'Tennis loses uniqueness with off-court coaching'

SYDNEY • Australian Nick Kyrgios has criticised the ATP Tour's decision to trial off-court coaching, saying on Wednesday that the beauty of the sport where players had to figure things out on their own was being taken away.

The ATP 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 season-ending ATP Finals.

Patrick Mouratoglou, who coached Serena Williams and now coaches Simona Halep, congratulated the ATP for "legalising a practice that has been going on at almost every match for decades" but Kyrgios said he opposed the move.

"Completely disagree. Loses one of the only unique traits that no other sport had," he tweeted.

"The player had to figure out things on his own. That was the beauty of it.

"What happens if a high-profile player versus a low ranked player who doesn't have or (cannot) afford a coach?"

The trial commences from the week of July 11 and will run until the ATP Finals in November.

Mouratoglou was involved in an infamous incident of off-court coaching at the 2018 US Open final when Williams was given a warning for a coaching violation.

He had gestured in the stands during the dramatic decider against eventual winner Naomi Osaka.

But the 52-year-old coach said later that he would do it again, describing it as the "most stupid rule" as nobody was penalised.

Meanwhile, firebrand Kyrgios has been backed by tennis great Chris Evert to finally deliver on the promise he has flashed throughout his turbulent career when he brings his powerful game to the grass courts of Wimbledon next week.

While the hugely talented Australian often bamboozles opponents with an array of incredible shots, his antics on the court and run-ins with umpires have often dominated the headlines and he has yet to win a Grand Slam title.

But American Evert, who last month finished chemotherapy for stage one ovarian cancer, said she has been impressed by what she has seen from the 27-year-old.

"I've been watching him a lot since I've been bedridden with Covid," the 18-time Slam champion said on Wednesday.

"I feel like since the Australian Open, where he won the doubles title and he had that match with (Daniil) Medvedev, something clicked in him because lately when I see him play, he seems more committed in his game.

"Yes, we still see the occasional arguing with the umpire, but it's not happening as much. He seems fitter and like he has belief in himself now."

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2022, with the headline 'Tennis loses uniqueness with off-court coaching'. Subscribe