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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.”

Zverev beats Djokovic to win ATP Finals title

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LONDON — Alexander Zverev upset Novak Djokovic to claim the biggest title of his career with a 6-4, 6-3 victory at the ATP Finals on Sunday.

The 21-year-old Zverev became the youngest champion of the season-ending event since Djokovic claimed the first of his five titles a decade ago, and the first from Germany since 1995.

Top-ranked Djokovic was attempting to tie Roger Federer’s record of six titles but followed the same path as the Swiss great, who lost to Zverev in the semifinals at the O2 Arena.

Djokovic’s serve hadn’t been broken all tournament until the final. Zverev did it once in the first set and three times in the second, completing the victory with a spectacular backhand winner up the line.

Both players began the match in the same form that had seen them earn straight-sets semifinal victories a day earlier, with few points going against the server.

It was Djokovic, who had lost just two of his previous 37 matches, who began to feel the pressure as consecutive forehand errors gave Zverev a chance to serve out the opening set at 5-4.

Fans gave Zverev a huge ovation as he stepped up to serve, and it appeared to inspire him. Three straight aces brought up three set points, the second of which he took when Djokovic sent another forehand long.

Zverev even began to outlast Djokovic in longer rallies, an area of the game the 14-time Grand Slam champion usually dominates. A 26-shot duel brought up another break point in the opening game of the second set and, although Djokovic saved it, Zverev won another lengthy exchange moments later with a forehand winner to go 1-0 up.

With the biggest win of his career in sight, Zverev began to show some nerves. Although he is the only active player outside of the Big Four of Djokovic, Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray to possess three or more Masters titles, the young German has only reached one Grand Slam quarterfinal.

Two double faults and two backhand errors gifted Djokovic an immediate break back, but Zverev quickly refocused to win a 28-shot rally on his way to breaking in the following game.

From there he remained solid on serve, before ending with a flourish. Having been pushed wide, a backhand winner on the run drifted past the helpless Djokovic.

Zverev sunk to the ground in tears as Djokovic sportingly crossed the net to embrace the player who will now be considered among the favorites to end the Serb’s run of two consecutive Grand Slam victories in Australia in two months’ time.

Earlier, American pair Mike Bryan and Jack Sock saved a match point in the deciding tiebreaker to beat Pierre-Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 5-7, 6-1, 13-11 for their first ATP Finals doubles title together.

Having failed to take advantage of five championship points during the first-to-10 match tiebreaker, Bryan and Sock then had to save one against their French opponents before finally closing out victory.

“It was a hell of a match,” Bryan said.

The 40-year-old Bryan has now won the tournament five times. He won four times with his usual partner – and brother – Bob, who has been out with an injured hip since May.

Sock and Bryan have dominated since teaming up, winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open before finishing their season in style in London.

“It’s been a hell of a ride,” Bryan said. “This could be our last hoorah because Bob’s training back in Florida.”

Bryan, Sock win ATP Finals doubles title

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LONDON — American pair Mike Bryan and Jack Sock saved a match point in the deciding tiebreaker to beat Pierre-Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 5-7, 6-1, 13-11 for their first ATP Finals doubles title together on Sunday.

Having failed to take advantage of five championship points during the first-to-10 match tiebreaker, Bryan and Sock then had to save one against their French opponents before finally closing out victory at the O2 Arena.

“It was a hell of a match,” Bryan said.

The 40-year-old Bryan has now won the season-ending tournament five times. He won four times with his usual partner – and brother – Bob, who has been out with an injured hip since May.

Sock and Bryan have dominated since teaming up, winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open before finishing their season in style in London.

“It’s been a hell of a ride,” Bryan said. “This could be our last hoorah because Bob’s training back in Florida.”

After reaching the singles semifinals last year, Sock has endured a torrid season in that format, falling outside the top-100 ranked players. However, he became the first American since John McEnroe to add a doubles final appearance at the tournament to his last-four singles showing.

“This is special because it was a pretty bad year in singles,” Sock said. “This makes up for some of the low moments I’ve had.”

The French duo’s season is not over yet. Herbert and Mahut are part of their nation’s squad for the Davis Cup final against Croatia, which starts in Lille on Friday.