On-Court Coaching


Wednesday, December 4, 2019 10:01 AM UTC

Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019 10:01 AM UTC

In what has long been a single player, "mano a mano" sport, the controversial decision to allow on court coaching was made by the WTA. 11 years later, let´s look into the phenomenon and its implications for men´s and women´s tennis.
<div><h2>A change met with disgust</h2><p>Traditionally, on-court coaching had not yet been featured on the ATP or WTA tour before the infamous 2008 rule change. However, it´s been used for decades in high school and college, as well as playing a central part in the highly coveted Davis and Federation´s Cup tournaments. Tennis is a sport known for its individualism, the fierce battle between competitors, overcoming adversity caused by your opponent &amp; that of your own making - all on your own. Many of those adopting this admirable, albeit more traditional mindset argue that allowing on-court coaching would betray the roots of the sport itself as an individual battle from beginning to end. Thus, when the WTA decided to allow on-court coaching in tour level events from 2008 onwards, the change was met with disgust. A flurry of worries and criticism has followed since on-court coaching´s inaugural season, where arguments like the players relying too much on their coaches has been brought up. Other critics, like Roger Federer, speak of injustice:</p><p>"I don‘t support on-court coaching, I think that I have the best team in the world, and so I don‘t think it‘s fair that I could profit from that and another guy, who has maybe no coach can‘t benefit at all.” Federer explained.</p><p><a href="http://a.oddsmarket.com/record/v?c=160&amp;a=9feaaf7a-d7a2-4185-974a-81ad171951df&amp;f=3"><img alt src="https://imstore.bet365affiliates.com/AffiliateCreativeBanners/Sports/General/Bet%20Builder/en-GB/UK/STD/728x90_2.jpeg" style="width:100%;height:12px" /></a></p><h2>Adding excitement</h2><p>However, while this was a change which was made mostly as an experiment, the goal was clear: Bring in another element of excitement to the game, something that can enhance the viewer experience even further. That goal has been accomplished. Whether it has brought up instances of violent debate, or laughs, the unique exchanges between the coaches (who are often required to wear a mic) and their players gives the viewers unique insight into the interpersonal relationship between the two. We´ve seen coaches try to talk sense into their players, crack jokes, or comment on small technical things that need changing when it pertains to how the match has played out thus far. Through acquiring real time data feedback during the event, the coaches can then use this insight to make changes or reinforce the gameplan discussed beforehand. However, could this harm the personal integrity of the players, who can sometimes be filmed and heard breaking down for all of the world to see? Is this really a change that benefits the athletes, or is it all about money and revenue? While it´s still a controversial topic, WTA CEO Steve Simon has been clear about his commitment to on-court coaching:</p><p>“What I’m hoping for is that as coaching is utilized throughout the sport,” Simon said, “there is an alignment with respect to when coaching is allowed, that it’s at least consistent across the board.”</p><p> </p><h2>Potential expansion</h2><p>For all of its shortcomings and controversy, on-court coaching has slowly but surely been seeing an expanded role in professional tennis. In 2017, sideline coaching became allowed during the qualifying at the US Open. Another tournament that uses an instance of on-court coaching, is the newly started ATP Next Gen Finals, where the players have the option to put a headset on and speak to their coaches during changeovers. It´s also been allowed at another new tournament which is the Laver Cup, the showdown between Team Europe and Team World. This year´s edition showed fans a glimpse of the brilliant minds of some of the sport´s greatest ever players, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. During the matches, they would give each other encouragement, along with tactical insight which is seldom seen. These were the words of Roger Federer as he gave Rafael Nadal advice:</p><p>“When you see a chance to come to the net, challenge him for a passing shot. You’re so good at the net. Spin, slice… you know, like in the old days!”</p><p>Fans rejoiced over this opportunity and it showed how good on-court coaching can be. Tennis is often a sport divided between the traditionals and those seeking change. On-court coaching has been a topic heavily debated for many years now. But perhaps the wheels are now starting to turn, which would let us see more of it in the future? Only time will tell.</p></div>
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