WTA-Will Allow On Court Coaching


Bad idea if you ask me, I think the fact that tennis players are on there own make the game more interesting to casual sports fans who arent used to players being totally independent. I think it take away from the appeal.


WTA to allow coaches to offer in-match advice
Posted 7/13/2006 11:00 PM

With the approval of on-court coaching on a trial basis by the WTA, Amelie Mauresmo, who climbed into the stands to celebrate with coach Loic Courteau after her Wimbledon championship, may not have to travel so far to greet him.

swapContent('firstHeader','applyHeader');By Douglas Robson, Special for USA TODAY
Five months after the debut of instant replay, tennis will experiment with a second significant innovation: on-court coaching.
The concept — in which players will be able to summon coaches courtside during changeovers and between sets — will be tested next month by the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour at tournaments in Montreal and New Haven, Conn. The tour expects to test the system in singles and doubles.

It is part of a broader push to enliven the sport for television audiences and fans by peeling back the inner workings of the game.

"It gives commentators and producers some more color, another actor in the play, a peek behind the curtain," says WTA CEO Larry Scott, who expects more extensive testing to take place in 2007.

Many sports have embraced fan-oriented modifications, but tradition-bound tennis has been slow to change.

The introduction of electronic line calling to review disputed line calls — a system that made its debut in March at the Nasdaq-100 and will be rolled out for the North American hardcourt swing and the U.S. Open — was the most dramatic rules change since the tiebreaker came into use in 1970.

"For a sport that hasn't been known for a lot of change, this signals a major shift of culture and energy," Scott says.

With the exception of team events such as Fed Cup and World Team Tennis, coaching during play is illegal. However, competitors have long circumvented the rules with signals and other manners of rule-breaking communication from the sideline.

Under the trial system, players will nominate a coach before a tournament begins. Players can then request to speak to that person once per set during a sit-down changeover, and also in-between sets.

A player could thus receive strategic advice or encouragement a maximum of five times in a three-set match.

In addition, if a player takes an injury timeout or a bathroom break, her opponent can use the pause to talk with her designated coach.

The conversations will be recorded and broadcast for viewers, adding additional insights into the game.

"There are definite seeds of change, and a willingness to try new innovative and creative things," says Jason Bernstein, director of programming and acquisitions for ESPN, which broadcasts more than 600 hours of tennis annually.

Bernstein says some of the details have to be ironed out — such as conversations in foreign languages that might be unintelligible to an American audience. Still, he sees it as a positive "baby step."

"We would like to see more of these initiatives come to fruition and bring viewers close to the action," Bernstein says.

The idea of on-court coaching has been bounced around for years by tennis officials and is sure to be a lightning rod for proponents and critics alike.

Scott is aware skeptics will say the change fundamentally alters one of the game's defining characteristics: once a player steps on the court he or she is alone.

But he notes that even sports considered individual have strategic interludes from coaches. Golfers hash over shot selection with their caddies. Boxers receive counsel from their corners between rounds.

"I don't subscribe to the notion that just because there is coaching it takes away from mano-a-mano aspect of the sport," Scott says.

Fairness is another issue, since many rank-and-file players can't afford to travel with coaches.

Following the successful launch of instant replay, players and tournaments seem more open to change.

"Maybe there is always a little risk," says 2004 U.S. Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, "but hopefully it will work well."

"We are just as curious as the rest of the tennis world to see how players, fans and coaches will react," says Montreal tournament director Eugene Lapierre, who believes on-court coaching might help eradicate much of the illegal coaching that now goes on.

Anne Worcester, the tournament director for the combined men's and women's Pilot Pen event in New Haven, says that tennis needs to break new ground to stay competitive for consumers' entertainment dollars.

"Even the purists have woken up to the fact that if we don't move forward we will fall further behind," she says.


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There goes a big part of the mental aspect of the game. Sure the pressure is still there, but it's definitely lightened when you have someone there to hold your hand when you fall down.
hmm, not sure about this. My immediate thoughts are:

1) Mentally weak players will benefit hugely creating a more level playing field
2) Henin versus a lowly ranked player: Could lead to embarrasment if the coach says 'do this' in one game - doesn't work - now do another and then when she's 6-1, 5-1 down both player and coach shut up cause there's no point.
3) Will add a basketball atmosphere to the game. Good if you're American, Spanish or German but in the UK basketball is not popular at all. May allienate a large part of a loyal audience.

Interested to see how it pans out though.


Ok - here's what I don't understand...

If it's all to be televised, what's to stop one coach finding out what the other said via mobile or directly by watching TV or whatever? Wouldn't this mean that one would know the other's strategies? Hmmm, I guess they'll just have to be careful what they say & how? Maybe this isn't an issue?


I bet the coaches are going to love this - everyone's gonna want one!

What bugs me is the issue of players that dont have coaches because they cannot afford one. They will have a massive disadvantage, not only because they wont receive a second opinion on things but also the mental aspect of not having someone in your corner when the multi millionaire star player at the other side of the umpire's chair chats away with her world class coach.

IMO this is a red herring as far as improving the game. One of the best things about tennis is that (supposedly) when you step on court you have only yourself to rely on.


New User
Dont like this idea at all.

A huge part of the game is being able to hold your nerve and dig yourself out of situations by finding the correct tactic against the opponent.

If this goes ahead, it will just be dished up on a plate to the player and give them an easy way of getting out of a rut - whilst it may help some players i think its a stupid idea becuase it takes away a huge part of the game.

I love seeing some low ranked player take on a Sharapova or a Justine and come back from say a set and 3-0 down to win - i know it hardly ever happens but when it does it gives that player a lot of respect becuase they have been able to produce their best tennis when needed to win - now they will just be told.

Also, what if the tactics dont work from the coach - wont that make the player doubt their coach and get frustrated - Myskina springs to mind as someone who wouldn't take advice very well if it wasnt working.

Bad idea.

pound cat

Picture this:

Yuri Sharapov screaming at Maria in Russian. Maria ...in her loudest scream ever finally tells the old man to f*** o**

Richard Williams and Oracene yelling different advice to Venus, and finally ending in a physical confrontation with Venus trying to keep them apart.

Mrs. Molitar, Martina Hingis' coach mother, use s the coaching time to smugly and loudly tell the audience that Martina's talent is so great, that last minute coaching isn't need to her nearly perfect game.

People who can lip-read have been hired by ESPN to decipher any quiet advice which some players may receive and closed caption transmission of this advice is broadcast worldwide.

John MacEnroe has been hired to criticize the advice given.

WTA ratings surpass those of Poker.


Boy, this should put some pressure on the coaches.

"What should I do? She's killing me!"

"Ehhhhhhhhhh.....play her backhand?"

"I've been hitting to her backhand."

"Ehhhhhhhhhh.....raise your first serve percentage."


"Ehhhhhhhhhh....get more in?"


"Ehhhhhhhhhh...take a little power off."

"She'll kill it."

"Ehhhhhhh...spin it in."

"I can't, I don't know how!"

"Ehhhhhh.....let me ask the umpire if I can serve for you."

"Get away from me, now."

"Ehhhhh....you sure?"
Rabbit said:
Boy, this should put some pressure on the coaches.

As mentioned on another forum, there's a small plus-side to this: it'll publicly demonstrate that idiot tennis-dads like Yuri Sharapov know nothing of substance about the game, and maybe some of the girls will have to hire a real coach.

Sucks for the low-ranked girls who have no traveling coach, or for those who share a coach with a bunch of other players.

pound cat

For those players who don't have a coach:

They should be able to ask the fans for suggestions as to what they should do...sort of like The Price is Right when the contestants ask for advice from the audience.

Guaranteed big jump for tennis ratings.


Scorch said:
What bugs me is the issue of players that dont have coaches because they cannot afford one. They will have a massive disadvantage,

Anyone who will be largely disadvantaged by this... is already massively disadvantaged as it is! Those players who can't afford a coach (and who aren't at the "legend / elite" level of choosing to not need one) are already suffering day to day!

That said - I'd be thinking there's not too many players that play actual WTA matches that are coachless through finance, especially when they're at that "trying to make it" stage. Maybe later, in the "journey-person" stage, maybe...

On a different thought: I wonder how many coaches will be actually good at this. Even the acknowledged good coaches have not had to do this in the past. Their job has been to prepare the player for the "isolated bubble" of the match. Many have been used to working this way for 10, 20, or more years! I wonder how many of them will feel comfortable doing this, I feel it's a bit of a different skill...