Four years after Serena Williams was penalized and angry when her coach allegedly waved at her, the Open is the first major tournament to relax the coaching rule in tennis.
In the 2018 US Open women’s final, Serena Williams became furious when chair umpire Carlos Ramos issued a warning to her for allegedly receiving hand signals from her coach which was against the rules.
“I’ve never cheated in my life,” Williams said as she faced Ramos multiple times throughout her match against Naomi Osaka. Williams was docked a point, and later a game, after smashing his racquet and calling Ramos a “thief” on the way to losing to Osaka.
As Williams prepares to retire from tennis after next week’s US Open, the tournament has brought a change that would have prevented the notorious 2018 incident from happening.
For the first time in a Grand Slam tournament, coaching from the stands will be allowed when the Open begins on Monday.
The new rule states that coaches can give instructions to players from a designated seating area as long as they do not interrupt play. Verbal communication is only allowed when the player is on the same side of the court and must be limited to “a few words or short sentences”.
The relaxation of the off-court training rule in Queens comes after the ATP Tour announced it would test it on a trial basis until the year-end ATP Finals in November.
“Various training rules have been tested in the sport in recent years, including on-court training and training via helmets,” the ATP said in a statement. “[This] This announcement brings a roster for the second half of the season on the ATP Tour, US Open and WTA Tour, where an off-court training trial is already in place.
The WTA had a similar trial for non-Grand Slam events in 2020 and currently allows on-court training during breaks from action.
A WTA spokeswoman said at the time that the restriction had been relaxed because training was already taking place from the stands and had been difficult to regulate.
Stefanos Tsitsipas, the No. 4 seed in the US Open men’s draw, has been embroiled in several off-court coaching controversies in recent years and has been a big proponent of a rule change.
“We’re probably one of the only sports in the world that doesn’t use in-game coaching. Make it legal. It’s time for the sport to take a big step forward,” he wrote on Twitter. last year.
During a semi-final match at the Australian Open in January, Daniil Medvedev complained to chair umpire Jaume Campistol that Tsitsipas was receiving coaching advice during play.
“His father can coach every point?” Medvedev asked Campistol.
Later in the match, Tsitsipas of Greece was given a code violation after tournament officials placed another referee, Eva Asderaki-Moore, in the tunnel under Tsitsipas’ player box. When Asderaki-Moore, who speaks Greek, heard Apostolos Tsitsipas giving instructions to her son, she contacted Campistol by radio with a walkie-talkie.
The sport’s no-training rule became evident when Williams’ row with Ramos overshadowed Osaka’s win in the 2018 US Open final.
After that match, then-Williams coach Patrick Mouratoglou told ESPN that he tried to flag Williams but he didn’t think she saw him. He added that “every player” is coached during games but he had never been called up for a coaching violation.
But the change has not gone down well with tennis traditionalists who believe part of the game is a player’s ability to fight on their own during matches.
Taylor Fritz, who is the highest-ranked American at No. 10, called the relaxed practice rules “stupid” after being asked about it last week at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
“Tennis is an individual sport. Why don’t we make it an individual sport? says Fritz. “Tennis is as much mental as it is physical, and a big part of that is you have to figure it out for yourself on the court.”
During a recent Tennis Channel show, Paul Annacone, former coach of Roger Federer and Pete Sampras, explained why he didn’t like the new rule.
‘I always felt that [as a coach], I would give the player the tools to be on the ground to understand it. And if they can’t, it’s on them. I like that there is no time out, no right of the bullpen.
Chrissie Evert, 18-time Grand Slam singles champion and current analyst for ESPN, said part of being champion and winning a match is problem solving.
“Make your own decisions,” Evert said. “I’ve never had a coach wave at me. I wish they had it now.
Evert said a coach should prepare a player before and after a game, but a player has to make adjustments on his own during a game.
The US Open has tested off-court training in qualifying matches, USTA spokesman Brendan McIntyre said.
“Off-court training is something that the US Open has been behind for several years,” McIntyre said. “We had been pushing for him to be in the main draw, but we were waiting for consensus from the Tours as well as the other Grand Slam tournaments.”
McIntyre said after the ATP Tour announced its lawsuit, the Grand Slam board approved a decision to have off-court training for all US Open events, including qualifying, juniors, wheelchairs and the men’s and women’s main draws.
The ATP said it would assess the lawsuit after the end of the season to determine whether off-court training would be allowed in the future.
Seven-time Grand Slam singles champion and ESPN analyst John McEnroe said he didn’t like the training rule change, but if he’s good for the sport, he’s okay with it.
“I guess I’m old school. I liked when you had to go and there was no practice,” McEnroe said.
McEnroe said he wouldn’t mind if his opponent received coaching advice. “The shouting, ‘Come on, serve and steal’ from the touchline, I find it funny. I don’t think I would have cared. I would have [told] myself that they [were] receive bad advice.