Coaching Comes Out of the Shadows

One of the last barriers separating tennis from other sports came tumbling down on Tuesday, when the ATP and even the USTA opted to allow coaching during matches on a trial basis for the rest of 2022. The trial starts immediately after Wimbledon, and when the US Open unspools in late August, it will mark the first time that any type of coaching is permitted at a Grand Slam tournament.

We know what tennis lost in this transaction: The distinction of being the one major sport in which the athlete, even in the heat of competition, must be a self-reliant problem-solver. But what did the sport gain?

One answer to that question is easy: replenished integrity.

As the popularity of tennis swelled over the years, the increasingly high stakes and a pressurized environment has led to a widespread and flagrant disregard of the rule against coaching in real time. Thus, tennis has been lurching from one coaching controversy to another—from the machinations of Ion Tiriac to the ghastly ruckus that may have cost Serena Williams her landmark 24th Grand Slam at the 2018 US Open to the recent, incessant dueling between chair umpires and the Tsitsipas family.

ESPN and Tennis Channel analyst Pam Shriver spoke for a great swath of her colleagues when she told me, “It’s time for this. Seeing how they were having a hard time enforcing the no-coaching rule, why not?”

Stefanos Tsitsipas will be able to freely communicate with his father-coach after Wimbledon.

Stefanos Tsitsipas will be able to freely communicate with his father-coach after Wimbledon. © Getty Images

Proponents of the change cite an additional potential benefit: enhanced interest among fans and television viewers. They see the rule change as a win-win, yet if history is any indication, that bonus is far from guaranteed. But there is tremendous pressure on tennis officials to make the game more marketable to a larger and less expert audience. Elite coach Brad Stine told me, “I tend to lean toward tradition in our sport. But I think this is a nice non-invasive way to produce a better overall product.”

There are prominent dissenters, though. Tennis Channel analyst Jim Courier, a former world No. 1, wrote in a text message: “I consider myself a progressive but do not support this initiative. How many tennis fans have been saying for years how much more they enjoy WTA tour matches (where coaching has long been allowed) compared to the Slams where coaching is not allowed? It is not essential to the game and is one of the things that differentiates tennis…[you] figure it out yourself.”

Courier’s skepticism is warranted. The ATP held a trial run of on-court coaching in official matches in 1999, allowing one coaching visit per set. ESPN analyst Brad Gilbert guided Andre Agassi to three titles before the ATP abandoned that experiment. But he is now adamant about eliminating the rampant cheating and convinced of the entertainment value of visible coaching.

“I was massively in favor of it (on-court coaching) in 1999, and 23 years later I still am,” Gilbert said. “There are pieces in the plan that I don’t like, but I’ll live with them just to have it. It adds a lot of plot and creativity to a match.”

One of the most powerful arguments against allowing coaching is the advantage it gives to players, like the major stars, who can afford to hire top coaching talent. “Hiring a coach used to be prohibitively expensive,” Shriver said, “But now pretty much everybody has one.”

I consider myself a progressive but do not support this initiative. … It is not essential to the game and is one of the things that differentiates tennis…[you] figure it out yourself. Jim Courier, former world No. 1

The new ATP rules address the two most prevalent forms of illicit coaching: the use of hand signals, and furtively delivered verbal advice. Under the plan, ATP mentors will be obliged to occupy seats close to the court at opposite ends, where they will be free to use unlimited hand signals as well as communicate verbally when their proteges are on the same side of the court. But verbal communication that disrupts the flow of play or “hinders” an opponent is forbidden. Chats will have to be confined to “a few words and/or short phrases (no conversations are permitted).”

I’ll leave it to better minds than mine to determine exactly when a few words becomes a conversation. Curiously, coaches will not be allowed to chat with players when they leave the court, which looks like yet another strategy to combat the growing plague of bathroom and injury-treatment breaks. Even more curiously, endorsing on-court coaching of any kind was apparently a bridge too far for the ATP. Could it be that ATP honchos lacked enthusiasm for the WTA’s bold foray into on-court coaching?

Starting in 2009, WTA events allowed a limited number of coaching visits with players during changeovers (complete with audio for TV viewers). The approach became business-as-usual until Covid put the kibosh on it. However, it was about as interested as conversation at the 30-minute oil change. You can certainly watch it happen, but is it really that compelling?

Nobody has been clamoring for the resumption of on-court coaching. Fans—television viewers, mostly—became privy mostly to anodyne pep talks delivered to stony-faced, zoned-out players during changeovers. Apart from familiar pleas to stick the first serve or to be patient in rallies, the visits rarely produced useful strategic, tactical or personal insights. Part of the problem: No coach was honest—or dumb—enough to share nuggets of precious intel while everyone had their ear to the keyhole.

“Obviously, there will be some open talk about strategy and stuff,” ESPN analyst Jimmy Arias, the Director of the IMG Tennis Academy, predicted. “But a lot of coaching is—I don’t want to say baby-sitting—but it’s about helping a player in different ways, making everything as easy as possible to help him go out on the court relaxed.”

I’m looking forward to this. If I can help Hubie (Hurkacz) in any way, that’s great. … If you have a few different plans or ideas and he’s on the fence you can now give him a nudge in the direction you want. Craig Boynton, current ATP Tour coach

Coaching in real-time can be a perilous business. Arias said that the best game plan can go “out the window” if the player—who is ultimately the employer and boss of the coach—won’t or can’t execute it. An opponent also has a lot of say in the efficacy of any given strategy or tactic.

“Coaches will be 100 percent under a microscope,” said Arias, who is willing to accept the trade-off between self-reliance and greater entertainment value. “It could get very interesting. We know that some players like to take their emotions out on their coaches. I’m not sure how the coach is going to react when he says, ‘I think you should do this. . .’ And on the microphone his guy goes, ‘You’re just an idiot, go get my lunch.’”

Craig Boynton, the coach of world No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz, is more sanguine. He believes that the intense scouting and preparation that now takes place before matches leaves little room for surprises. One of his favorite quotes about coaching is, “You don’t need to teach the greats, you just need to remind them.”

Boynton, whose protege Hurcaz is shy, diligent, and self-controlled, added: “I’m looking forward to this. If I can help Hubie (Hurcaz) in any way, that’s great. It’s a positive if you can (legitimately) encourage a player, give him a little clearer direction. If you have a few different plans or ideas and he’s on the fence you can now give him a nudge in the direction you want.”

However the experiment turns out, ATP coaches will now find themselves in an unfamiliar place: the spotlight.

Tennis has an anger-management problem, and it’s getting worse | Washington Post

PARIS — On an obscure court at Roland Garros, in a women’s singles match that drew scant attention, 63rd-ranked Irina-Camelia Begu thrust herself into the global spotlight as the latest example of the ugly, potentially injurious on-court outbursts plaguing pro tennis in recent months.

Irked over losing her serve in a pivotal moment, Begu, 31, tossed her racket on the French Open’s red clay, and it ricocheted into the stands and toward a small child, who burst into tears. The chair umpire summoned the supervisor to adjudicate, but Begu was allowed to play on, later cited for unsportsmanlike conduct, despite the fact that her racket “brushed” the child, according to a statement from the tournament director.

Just two days earlier, Andrey Rublev, the French Open’s seventh seed, also got a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct after he smashed a ball in a rage that almost hit a groundsperson.


Most pros at the top of the sport, however, come to realize that controlling their anger is ultimately in their interest.

For Rafael Nadal, a five-time recipient of the ATP’s sportsmanship award, behaving on court is something he learned as a child.

“My uncle, my family, never allowed me to break a racket, never allowed me to say bad words or give up a match,” Nadal once explained. “

Probably when I was a kid, they didn’t care much about winning or losing. Of course, all the parents and family, my uncle [who was also his coach] wanted me to win every single match. But probably that was not the most important thing.

The most important thing was the education and the fact that I grow with the values, with the right values.”

For second-ranked Daniil Medvedev, who is still haunted by an epic meltdown he had as a 14-year-old junior, it has been a process.

“At one moment, I understood that it can negatively affect your tennis,” Medvedev said. “But I definitely didn’t understand it [at 14]. It was much later. …

I’m still learning because I have some tantrums, if it’s the right word, sometimes on the court. Usually I’m not happy about it.

The most important is either to know how to react or, better, how not to do them and just stay focused on the match.”

ATP: May 14 Badge Lessons:

More valuable ‘how 2 play’ lessons from yesterday’s match and a repeat of some from the previous match.

In a repeating pattern, both our pairs started well (after good prematch warmup) and won the first sets easily.  Again, Mike/Sam continued on and completed both sets successfully against the better pair. Meanwhile on court 2, the opposition, while clearly outgunned by Bobby/Fred regrouped and changed the game.  They continued this pattern against Mike/Sam.

In brief, they changed the rhythm of the game by:

1. taking much more time between points and particularly on change of ends.

2. Hitting slower, short balls particularly on serve forcing us to generate our own pace.

Combining 1/2 gives ‘too much time to think’, causes players to doubt their ability and leads to playing ‘not to lose’. Or stated more simply, playing the opponents game. 

Re 1. Our team collectively plays ‘fast’ compared to most players.  The team has learned the lesson of taking time in preparing to serve on big points and now has to learn how to manage the same on the return game … need to reinforce the use of breathing and ritual to get set between ‘points’ regardless of other player’s game rhythm.

Re 2.  Reinforces both the need to better understand the ‘ghost line’ strategy and be confident in execution.

It’s takes several weeks of practice to learn how to execute on our coaching court and then confidently apply to a match.  This is why I stress focusing on point by point — rather than games or winning/losing.  Yep everyone learns by making mistakes.

It’s tough to learn how to execute under match pressure even so that’s why we are playing badge. Our focus is on learning point-by-point rather than simply winning or losing. As I often say, most times you learn, a few times you win.  It’s a journey not a race.

Learning how to hit the ball is the easy part of tennis. Learning how to play, well that is the difficult part for most players.

School’s in again Sunday at 1230p.



Palm Beach Gardens, FL April 23, 2022

Women’s 65, Kitty Godfree Cup

Women’s 70, Althea Gibson Cup (scroll down to see draws once posted)

Women’s 75, Queen’s Cup (scroll down to see draws once posted)

Women’s 80, Doris Hart Cup

Women’s 85, Angela Mortimer Cup

Men’s 65, Britannia Cup

Men’s 70, Jack Crawford Cup

Men’s 75, Bitsy Grant Cup

Men’s 80, Gardnar Mulloy Cup

Men’s 85, Lorne Main Cup (scroll down to see draws once posted)


Senior Tennis Blog

Carolyn Nichols Senior Tennis Home Page; Ranking Tables, FAC, Historical Records; USTA Adult National Tournament Schedules; USTA Standings; ITF Seniors Home Page. ITF Rankings; USTA Senior International Competition. 2021 USTA Team Selection Guidelines; 2021 Level 1, 2, 3 Tournaments; 2021 Gold Ball Champions ; Instagram.



The ITF Seniors Tour is a global tennis Tour that provides players aged 30 and over with a high quality and enjoyable competitive experience. 2019 saw 27,500 registered players and 502 tournaments take place across 70 nations.

ITF Seniors tournaments range from Grade S1000 (aimed at elite players) to Grade S100 (aimed at recreational level), featuring singles, doubles and mixed doubles events for each five-year age increment from 30+ to 90+.


Manly Juniors Wrap Up Successful Year — Illawarra Boys 14 Results

Today, at Illawarra, Matthew Curtis and Bede Kirwan came runner up in the boys 14U doubles final against a very tough team, seeded first.
They were seeded second and won 3 matches to reach the final against older opponents.
In singles, Matthew lost a close match in the quarters against the eventual winner and Bede lost to him in the semis. Bede came in 3rd place for the playoff event between losing semi finalists.
Source: Kristina Curtis

TNSW Dec Junior Tournaments

A number of our junior club members are playing in the following tournaments. You can follow their progress in their respective events by clicking on the links and the Boys/Girls 14 draws..

Good luck guys!

2021 Parramatta JT

Parramatta Tennis Inc | North Parramatta 16 Dec to 19 Dec

2021 Tennis Macarthur JT

Tennis Macarthur | Leumeah21/12/2021 to 24/12/2021

2021 Illawarra AMT/JT

Illawarra Tennis Association | Rockdale27/12/2021 to 31/12/2021

Tennis: the players struggling to break even | FT

Tennis champions Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka are among the best paid athletes in the world. But prize money drops off steeply, with lower ranked players often struggling to make a living amid the expense of travel and coaching. The FT talks to governing bodies in what is a fragmented sport, and follows two players fighting to get to the top and get paid…

It’s one of the most popular sports on the planet with both men and women. So why are so many professional tennis players still struggling to make a living?

If you want to do this you have to invest in yourself. It’s a big risk, but it’s also a really big reward. It’s completely dependent on your result. If you have a bad year you could work an entire year at a loss.

Who is in charge of the rules of tennis? Everybody and nobody, right?

People outside the sports world think, everyone’s making a ton. They are not. It is tough.

My name is Alicia Barnett. I’m 28 years old. I live with my dad when I’m not on the road. And this year I’ve been on the road more than I’ve been home.

Hi, I’m Liam Broady. I’m 27 years old. I’m from Stockport, Great Britain. This is the best year of my career.

It’s hard to not get consumed by thinking about prize money a lot, but at the end of the day you have to go to a tournament and realise that you’re investing in yourself and in your tennis.

There’s a lot of pressure to perform well at tournaments. If you don’t do well you can be working at quite a loss. So it’s a pretty unstable income.

At the end of the trip you sum everything up, and you think, OK, I’ve done well this week. And it is a little bit calming. So you come away feeling better that you’ve made a profit or you’ve broken even, and you can relax a little bit, but it’s an afterthought. If I’m playing good enough tennis then the money will take care of itself, I think. My roommate just came in. The reason Luke’s here is to save money basically.

So they’re really seven different stakeholders within tennis. The ITF looks after the junior and up to the professional ranks and beyond that. We have the men’s tour, the ATP, the women’s tour, the WTA. And then you have the four grand slam events. And those seven stakeholders together work on promoting and developing the sport around the world.

Well, we clearly undermonetise. We have a billion fans, you know? We are very popular, and we have a very gender-neutral fan base, but we are extremely fragmented. We have all these different organisations – ATP, WTA, the four slams, and ITF – that go to market completely separately, differently with different governance. So we don’t do a great job in selling and distributing our sport.

That’s where we have to do better in tennis. We’re probably the fourth or fifth largest watched sport in the world, and we get very little in media content except for the majors. That I’d like to see change.

With a billion fans tennis is among the most watched sports in the world, but it accounts for less than 2 per cent of global sports media rights, which were worth a total of $44.6bn in 2020. That means less money to trickle down to the players.

It’s 6:45 in the morning and it feels like a very early start over here in Brest in France. Let’s hope we get a seat on this train. Yeah, you know, life on the road can be difficult at times, but you do get used to it. And it’s a lifestyle at the end of the day. You’re probably away from home really for 40 weeks a year.

You share stories about how you ended up staying in a brothel because it was the cheapest thing. Or you’re eating oats in the room rather than paying for breakfast just to save a little bit of costs.

Most prize money goes to the top players. As you go down the ranks it drops off steeply. This year in the top 500 median earnings from prize money were around $137,000 for men and $92,000 for women. If you’re one of the top players you’ll be earning millions of dollars in prize money as well as sponsorship deals.

Lower ranked players may get some extra help from grassroots funding and free rackets, and clothes in return for social media promotion. But the majority of their earnings will come from winning on court. More than a third of the women and nearly a quarter of the men in the top 500 have taken home less than $50,000 this year.

When I’ve asked players, you know, how much money do you have to earn to make it? And most of them come up with $100,000 to $150,000. That’s a lot of money.

At the moment, the current pie, let me put it that way, the total revenue generated by the tennis professional sport and what we distribute in prize money doesn’t allow for the second tier to have players that can make a living and sustain the cost.

You can’t argue that: the best players deserve the most money. At the end of the day, tennis is a business, and you want to keep your most valuable assets happy. And that’s the same in any business.

It’s the top three or four men and top three or four women that drive ticket sales.

I would debate maybe just the best players get the most money but just maybe a little bit less, and they should share the spread of the rest of the money.

It’s difficult because you think, well, they’ve worked really hard and they’re very talented. They deserve to be there. And if we work hard enough, we can get there too.

All the grand slams have moved to give more money to the players who get knocked out in the early stages. And British players, for example, can also benefit from pro scholarships and tournament bonuses. But many top 500 players don’t make it to the slams.

They play most of their season on the second-tier Challenger Tour and contend with injury, losing streaks, and high costs with few guarantees of financial returns.

I think that you’ve seen a real concerted effort by the tennis stakeholders together in distributing the money so that more players are able to make a proper earning. It used to be a little bit more top heavy, whereas now if you lose in the first round of a grand slam tournament, in singles alone you’re going to earn about $50,000.

I made the second round of Wimbledon this year and that’s kind of my way of paying my coach, and my physio, and my S and C coach for the next year and to be able to afford the tennis tour really.

At some point, you have to draw a line. And beyond that line I think we have to be honest and say, in the Challenger Tour you should be able to at least break even and pay your costs. But you have to be conscious that this is sort of like a university. That’s an investment for you. Then go and move into the professional tour where you have a job.

I’m currently stretching up in the gym here in Bratislava after a good session. I’m on tomorrow against Ilya Marchenko. He’s a good player. I played him last week as well in Bergamo.

Obviously, we got the hotel for free at the Challenger’s, which is a nice bonus. The prize money came to about 1,500 euros I think, but then, of course, I need to pay for my coach’s food, and bills, and his weekly fee as well. I’m probably working at a loss last week. That tends to be the way that it works at most of these tournaments.

I don’t think it will ever be possible to have a sustainable tour at that level simply because it lacks the interest of the fan and the engagement of the sponsors, broadcasters, and ticket revenues.

Billie Jean King won 12 grand slam singles titles. She’s even better known for fighting for equal pay for women. In the early ’70s, one of her aims was this.

If you’re good enough to make a living, very few people were going to be included in that first go around because we knew we had to start small if we’re going to make it. Was that our goal? Absolutely not. Our goal is more is the merrier. I personally would like to figure out how we can have at least 700 or 800 people making a living. That would make me happy because that’s with the NBA. That’s Major League Baseball.

Every time I wake up in the morning I think about it. I have my blessing list, but then I think, we got to do better today. We got to make it work.

In 2020, Wimbledon and other events were cancelled, but the pandemic was also an opportunity.

To be honest, I’d probably say only since Covid have I started to be able to make money and actually put a little bit away into savings, and that’s at the age of 26. I’ve been a professional tennis player for six, seven years before that. During Covid we had a lot of tournaments in Britain, and there were no outgoings.

Tennis did come together. We had what we called a player relief fund, where we gave to the top 750 players in the world. We moved Roland Garros to September. We had to change the calendar. We changed the ranking. We got a lot closer to WTA. I’m a very strong believer that the two tools should be combined because together we are stronger.

We shouldn’t be competing with one another. We should be competing with the outside world, and I think that’s part of the strategy.

With the help of an adviser we are sort of in the process of evaluating the different options of how can we create a new governance that can enable us ultimately to provide a better product to the fans. Because at the moment, if you ask yourself the question, who is in charge of the rules of tennis? The answer is everybody and nobody, right?

If the ATP and the WTA were to merge, which would thrill me, it’s got to be 50-50. You’ve got to fight for each other. When you’re together you need to have equal prize money, equal everything.

Meanwhile, men’s number one, Novak Djokovic, co-founded the Professional Tennis Players Association. He said he wants more transparency in tennis and to improve livelihoods. Low earnings from prize money can mean some players never get their chance on court.

I think the damage to the sport is pretty massive if the wealth isn’t spread to the lower players. I think there are a lot of players then that, like I said, are incredibly talented and never get the chance to achieve their greatest tennis.

There could be guys that unfortunately don’t live in a nation where you have a strong federation which is capable of subsidising your cost. And then you might actually lose that talent that could become a great champion in the future.

We are addressing it. Is it perfect? Absolutely not and we know it. It’ll never be perfect. No sport’s ever perfect. No business is ever perfect. I think it’s quite a miracle that we’re doing as well as we are.

I spent my last 10 days of the year at the Davis Cup supporting the squad, practicing with them, and getting them ready. I basically spent the last couple of months backpacking across Europe really. It felt really good coming home.

You may not start out playing tennis for the money, but the money can be a game changer.

I actually figured out as well I spend about £12,000 a year on stringing and rackets. So at the end of the day this sport is incredibly expensive at the higher levels.

You always have to make sacrifices for things that you want to do. I’m just really grateful that I’m able to play tennis and travel. And I’m grateful that I have that support network because, otherwise, I don’t think I’d be able to do it.

To be top 200 in the world or top 250 in the world is a remarkable achievement. Out of, I think, 7bn people, it’s not many people who can say that. Obviously, if you can become good enough then you can earn a living at the sport. But sometimes it’s not that easy.

A lot of kids will come up to me and say, do you think I should try or not? I tell them always try because you do not want to say when you’re older, I should have tried ever. You don’t want to ever say that, I should have, I could have. So I think it’s really important to give it a go because you know what? If you do make it you’re one of the elite. You get lucky in life, and there’s opportunities you can never dream of.

Tennis: the players struggling to break even

A Good String Job Can Manage Your Limitations | AskThePro

In our previous column on rackets, we make reference to the key advantages of a good restring in managing your limitations!

The tournament pros are absolutely fanatical about their choice of strings and the associated string tension — which they change to suit both surface and playing conditions — and often during a match.  I still carry two rackets in my bag each with a slightly different tension to accommodate the changing playing conditions at Manly Lawn.

Conversely, our average tennis player puts what I euphemistically call “two dollars worth of nylon” in a $200+ high performance frame — and expects to play consistently well and without injury, especially tennis elbow.

Most club players who play two or more times a week are well advised to get a GOOD STRING JOB every 8 to 10 weeks depending on the season.  Aggressive players who blast the ball with big western forehands need to update every 3 to 4 weeks or so.  Yep, strings go loose and dead — and performance suffers!

Trust me when I say, your game will improve at least a POINT A GAME with a good restring! You might even be encouraged to take a few lessons to help better manage the rest of your limitations.

So what constitutes a GOOD STRING JOB?

First a little science education since modern strings come in different materials and thicknesses, each designed to suit different playing styles. In the table below, you’ll notice the differences in the main and cross strings and the dependence on whether you want control, power, comfort (did I mention managing tennis elbow?).

Thickness is pretty screwy since 18 gauge string is thinner than 16 gauge, go figure!

You can see from the graph above that the typical $2 nylon (16G) has high durability (to ensure rackets have a good shelf life) and low spin potential ( aka “feel/control”)! How did that new Wilson play with the $2 nylon strings?

Even at my tender age, I still use a hybrid combination of 18G multifilament Gamma Live Wire on the mains and Babolat Blast (Nadal’s string) on the crosses. Yep as I’ve aged and reverted to social player status, I’ve gone for more control and less power by reversing the mains and the crosses per the table. The 18G Live Wire is more lively (plays like gut) and gives me much more feel. The Blast allows me to give the ball a nudge and more topspin when I need to.

And now the string tension.  Most players string the crosses the same as the mains and expect the tension to be even itself out throughout the racket during stringing. Well that’s the logic anyway. The GOAL was always to get an even string tension in the racket to increase the ‘sweet spot’. Yep, for most of my playing life I relied on that logic too. Of course my ball watching was so much better than, and I played with gut, so miss hits were infrequent. And yep it’s SOoooooo Wrong!

Several years ago I ran into a older, chain smoking racket stringer in California who set me straight — and he didn’t hold back!  Turns out that what most people miss is the impact of FRICTION on the Crosses when you’re feeding the string under and over through the Mains. Whatever tension you string the Mains at, you ADD 5lb to the Crosses to counter the friction. Here’s my current stringing pattern to illustrate this key point:


So Obi Wan how should I translate this to my game? Well most rackets come with a suggested stringing guide for tension. Start with the mid range for the racket for the Mains and then string the Crosses 5lb more.  Then adjust up and down as required until you’re comfortable with the tension. Aside, typically you can use a lower tension that the one you used previously; helps your feel and control.

Just ask Tommie for ‘Rob’s restring’ if you want to try this type of restring at the Manly Tennis Centre. You’ll find an immediate benefit of a bigger sweet spot — and most of your misshits will go over now as your control is significantly improved.

As for the choice of string, well that depends on your game. I’ve given you the guidelines in the table above which you can probably figure out yourself. Even so, probably better to go talk to Scottie when you want some pro advice about what strings may suit your individual playing style. Or ask me.

To repeat you’ve got to manage your limitations — and using better technology (whether frame and/or strings) is a great way to do this. Cunning and guile will only get you so far! Invest in the technology!

Make a regular investment in a GOOD STRING JOB using the latest materials technology; it’s absolutely worth it for your psyche alone!

Tennis Whisperer

Ash Barty’s mindset coach: Get out of BED | SMH

And this is because, as the former sports marketing director at Nike, he recognised a pattern in the athletes he worked with, and later on, in the successful business people he coached: many were struggling under the pressure of external validation, be it from winning, making money, achieving social or corporate status.

“We’re so distracted by achievement and results more than the process of going there,” says the father of three boys. “We’re craving from others what we’re not prepared to give ourselves which is unconditional love: will someone please recognise me, will someone please accept me, will someone please acknowledge me?”

Ben Crowe post match in the Richmond change rooms after the 2019 Grand Final.

Ben Crowe post match in the Richmond change rooms after the 2019 Grand Final. 

Focusing on what is outside our control, like the expectation of outcomes or the expectations of others, not only leads to stress, pressure and anxiety, it is a losing game, he insists: “Last time I looked, no one controls the future which means you’ll tighten up not lighten up.”

Instead, by focusing our attention on what we can control, like who we want to be, we remove external “distractions” and can focus without fear.

“You still go after the things you love to do, they just don’t determine your self-worth,” Crowe says. “You can go after your dreams without any promise you’ll actually achieve those dreams and that’s OK.”

Ironically, this lack of fear to follow our dreams makes us more likely to achieve them. Crowe believes, this is one of the keys to Barty’s success, both on and off the court.

“[She] has put her goals and dreams out into the universe, and she’s gone after them and she’s also embraced these principles – gratitude and appreciation and celebration – rather than getting caught up in expectation or entitlement,” Crowe says. “She’s truly embraced the principle of acceptance – accepting the things she can’t control and focusing back on the things she can control. She’s connected with her purpose and sense of why, she’s established her values which is so fundamental to anyone’s success because when we’re on our knees and life sucks it’s our values that gets us through.”

These concepts are used to help clients answer three “simple but not easy” questions: Who am I, What do I want and How do I get there?



It was what got a 16-year-old Crowe through losing his dad to a heart attack, while trying to resuscitate him; it was what got him through losing his best friend to suicide; and it was what got him through laying off “a few hundred staff” while working for Nike in Hong Kong nearly 25 years ago.

Following this “professional crucible moment”, he used humility and curiosity to “pick up the pieces and respond to the challenges” he faced. He sat down at the Peak Café in Hong Kong and wondered what he was going to do with his life.

After two days spent scribbling on post-it notes trying to figure out his “why” and, after years of working with athletes on their external story, he decided it was time to work with them on their internal one.

“I settled on wanting to help athletes do things better and be better for it. My definition of an athlete has evolved to anyone who wants to compete, have fun and play,” says Crowe, who launched a mindset app last month, providing a digital “personal leadership” course based on the same exercises he uses with athletes and CEOs.

He, along with his wife Sally and their two young sons at the time, moved home to Melbourne where he launched and subsequently sold two sports entertainment companies before officially transitioning to mentoring.

“There’s only ever the response to what life throws our way… we can stay in BED, which is an acronym for blame, excuses, denial, or we can say ‘it’s my decisions, not the conditions that determine how I’m going to get through this’.”



Crowe’s approach is not about reinventing the wheel. He explores the stories we tell ourselves (Tony Robbins), leaning in (Sheryl Sandberg), vulnerability (Brene Brown) and ‘aha’ moments (Oprah).

These concepts are used to help clients answer three “simple but not easy” questions: Who am I? What do I want? How do I get there?

“If you can help people answer those questions that gives them the sense of confidence and happiness to find a path to go after their journey… then yeah [I think they] want that drug,” says Crowe who is running a mindset masterclass on September 29.

I wonder aloud whether seeing humility and humanity in highly accomplished people, like Barty, reminds us ordinary folk we don’t need discontent or ego to drive us or our ambitions. But I also wonder how applicable his approach is for someone who doesn’t have a job as a result of the pandemic right now or for someone like Michael Cassel, whose production of Hamilton was facing $10 million in losseswith 80,000 tickets cancelled because of the lockdown.

“There are so many things we can’t control, getting back to the things we can control is pretty powerful,” Crowe insists. “You need to draw down on your energy source that gets you through the pandemic, and it might be courage, love, perseverance, resilience, positivity or optimism…

“There’s only ever the response to what life throws our way… we can stay in BED, which is an acronym for blame, excuses, denial, or we can say ‘it’s my decisions, not the conditions that determine how I’m going to get through this’.”

Michael Cassel is a great example of this, Crowe adds: “He goes ‘I decide my attitude, my mindset, my self-worth… I’m not going to let COVID and the conditions of my business determine my self-worth. I am going to own my story and with my values and my purpose and my affirmations I’m going to overcome this and help my people overcome this’… His perspective is what will get him through.”

Speaking of perspective, I ask him about the kind of human he wants to be.

“If someone says who Ben Crowe is I say I’m a playful dad, I’m a grateful son, I’m a mischievous mate and a loving soulmate and a curious golfer – as in how the f–k am I going to master this game.”


Bathroom stall: Tennis toilet break rules

How long is too long to take in the bathroom

Article I, Section W, Paragraph 4 of the 2021 Grand Slam rule book limits women (who play best-of-three-sets) to one trip off court and men (best-of-five) to two trips “for a reasonable time for a toilet break, a change of attire break, or both.”

The discussion at, ahem, Flush-ing Meadows on Tuesday swirled around whether it was “reasonable” that play was delayed for more than eight minutes because Tsitsipas took his time while exchanging his sweaty outfit for a fresh one between the fourth and fifth sets of a nearly five-hour victory over Murray a day earlier.

“What’s your opinion on this? You’re umpiring the match,” three-time Grand Slam champion Murray could be heard saying to the match official. “Give me your opinion. … You think this is good?”

Murray, who swapped shirts while seated on his changeover bench before the final set, is among those who have advocated for some sort of rule switch.

Put a specific time limit in writing, say. Or have stronger consequences than the simple warning that Tsitsipas received from the chair umpire for a time violation Monday, when he and Murray both were soaked from 70% humidity and heat in the low 80s Fahrenheit (high 20s Celsius).

“It’s so vague. Another vague rule in tennis. And I think that’s what Andy was complaining about,” 18-time major champion Chris Evert said during ESPN’s telecast Tuesday. “Let me tell you, eight to 10 minutes, that gives the player time to sit with himself, to figure out what he needs to do, to reset if he needs to, to reach into his bag and get a phone call. Or reach into his bag and read a text. It opens the door to a lot of things that maybe aren’t fair in tennis.”

Calling pace of play “an important issue on our sport,” the U.S. Tennis Association said it needs to “continue to review and explore potential adjustments to the rules, whether for bathroom breaks/change of attire or other areas, that can positively impact the pace of play for our fans and ensure the fairness and integrity of the game.”

The ATP men’s tour said reviewing toilet break rules and those governing medical timeouts “has been an area of focus in recent months,” calling it a “work in progress.” The WTA women’s tour noted that it changed its bathroom rule to allow one break instead of two during matches, adding: “As with any rule, the WTA is always open to conversation and evolving rules if changes are necessary.”

If Tsitsipas’ purpose was gamesmanship, it worked.

Murray lost focus and, he explained later, the lengthy pause in play cooled him down, causing issues physically for a guy who is 34 and has an artificial hip.

This isn’t the first time the issue has come up with Tsitsipas — or other players. Just one example from Monday: No. 19 seed John Isner left the court for what amounted to a break of more than seven minutes between points after the second set of this three-set loss to Brandon Nakashima in an all-American match Monday.

A little more than a week ago, Olympic gold medalist Alexander Zverev accused Tsitsipas of getting help via phone messages from his father, who’s also his coach, on a lengthy trip to the bathroom during their semifinal at the Cincinnati Masters. Coaching is not allowed during matches.

“He’s gone for 10-plus minutes. His dad is texting on the phone. He comes out, and all of a sudden, his tactic completely changed. It’s not just me, but everybody saw it. The whole game plan changes,” No. 4 seed Zverev said after his win Tuesday. “I’m like: Either it’s a very magical place he goes to or there is communication there.”

Zverev said he views what Tsitsipas does as the “kind of things (that) happen at junior events, at Futures, at Challengers maybe, but not when you’re top three in the world. You are allowed to do that, but it’s like a unwritten rule between players.”

Tsitsipas and Isner did have their defenders.

“We’re drinking. We’re hydrating a lot. We have to use the bathroom. To change my socks, shoes, my inserts in my shoes, shorts, shirt, everything, the whole nine yards, hat — it takes five, six minutes,” No. 22 seed Reilly Opelka of the U.S. said after reaching the second round with a win Tuesday. “Then, by the time I walk to and from the court … .”