Coaching

US Open’s New Coaching From Stands Experiment Goes Against The Sport’s Individual Nature

by Sharada Rajagopalan

When Wimbledon announced in 2018 after an extended match between John Isner and Kevin Anderson that it would be introducing a tie-break in the fifth set at 12-all, all eyes were set on the French Open.

The second major of the year made no similar overtures to appease to sentiments of wanting matches to end early and continued with the tradition of regulation scoring in the deciding set. Each five-setter that was played, including the thrilling quarterfinal between Stan Wawrinka and Stefanos Tsitsipas, vindicated this continuity without compunctions even among those wanting for changes in the scoring format.

However, in mid-2019, nearly a year later, if the US Open organisers had expected its decision to trial on-court coaching – from the stands – in the main draw matches this year would have nothing but teeming positivity, reality has been the opposite. The ones clamouring for modifications are also hesitant about accepting these, unmindful of the polished putting out of its rationale.

This wariness surrounding the potential implementation of on-court coaching maps out the wider impression of the move beyond what any finessed language can provide. That it is not a good move for a sport that is defined by its individuality and in which players are expected to come up with solutions to problems on their own, without any external support during the match.

Even these are just a couple of fundamentals upon which tennis rests. Regardless of these, players and coaches’ unsubtle mannerisms to contravene this principle makes for familiar viewing. For example, the infamy surrounding the 2018 women’s singles final between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka in which Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou’s ostensible coaching gestures accounted for more reactive responses than Osaka’s first major win.

It is not hard to decipher the US Open’s organisers to extend this option to players is another reactive demonstration to that incident. Only this time, it has manifested itself in a manner of appeasement at least towards the coach, if not towards the player.

For this reason, the biggest voice protesting against the move should be from Williams, apart from others who have criticised it, including former world No. 4 Tim Henman. For all the vociferousness she displayed about not being a direct recipient of Mouratoglou’s coaching tips while arguing with Carlos Ramos who, as the umpire officiating that final, had penalised her, this is the time when her words would carry heft. It would mean she would not only be living up to her claims but also was inclined towards to retaining conventionality as is.

However, the onus on ensuring the retention of tradition does not rest on Williams alone. It is on every player regardless of the gender divisions. Rather, to be specific, the argument for and against on-court coaching falls on the generation gap – and the different mindsets – existing in tennis presently.

With the WTA using on-court coaching as an expedient tool for about the last decade or so, there is an interesting correlation to be made in this context. It applies not just to the women but for the men as well.

The women who have come through the ranks in the professional circuit in this lengthy time-span have become used to the phenomenon of having their coach assist them as needed in a match. For them to have their respective coach helping them out from the stands would only be an extension of the existing normalcy. The same parallel can be made with the ATP NextGen. Of the youngsters thinking of these changes as widening (of sorts) of the rules of the NextGen ATP Finals that has on-court coaching in place and welcoming it.

If these scenarios do come to pass, the scope of USTA’s path of placation widens substantially. To the point it becomes the pivot introducing a newer tradition as suited to the ever-in-flux contemporary needs.

10 Ways to Make the Professional Tennis Tour Cooler

by James A. Crabtree

Okay, this article will likely get some of you upset and I am sure I may even be accused of being a halfwit. However, they are just ideas, not set in stone, where imagination has gotten the better of me and will probably never happen.

Of course if any of them do happen, I do want a cut of the action and full praise for being a genius.

Cool Idea 1

Get rid of the 32 seed format in grand slams, which has been in place since Wimbledon 2001. Why should we get rid of it? It is far too much protection to the high seeds. The knock on effect is too many of the same matchups from tournament to tournament, less chance for the draw to open up for a no name and thus less variety. Boring. Go back to the 16 seed format, which could right now pair 17th ranked Gilles Simon in a first round match up with Djokovic or 24th ranked Jerzy Janowicz with Andy Murray. Now that would be good.

Cool Idea 2

Shuffle up the events (sorry Chris Skelton). Now for those of you who like uniformity and probably have a tidy bedroom you will likely prefer all the clay court tournaments bunched together, all the grass courts back to back and then a season of hard court events. Like neatly folded bed linen all this is rather…BORING! Why not see which players can mould their games quickly from surface to surface?

In fact this fantastic idea hinders the specialist from racking up points at certain times of year.

Cool Idea 3

Have an indoor event in Australia in October, mainly because I live in Australia and it is a long time between Aussie Opens. Another tournament is needed in this far off distant land to keep the tennis heart pumping throughout the course of year. Twelve months between Aussie Opens is just far too long. Also it would be great to have tour events in some tiny countries. Monaco is taken care of but how about Liechtenstein, San Marino and Vatican City!

Cool Idea 4

There is no ATP 1000 event on grass. Thus the tour needs one and needs to extend the grass court calendar a little longer. Actually, imagine having a top class grass court event in South America or somewhere that is typically only played on clay.

That being said it would be great to mix up the court surfaces across the globe. A clay event in England would be great addition.

Cool Idea 5

More of an exhibition, a “blast from the past” event. This would involve two of today’s top players slugging it out with old school wooden racquets. In fact let’s go full 1970’s; short shorts tight shirts, moustaches and the winner must hurdle the net.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZA5kPOXNUw

Cool Idea 6

Coaching Court – this court could be inside the main ground or enclosed in a glass box outside (cooler option) at any big tournament. Throughout the first few days coaches of respective players would offer instructional analysis and drill summaries for onlookers for free. A brief question and answer service would conclude each session.

Cool Idea 7

Another exhibition match – but the catch? No topspin allowed. I want to see Rafael Nadal chopping at the ball for an hour. If topspin is inadvertently used a side-court judge will determine if a player is to lose a point.

Cool Idea 8

Local area wildcard recipient.  Don’t worry, they won’t just be gifted the entry but an open tournament, where anyone can enter, will be played out. The beneficiary will go straight into the main draw and a possible Vince Papale moment will be born.

Cool Idea 9

Live in match tweeting!! At every changeover a player must tweet what is going through their minds. If they choose to follow or retweet Justin Bieber they will be punished with immediate deduction of a game.

Cool Idea 10

Remember back when we thought of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi as friends? When they did stuff like this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6o8bLajJfnU

Well the impromptu match needs to be brought back. Not necessarily Manhattan but how about the smallest little tennis club here and there that nobody in their right mind would have expected.