Off-court coaching trials set to begin

ATP says move will enhance fan experience; will feature at US Open, season-ending Finals

LONDON • The ATP, which runs the men's professional tennis tour, will trial off-court coaching in the second half of the year, with players set to receive instructions in qualifying and main-draw matches in tournaments including the US Open and the ATP Finals.

The governing body announced on Tuesday that the trial will permit an individual to coach a player both verbally and non-verbally from a designated seat, provided that it does not interrupt play or hinder an opponent.

It commences from the week of July 11 and runs through to the season-ending ATP Finals in Turin in November, in a move that the ATP says will enhance fan experience at tournaments.

"Various coaching rules have been trialled across the sport in recent years, including on-court coaching and coaching via headsets," it said in a statement.

"Today's announcement brings alignment for the second half of the season across the ATP Tour, the US Open and the WTA Tour, where an off-court coaching trial is already in place."

Verbal coaching must consist of only a few words and will be allowed only when the player is at the same end of the court as his coach, while non-verbal coaching - through the use of hand signals - will be permitted at any time.

"Coaches may not speak to their player when the player leaves the court for any reason," the ATP added.

The body also said that penalties and fines would apply for abuse or misuse of the coaching conditions and that the trial will be assessed at the end of this season for potential inclusion in future.

Coaching during matches has long been a thorny issue in tennis, with players often complaining that an opponent has received advice from their coach despite rules that prohibited it for many years.

It was trialled since the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in 2017 via headsets and in 2018, Andrey Rublev of Russia questioned the rule change.

•"It is more for people who are watching, listening (on TV) to the conversation between player and coach. In my opinion, it's a little bit not real," he said then.

The 24-year-old also said that a shout of encouragement from coaches would suffice and there was nothing of value that a coach could tell his player with a global viewership listening in.

But Poland's Hubert Hurkacz, who defeated world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev in the final of the Halle Open on Sunday, approved of on-court coaching that same year.

"My coach can offer a different perspective. He told me that he was able to say whatever he wanted to, when he sees I'm doing something stupid or bad," said the 25-year-old.

Greek world No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas also commented on the issue as recently as last year.

The 23-year-old said: "My opinion on that is that coaching should be allowed, there should be certain regulations and certain ways to enhance it into players' performance without it becoming too much."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2022, with the headline Off-court coaching trials set to begin. Subscribe