Many tennis pros including stars like Serena Williams (recently retired) were coached from the stands by their personal svengalis during matches. This was against the rules, as well it should be. A tennis match is supposed to between the players on the court, not the players plus a brain trust making in-match decisions for them. Coaches gesticulating and communicating strategy was considered cheating.
Ah, but it was hard to catch, and “everybody did it.” Serena Williams’s coach was signaling to her during the 2018 U.S. Open, and got caught. After that match, Williams’s then-coach Patrick Mouratoglou told ESPN that he had tried to signal Williams but he didn’t think she saw him. (Theory: if you cheat but it doesn’t work, it’s not cheating. Rationalization: “No harm, no foul.”) He added that “every player” is coached during matches. (Rationalization: “Everybody does it.” )
It took a while, but in the tradition of cowards and ethics weenies throughout history in too many fields to list, the ATP has decided to allow its players to be directed by allies in the stands. It’s a “test,” allegedly, one which began the week of July 11. Of course it will be “successful”: it will eliminate cheating!
Some old fogeys and sticks-in-the-mud have problems with this new rule.
Taylor Fritz, the highest-seeded American man in next week’s U.S. Open, opined, “Tennis is an individual sport. Why are we making it not an individual sport?Tennis is as much mental as it is physical, and a big part of it is you need to be figuring it out on the court for yourself.” Paul Annacone, a former coach of Roger Federer and Pete Sampras, explained, “I always felt that [as a coach], I would give the player the tools to be on the court to figure it out. And if they can’t, it’s on them. ” Chris Evert, an 18-time Grand Slam singles champion and an analyst for ESPN, said that part of being a champion and winning a match is problem solving, and added that a coach should prepare a player before and after a match, but a player needs to make adjustments on their own during a match. “Make your own decisions,” Evert said. “I never had a coach who gave me a signal.”
The baroque new rules on coaching from the stands are more evidence of what a capitulation to lazy sportsmanship this is:
- Coaches must sit in the tournament’s designated coach seats
- Coaching (verbal and non-verbal) is allowed only if it does not interrupt play or create any hindrance to the opponent
- Verbal coaching is permitted only when the player is at the same end of the court
- Non-verbal coaching (hand signals) is permitted at any time
- Verbal coaching may consist of a few words and/or short phrases (no conversations are permitted)
- Coaches may not speak to their player when the player leaves the court for any reason
- Penalties and fines will still apply for abuse or misuse of the above coaching conditions
Or, they could just let the players play the game. Nah!
You know, I don’t care if tennis authorities want to trash up their game, but this is symptomatic of general ethics rot in the culture and society. It is easier to eliminate rules, or to stop enforcing them, than to go through the trouble of vigorous enforcement and all the flack and conflict the process entails. This is how we ended up with so many unwed single mothers, rampant recreational drug use, public slobbery and routine incivility, among other examples of societal entropy. It is why the United States is being inundated with illegal immigrants, or as progressives call them, “immigrants.” It is why San Francisco and other cities have essentially legalized shoplifting.
Sports both reflect the culture and influence it.
Tennis has decided to join the ethics corrupters.
Pointer: Mark M.