The WTA will try out coaching from the stands at its tournaments from February, with the trial set to cover all WTA Premier and International tournaments.
The trial will begin at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and the Hungarian Open, both of which serve off at February 17, and will run till the end of the season.
According to the WTA, “The new trial will allow coaches to coach their player in the form they are currently coaching from the box without getting penalized”.
“Whether it’s verbal words of encouragement or [a] few words when their player is on the same side of the court to any hand signals, such coaching as it takes place now from the box will be allowed.”
Neither the Grand Slams nor the men’s tour (ATP) allow any form of on-court coaching.
The WTA made the decision to legalize coaching from the stands because the habit was already very prevalent on the tour, despite being against the rules, and has been difficult to regulate. The scope of coaching will include hand signals and verbal coaching, but will not exceed what already exists on the tour.
“The premise around this trial is that we feel coaching is taking place already from the box,” WTA spokeswoman Amy Binder said, “and, as it’s difficult to regulate, this allows for consistency in rules across all matches.”
The issue of coaching from the stands received plenty of coverage at the 2018 US Open final, when Serena Williams was given a code violation after coach, Patrick Mouratoglou was seen making hand signals to the legendary American.
Mouratoglou later argued that coaching from the stands should be allowed, and was quick to throw his weight behind the new rules.
Amazing news. Congratulations to the WTA for once again being ahead of the game. I hope ATP will be next. Great to hear @DjokerNole support on court coaching yesterday on @espn https://t.co/qVIwPFOKyT
— Patrick Mouratoglou (@pmouratoglou) January 27, 2020
The rule change has also garnered support from other top coaches, including Darren Cahill, who coaches two-time major winner, Simona Halep.
“I’m for it… I’m big on tradition. I’m old. So I love the whole tradition of tennis and the one-on-one and problem-solving and what you’re trying to do. But I think we’re evolving as a sport”, said Cahill.
“Grand Slams, put that aside. We have the four Grand Slams — that’s fine. But for the ATP and the WTA, we need to evolve. And I think bringing coaching into those events is important. I think they can go further and do it more. I think as an industry, a coaching industry in tennis, it’s important that we do evolve and do this. I’m really for it. I think the WTA is doing a good thing.”
The WTA also confirmed that players will still be able to request for their coaches to come down to the court for on-court coaching. On-court coaching happens during breaks, with players allowed to call their coaches once per set.