Coaching from player's box stands well with King

LONDON • American tennis great Billie Jean King believes allowing coaches to signal to players from the stands during matches is a "no brainer" that will create more interest in tennis.

Women players are already allowed to summon their coaches. Outside of Grand Slam tournaments, they can be coached once per set during changeovers.

The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) will trial a new system allowing coaches to interact from the stands, starting at next week's Dubai Championships.

"They should be able to signal from the stands," King said this week. "Look at baseball. They have a first base coach and a third base coach, the coaches are giving all these signals, squeezing their nose or whatever and making all these signals. It's fascinating for people.

"They make documentaries on these coaches. It's just a story to promote our sport and anything we can do to promote it is a good thing, it's a no-brainer."

The topic of coaching divides opinion and the ATP does not allow it in its tournaments.

Players can receive code violations for coaching from the stands.

The issue became a hot topic after the 2018 US Open final, when Serena Williams's coach Patrick Mouratoglou gestured to her during her defeat by Japan's Naomi Osaka, leading to a code violation and sparking a heated row between the American and the chair umpire.

International Tennis Federation chief David Haggerty says he prefers the status quo regarding on-court coaching, which is allowed in team events like the Davis Cup and Fed Cup where the captain sits on court. But he said the ITF will use data from the WTA Tour trial to revisit the issue.

Twelve-time Grand Slam singles champion King, a trailblazer for the sport throughout her career and afterwards, also disagrees with those who say allowing coaching mid-match takes away the skill of decision-making from players.

"Yeah, people say in tennis you have to think for yourself, but I've told players countless times what to do and they can either do it or they can't, it's up to them anyway," she said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2020, with the headline 'Coaching from player's box stands well with King'. Print Edition | Subscribe