On-Court Coaching: A Terrible Idea Or The Next Logical Step In Men’s Tennis? - UBITENNIS
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On-Court Coaching: A Terrible Idea Or The Next Logical Step In Men’s Tennis?

Whilst the WTA Tour has relished the on-court coaching rule for the past 11 years, opinion among the men’s tennis elite reflect a completely different scenario.

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Nick Kyrgios of Australia is pictured in action during day four of ATP Fever-Tree Championships tennis tournament at Queen's Club in west London on June 19, 2019. (photo by Alberto Pezzali)

LONDON: Five games into his opening match Fernando Verdasco looked lost on the court at The Queen’s Club. Down a double break and only able to take two points off his opponents serve, he glared towards the camp in the crowd. They could not say anything without getting Verdasco a penalty. Something his female counterparts don’t fear.

On-court coaching has been allowed on the WTA Tour since 2008. A process where the coaches of players are allowed to interact with them during changeovers to issue advice and so forth. The bosses of the WTA at the time said it was done to add entertainment value and give insight to fans watching. 11 years on from that decision, other tournaments have started their own experiments.

The US Open, which was the first major to introduce equal prize money back in 1973, has outlined their plans. Involving allowing coaches to shout to players from the sidelines in between points. A move that was undoubtedly triggered by last year’s women’s final where Serena Williams was penalized for receiving coaching. Something her guru Patrick Martogolou, who is a supporter of on-court coaching, initially admitted to before she later denied took place. It was assumed that organizers wanted to implement this change in 2019, but it appears that this will not happen now.

Should these changes occur, it will move men’s tennis closer to the prospect of on-court coaching. Something that raises one crucial question – do the players want it on the ATP Tour?

“I personally don’t feel that there is a need for it. Obviously, the WTA does it, but I feel there is no need because I’m used to not having it on the court.” Kyle Edmund said at the Fever-Tree Championships on Sunday.

Critics of the technique argue that it takes away the player’s ability to think for themselves. Making them mentally weaker. In the Open Era, there has never been a grand slam main draw where the competitors could seek help from anybody else during matches. However, what about a compromise similar to the one proposed by the US Open?

“With the debate concerning having coaching off the court in terms of speaking, as other sports do, I’d say I’m more interested in that aspect.” Edmund indicates.

Nick Kyrgios could potentially be the kind of person who would benefit from a change in the rules. In a recent interview with The Telegraph, he admits that he struggles mentally during the big tournaments. So potentially having somebody to speak to him during matches could help.

However, the Australian doesn’t have a mentor and is a fierce critic of on-court coaching. Arguing that it could create an uneven playing ground if it was implemented in men’s tennis.

“I don’t agree with it at all. I think on-court coaching shouldn’t be a part of the sport.” He stated.
“I don’t think — like, it’s supposed to be one on one. You’re supposed to figure out things yourself when you’re out there on the court.”
“For guys who don’t have a coach, like myself or guys who can’t afford a coach, it’s not really a level playing field when you have a guy that’s literally talking to their players on the court. It makes no sense.”

Kyrgios’ view is one that has been backed by one of the biggest names in men’s tennis – Roger Federer. In the German city of Halle, the Swiss Maestro was questioned about on-court coaching.

“I don‘t support on-court coaching, I think that I have the best team in the world, and so I don‘t think it‘s fair that I could profit from that and another guy, who has maybe no coach can‘t benefit at all.” Federer explained.

2019 prize money rankings (as of 17/6/2019)
1. Rafael Nadal $6.28M
20. Jan Lennard-Struff $910, 090
50. Filip Krajinovic $521, 146
100. Marcelo Melo $306, 269
200. Elias Ymer $83, 342

A logical step forward?

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Daniil Medvedev was straight to the point when asked his own opinion of the subject. Saying such a change will have zero benefits for him. Although he believes changing the rules is only logical. During numerous matches coaches in the crowd has been caught making gestures towards their players. Something that is hard to police for the umpires.

“I am for it. Not because it will benefit me because I don’t think it will. Even if I asked my coach to come onto the court one time per match.” Medvedev told Ubitennis.
“But when we see a lot of sports it is allowed. During matches, they can say anything and when you are working with your coach almost 365 days a year and he can’t say anything, it’s a bit strange.’
“It won’t change a lot (for me), but I think it should be legalized.”

There is also the role of technology in the debate. Application software company SAP works alongside the WTA. Under the rules, they are able to provide coaches with real-time data so they can feedback to players during matches. Something some argue enhances the quality of matches.

“The WTA introduced the on-court coaching rule in 2008. That gave SAP the opportunity to bring real-time data to players and coaches as they need it,” SAP’s Global Sponsorships Technology Lead Jenni Lewis told intel.co.uk.
“And they need it as the match is happening, so the coach can go out during on-court coaching and share that information.”

Tennis is a sport that has developed a reputation of priding itself on its history and rightfully so. However, the downside is trying to maintain a balance between traditionalists and those driving for change. Illustrated by past debates concerning the use of tiebreakers in the final set of grand slam matches, the unique rules set out at the next Gen Finals and the fallout over the Davis Cup revamp.

Given these sticking points, would the ATP really want to bother with on-court coaching?

Only time will tell.

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Motivation, Pressure And Expectations – Novak Djokovic Targets History At Wimbledon

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image via x.com/wimbledon

Novak Djokovic has broken numerous records throughout his career but he still feels the pressure of trying to make history in the sport. 

The world No.2 is through to his 10th Wimbledon final where he will play Carlos Alcaraz, who beat him at this stage of the tournament 12 months ago. There is plenty on the line for the Serbian who could equal Roger Federer’s record for most men’s titles won at SW19 and break the overall record for most major singles won in the sport if he triumphs over the Spaniard. Djokovic currently has 24 Grand Slam trophies to his name which is the same as Margaret Court, who won some of her titles before the Open Era started. 

“Obviously I’m aware that Roger [Federer] holds eight Wimbledons. I hold seven. History is on the line.” Djokovic said on Friday after beating Lorenzo Musetti.

“Also, the 25th potential Grand Slam. Of course, it serves as a great motivation, but at the same time it’s also a lot of pressure and expectations.”

Coming into Wimbledon, there had been doubts over Djokovic’s form after he underwent surgery to treat a knee injury he suffered at the French Open. However, he has defied the odds to reach the final. His run has also seen him beat Alexi Popyrin and Holger Rune before getting a walkover in the quarter-finals from Alex de Minaur, who sustained an injury during the tournament. Then on Friday, he overcame a spirited Musetti in three sets. 

Despite the challenge, Djokovic has insisted that his expectations to do well are always high no matter what the situation is. During what has been a roller-coaster first six months of the season, he is yet to win a title this year or beat a player currently ranked in the top 10. Although he will achieve both of these if her beats Alcaraz on Sunday. 

“Every time I step out on the court now, even though I’m 37 and competing with the 21-year-olds, I still expect myself to win most of the matches, and people expect me to win, whatever, 99% of the matches that I play.” He said.

“I always have to come out on the court and perform my best in order to still be at the level with Carlos [Alcaraz] or Jannik [Sinner] or Sascha [Zverev] or any of those guys, Daniil [Medvedev]. 

“This year hasn’t been that successful for me. It’s probably the weakest results the first six months I’ve had in many years. That’s okay. I had to adapt and accept that and really try to find also way out from the injury that I had and kind of regroup.”

Djokovic hopes that a Wimbledon win will help turn his season around like it has done in the past for him. 

“Wimbledon historically there’s been seasons where I wasn’t maybe playing at a desired level, but then I would win a Wimbledon title and then things would change.” He commented.

“For example, that was the case in 2018 when I had elbow surgery earlier in the year, dropped my rankings out of top 20, losing in fourth round of Australian Open, I think it was quarters of Roland-Garros, and just not playing the tennis that I want to play. Then I won Wimbledon and then won US Open and then later on became No.1 very soon.”

Meanwhile, 21-year-old Alcaraz is hoping to stop Djokovic in his tracks. Should he defend his title at Wimbledon, he would become the first player outside the Big Three to do so since Pete Sampras more than 20 years ago. He has won their only previous meeting on the grass but trails their head-to-head 3-2. 

“I’m sure he knows what he has to do to beat me,” said Alcaraz.

“But I’m ready to take that challenge and I’m ready to do it well.”

When the two players take to the court to play in the Wimbledon final, Djokovic will be 15 years and 348 days older than Alcaraz. Making it the largest age gap in a men’s Grand Slam final since the 1974 US Open. Whoever is victorious will receive £2,700,000 in prize money. 

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Carlos Alcaraz And Novak Djokovic Wouldn’t Yield To Medvedev And Musetti At Wimbledon

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image via x.com/wimbledon

Carlos Alcaraz seemed to be on his own against a vastly improved Daniil Medvedev. The defending Wimbledon champion appeared to be out of tricks.

And Medvedev sensed it.

Alcaraz still scored a 6-7 (1), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Medvedev. It may look rather easy on paper, but there was nothing easy about Alcaraz’s victory. The young Spaniard just came through when he needed it to advance to what he hopes will lead to his fourth Grand Slam title.

MEDVEDEV APPLIED ENDLESS PRESSURE

Medvedev was always there, ready to pounce on any mistake by Alcaraz. But mistakes didn’t happen that often after Medvedev took the first set in a tie-breaker.

Alcaraz hadn’t served that well in the first set that Medvedev had taken in a tiebreaker. But it was a different story once Alcaraz found the mark on his serves. He just kept holding service until the match was his.

Remember, he’s only 21 years old. But now he faces someone in this Wimbledon final almost twice as old in 37-year-old Novak Djokovic.

NOVAK DIDN’T LET INJURED KNEE STOP HIM

Early in the match, Djokovic looked like he might have problems against Lorenzo Musetti. He appeared to have a slight limp in the right knee that was covered by a band. Of course, it’s been less than six months since Novak underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in that knee.

Djokovic didn’t always chase after balls in situations where his service game wasn’t in jeopardy. He just hit winners when the opportunities came along, and his serve was always ready to win a point, a game or the match.

MUSETTI WASN’T THE SAME

Young 25th seed Musetti had been so strong and talented in his quarterfinal upset of Taylor Fritz. The 22-year-old Italian had looked like he might be a threat to the likes of Djokovic and Alcaraz in the last two rounds in London.

Musetti appeared to be able to run down everything against the speedy Fritz, until Fritz seemed to grow tired in a fifth set that Musetti won easily.

The Italian wasn’t the same against Djokovic.

Djokovic was just too good and too consistent to allow Musetti to stop his bid for another title.

NOVAK THE VIOLINIST

The setting was completely different this time with Djokovic looking questionable at the start. But Musetti could hardly push Djokovic, and ended up losing by a 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-4. Once Novak charged through the second set tiebreaker, dropping only two points, Musetti couldn’t get back into the match.

And then Novak came out pretending to play a violin on his racket for his precious 6-year-old daughter Tara, whom Novak said has been learning to play the violin for about six months.

Some fans apparently didn’t like this, but then there probably were others who became Novak Djokovic fans. Novak obviously is a great guy and dad these days.

After all, Novak has just played his 97th Wimbledon match, and he’s hoping in his 37th Grand Slam final to tie Roger Federer’s record of eight Wimbledon titles.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Daniil Medvedev Calls For Video Replays After ‘Small Cat’ Insult At Wimbledon Umpire

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Daniil Medvedev - Credit: AELTC/Jed Leicester

Daniil Medvedev admits the use of his words against the umpire in his Wimbledon semi-final match was not pleasant but he believes he didn’t cross a line. 

The world No.5 was issued with a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct during the first set of his clash with Carlos Alcaraz. Medvedev was visibly irritated when umpire Eva Asderaki ruled there was a double bounce before he returned a ball during a rally. He was then caught on camera mouthing an insult to Asderaki who consulted with the tournament supervisor before issuing him with a violation. Verbal abuse towards match officials can lead to players being defaulted from matches. 

Medvedev went on to win the first set before losing in four to Alcaraz. After his exit from the tournament, he was quizzed about what he said. 

“I would say small cat, the words are nice, but the meaning was not nice here,” he said without elaborating any further.

Continuing to defend his actions, the 28-year-old said he had previously been involved in a similar incident involving Asderaki where a double-bounce call was made against him at the French Open. Medvedev says memories of what happened were triggered today. 

“I don’t know if it was a double bounce or not. I thought no. That was tricky. The thing is that once long ago at Roland Garros against (Marin) Cilic I lost, and she didn’t see that it was one bounce. So I had this in my mind. I thought, again, against me,” he said.

“I said something in Russian, not unpleasant, but not over the line. So I got a code for it.”

It is not the first time Medvedev has used the phrase ‘small cat’ as an insult. During a heated match against Stefanos Tsitsipas at the 2022 Australian Open, told umpire Jaume Campistol he would be a small cat if he did not take action against claims that Tsitsipas was being coached illegally during the match.

The former US Open champion says he did not fear being defaulted from his latest match before going on to say video replays should be allowed in the sport. A comment that was also made by Coco Gauff during the French Open earlier this year after she was caught up in a dispute concerning a double-bounce.

“Not at all because, as I say, I didn’t say anything too bad,” he replied when asked if he was concerned he might be disqualified for what he said on Friday.

“The thing is that I think it would be so much easier with a challenge system. The challenge system shows a bounce. So if there was a bounce, it would show it. 

“Then if we use it, we would never have this situation. So I don’t know why we don’t use the challenge system for double bounce, the Hawk-Eye or whatever.”

Medvedev’s focus will now turn back to the clay ahead of the Olympic games which will be held at Roland Garros. 

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