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Serena’s coach says in-match coaching would boost tennis

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Serena Williams’ coach says in-match coaching should be allowed in tennis to help the sport’s popularity.

Patrick Mouratoglou, who admitted he used banned hand signals to try to help Williams during her loss in the U.S. Open final, wrote Thursday in a posting on Twitter that making coaching part of the spectacle would let “viewers enjoy it as a show” and “ensure that it remains pivotal in the sport.”

Mouratoglou also pointed to what he called a “hypocrisy” – players currently are getting coached at tournaments that ban coaching.

And he pointed out that all sorts of individual sports – boxing, golf, cycling – permit athletes to consult someone during competition.

“I have never understood why tennis is just about the only sport in which coaching during matches is not allowed,” Mouratoglou wrote.

Quite a bit of debate about the topic of on-court coaching was sparked when chair umpire Carlos Ramos gave Williams a code violation after Mouratoglou gestured in her direction early in the second set of Naomi Osaka’s 6-2, 6-4 victory over the American for the title at Flushing Meadows last month.

A few games later, Williams received another warning, this time for smashing her racket, and that second violation automatically cost her a point. Eventually, Williams called Ramos “a thief,” drawing a third violation, this one for “verbal abuse,” which cost her a game. Williams was fined a total of $17,000 the next day, including $4,000 for coaching, which is not allowed in Grand Slam matches.

The WTA does allow coaching during women’s matches at other tournaments. The tour’s CEO, Steve Simon, said in the aftermath of the U.S. Open final that it “should be allowed across the sport.”

The sport’s various governing bodies and Grand Slam tournaments have been looking at the issue, with some sounding more willing than others to consider permitting coaching. Wimbledon, for example, has made clear that it is “fundamentally opposed to any form of coaching during a match.”

Banning coaching, Mouratoglou wrote Thursday, “almost makes it look as if it had to be hidden, or as if it was shameful.”

He called the issue “symptomatic of the confrontation between two ways of thinking: The conservative, traditionalist way and the modern, progressive way.”

Besides, Mouratoglou said, “It is a very basic truth that the vast majority of tennis coaches are actually coaching on court, despite the rules. Look at how many times players look towards their boxes during a match. Some do it after every single point.”

That is true.

Those who argue against in-match coaching – and believe rules against it should be enforced more rigidly – say that lessens the individual, go-it-alone nature of tennis.

Mouratoglou thinks part of the appeal of allowing coaching is that it would help get viewers “emotionally involved.”

“You want spectators and TV viewers to have opinions about the players – and the coaches – and to know who they like and don’t like. Watching the interactions between players and coaches is a very good way of achieving this,” he wrote.

Mouratoglou added: “Moreover, emotions run high when coaches talk to their players during matches. Sometimes the players don’t like to hear what their coaches are saying, but this all adds to the drama, which creates engagement on social media.”

Opelka edges top-seeded Isner to reach New York Open final

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UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) Reilly Opelka edged top-seeded John Isner the same way he knocked his fellow American out of the Australian Open, winning a match full of tiebreakers Saturday night in a New York Open semifinal that set a record for combined aces in a three-set match.

Opelka fought off six match points in a marathon second set and went on to win 6-7 (8), 7-6 (14), 7-6 (4) to move within a victory of his first ATP title.

The 6-foot-11 Opelka and 6-10 Isner combined for 81 aces and there were no breaks of serve. Opelka hit 43 aces, Isner had 38, and each had only one double fault.

It was similar to their meeting in Melbourne, when Opelka beat the ninth-ranked Isner in a first-round match that went four tiebreakers.

Opelka will play Canadian Brayden Schnur, a qualifier who had never won a tour-level match before this week.

Schnur recovered after blowing a 3-0 lead and eventually the second set to beat American Sam Querrey 7-6 (7), 4-6, 6-3.

Schnur was the final alternate accepted into the tournament’s qualifying draw and was nearly gone from Long Island quickly, eventually overcoming two match points to beat No. 3 seed Steve Johnson in the second round.

There was nothing quick about the second semifinal, which lasted 2 hours, 31 minutes and went well past the previous record of 71 aces, set earlier this year in a match between Nick Kyrgios and Ryan Harrison.

Isner was in good position to win in straight sets, taking a 3-1 lead in the tiebreaker when Opelka pushed a forehand long. But he wasted a chance to win the match on his serve, and Opelka then kept erasing the rest of the match points when he served.

Isner had dropped both matches this season, part of a six-match skid dating to the end of last year, before winning his first two matches here in straight sets.

But he was stopped again by Opelka, who fell two aces shy of Ivo Karlovic’s record for most aces in a three-set match.

More AP Tennis: https://www.apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Mertens upsets Halep in Qatar Open final

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DOHA, Qatar – Unseeded Elise Mertens came from a set and a break down to beat recent No. 1 Simona Halep 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the Qatar Open final and capture the biggest title of her career on Saturday.

Halep led 6-3, 2-0, then lost a service game for a third time to see the second set back on serve. Mertens continued to pressure, missing two more break chances in the seventh game but finally breaking – to love – in the ninth. The set was the first Mertens took from Halep in three matchups.

Mertens broke again to start the third set, Halep leveled at 2-2, but Mertens finished stronger and won her fifth career title.

The Belgian beat two other top-10 players this week, Kiki Bertens and Angelique Kerber.

Halep’s first final appearance since August guaranteed she will rise one spot to No. 2 in the rankings on Monday.