Players split over US Open coaching green light

A long overdue rule change that brings tennis into line with other sports or a violation of the game’s traditions?

The historic decision to allow coaching at the US Open for the first time has drawn mixed reactions from players ahead of this year’s tournament.

Four years ago, Serena Williams threw a tantrum during her US Open final loss to Naomi Osaka after she was penalized for receiving coaching from Patrick Mouratoglou.

This year, however, the rule that sparked Williams’ spectacular collapse has been scrapped as part of a wider trial, meaning players can take coaching advice from the stands.

Verbal and non-verbal coaching will be allowed provided it does not interrupt play or obstruct the opponent, while verbal coaching is only allowed when the player is at the same end of the court.

Greece’s world number five Stefanos Tsitsipas welcomed the move, arguing that it merely formalizes an aspect of the game that has been going on for years.

“My coach was not as discreet as other coaches, but it always happened,” Tsitsipas said.

“I have made many coaching violations, which I considered unfair. But now that it’s legalized, I’m very happy that I won’t have to deal with referees who are so strict and want to ruin the game.

“Believe me, it happens to almost every player. The fact that it’s legalized now will make tennis a little more peaceful, it will make players focus more on the game, less on different kinds of nonsense.”

– ‘I hate it’ –

Defending US Open champion Daniil Medvedev was skeptical of how significant the rule change will be.

“I’ve never been against coaching, but I know I’m not going to use it with my coach because we know how we work together,” Medvedev said.

“Maybe there will be a 10 or 20 match where he will try to present something during the match. But most of the time we won’t need it as a pair on the court.”

But American world number 12 Taylor Fritz is staunchly against the new coaching change, believing it undermines the individual problem-solving nature of the sport.

“I really hate it,” said Fritz. “It’s not something that should be part of our sport.

“Tennis is an individual sport, so why should anyone else be able to help you? I think people underestimate how mental and strategic the sport is, so they don’t understand how big a difference it makes.

“I think figuring it out yourself on the court is a huge part of our sport… You have to change things yourself, understand what’s going on, adapt to what the opponent is doing.

I just feel like we’re losing an important part of our sport.”

Fritz also disputed the notion that off-field training was already widely used.

“I’ve never had field training in my life,” he said.

“I think that’s the argument that people who are in favor use. I’ve never done that.”

Women’s world number one Iga Swiatek was more cautious.

“I understand the players say it’s an individual sport and we all have to solve our problems on the court by ourselves,” Swiatek said.

“But on the other hand, basically there is coaching in most sports.

“In soccer, coaches can yell even though there are 11 adults on the court and they have to know what to do. They probably know the tactics, but he’s still talking. There are timeouts in basketball.”

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