows, leading to a code violation and sparking a heated row between the American great and the chair umpire.
Coaching from the stands would still be banned at Grand Slam events but the top women’s tour said it would trial the new system at all WTA Premier and International tournaments this year, starting with next month’s Dubai Duty Free Championships and the Hungarian Ladies Open.
Darren Cahill, coach of world number three Simona Halep, said it was a step in the right direction.
“I think as an industry, a coaching industry in tennis, it’s important that we do evolve and do this,” he said on Monday.
“I’m really for it. I think the WTA is doing a good thing.”
The WTA, which in the past has allowed players to call their coaches onto court at certain points during matches, said the rules associated with on-court coaching will remain the same.
“The new trial will allow coaches to coach their player in the form they are currently coaching from the box without getting penalized,” the WTA said in a statement to Reuters.
“Whether it’s verbal words of encouragement or few words when their player is on the same side of the court to any hand signals, such coaching as it takes place now from the box will be allowed.
“The premise around this trial is that we feel coaching is taking place already from the box and as it’s difficult to regulate, this allows for consistency in rules across all matches.”
Australian Cahill said he would have little to offer from the box, even in similar situations to Monday when his player Halep was yelling at the stands and whacking her racquet into the ground.
“Even today, you know, if I was allowed to coach today, you’d be surprised how little coaching the coaches will do if they’re allowed to do it,” said Cahill, who has also worked with Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi.
“The reason why probably a lot of it goes on at the moment is because you’re not allowed to do it so you’re trying to get the sneaky coaching message across.
“But if you were allowed to do it, it’s a simple one line, ‘Hey, Simona, hold your line’. Okay, that’s coaching. But it’s not over-the-top coaching.”
Artemon Apostu-Efremov, who is also part of Halep’s coaching staff, hoped the trial would be a success.
“I think it’s a step that should have been taken quite a while ago, because coaches are part of the game,” he said.
“Mostly in all the sports you see coaches interact with the athletes.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford and Pritha Sarkar