Association Of Tennis Professionals Solution To Cheating: If Cheating’s Legal, It’s Not Cheating Any more!


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.

6 thoughts on “Association Of Tennis Professionals Solution To Cheating: If Cheating’s Legal, It’s Not Cheating Any more!

  1. And just wait until “everyone” starts violating the baroque new rules listed above. Will they adjust again to allow for violations until there are no rules at all?

  2. It would have been a lot better if they had trained some cameras on coaches during tournaments and had officials watching them for infractions. Any coach caught coaching would be kicked out of the tournament.

    • I have been thinking more about the rules and have changed my mind because who is the player’s coach. The player may have more than one coach and you can’t watch them all.

  3. Also, this is stupidly Byzantine. If you are allowing coaching, make it like every boxing and martial arts competition out there. No signals during the game. Coach has an assigned seat next to the court in plain view of everyone. Coaches and players can converse for 30 seconds during breaks between games. Interference from the stands by anyone not recognized a coach is considered cheating, with the corresponding penalties.

    If this is in the spirit of tennis or not, I will let someone who plays make the call on it; but if you are going to allow coaching, the rules should at least make some sense.

  4. The trouble with banning coaching from people in the crowd is what is the difference between someone who may or not be the player’s coach, someone else in the crowd who is knowledgeable about the sport and feels they should give advice and someone who is just cheering the player on? Can an official truly tell every time if the person yelling or signalling in the crowd is on the player’s team? I don’t think so. About fifteen years ago I was watching a tennis match and a player in her late twenties who eventually went on to win the tournament was warned because some teenage players from the same country were cheering her on. If it had been the other way around with the older player giving advice to a teenage player it would have been coaching as her knowledge of tennis was at the time far greater but from the teens I doubt their yelling out would have helped at all.
    In athletics, they have made a rule that an athlete can be coached from the stands but not from on the track or field. A friend of mine who is an international level official once gave an official warning to an athlete when the coach who had recorded the player then passed the phone over the fence for the player to watch. The fence is the official boundary where coaching may not go beyond.
    About ten years ago the South African cricket team used a radio so that the coach could give advice from the stands to the captain on the field. This was quickly banned because in cricket it is for the captain with advice from senior players to make decisions during the match, not for a non player such as the coach to make playing decisions.
    Each sport needs to make rules that are clear and easily enforceable. If the rules can be easily broken then some players or teams will break them disadvantaging those who try to abide by the rules. Any rule that can easily be broken is a bad rule.

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