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.

https://www.tennis.com/news/articles/off-court-coaching-comes-out-of-the-shadows-tennis-loses-a-distinction-but-gains

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.

 

Joker joins 1000 club

Novak Djokovic Wins 1,000th Career Match at Italian Open

Novak Djokovic, the No. 1-ranked men’s tennis player in the world, added yet another impressive accolade to his resume Saturday following a dominant showing in the Italian Open semifinal.

Djokovic defeated fifth seed Casper Ruud of Norway in straight sets, 6–4, 6–3, to earn his 1,000th career win and advance to his fourth straight final in Rome. The Serbian great will face fourth-seeded Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday as he looks to extend his record ATP Masters 1000 title count with a 38th victory.

Djokovic, 34, now joins Jimmy Connors, Roger Federer, Ivan Lendl and Rafael Nadal as the only members of the 1,000-wins club, making him just the fifth men’s player in the Open Era to accomplish the feat.

“Thanks to the tournament and the crowd for celebrating the milestone with me,” Djokovic said after the match, per ATP Tour’s official website.

“I’ve seen Roger and Rafa celebrate those milestones in the last couple of years and I was looking forward to get to that 1,000 myself. I’m really, really blessed and privileged to have that many victories on the Tour. It’s been a long time, ever since I won my first match on the Tour. Hopefully I can keep going and many more victories to come.”

Djokovic’s landmark moment also inspired a special, emoji-laden response from his wife Jelena, who took to social media to express her excitement for his latest accomplishment.

Djokovic’s upcoming clash with Tsitsipas marks the pair’s first meeting since “The Djoker” notched a dramatic comeback victory over the 23-year-old at the 2021 Roland Garros final. Djokovic owns a 6–2 record over Tsitsipas all time, including a 4–0 mark on clay—the same surface they’ll be competing on Rome.

For the year, Djokovic has posted a 10–4 record, with his last outing prior to Rome ending in a historic semifinal defeat at the hands of Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz at the Madrid Open.

si.com/tennis/2022/05/14/novak-djokovic-wins-1000th-career-match

2022 Forster Seniors Tennis Tournament

The 2022 Forster Seniors Tennis Tournament is back after the cancellation of the last 2 years due to COVID. Save the dates, Friday 29th July through to Monday 1st August 2022.

The Entry Form is available on the Forster Tennis Club website   https://play.tennis.com.au/forstertennisclub and soon to be on Tennis Seniors NSW website – we look forward to seeing you again this year.

Come along and play as little or as much as you like over the 4 days – 6 sessions of tennis. There are events for all – singles, doubles, mixed, combined doubles and mixed.

For accommodation we recommend our Sponsors below:

Forster Holiday Village       www.forsterholidayvillage.com.au Phone 02 6554 6027

Big 4 Great Lakes at Forster Tuncurry    www.greatlakes.com.au     Phone 02 6554 6827

Tuncurry Beach Motel         https://tuncurrybeachmotel.com.au  Phone 02 6554 7044

Island Palms Motor Inn       http://islandpalms.com.au         Phone 02 6554 5555

South Pacific Palms Motel  www.southpacificpalms.com.au  Phone (02) 6554 6511

Forster Palms Motel            www.forsterpalmsmotel.com.au  Phone 02 6555 6255

Sunseeker Holiday Units    www.sunseekerholidayunits.com  Phone 02 6554 6818

Bella Villa Motor Inn   https://www.bellavillaforster.com  Phone 02 6554 6842

Sevan Apartments      www.sevan.com.au                      Phone 02 6555 0300

Lakes and Ocean     www.lakesandoceanhotel.com.au  Phone 02 6554 6005

Beaches International   www.beachesinternational.com.au  Phone 02 6554 5160

Additional activities over the weekend include ;

  • Raffle – Over 25 Prizes value in excess of $2,000. Special pre purchase Offer with Entry Form additional tickets. Collect on arrival – Drawn Sunday 31st July. Pre-purchase will assist us with our COVID Safety plan
  • Tennis Jewels Clothing Tent
  • Meet and Greet Drinks at the Forster Tennis Club from 4.30pm Friday 29th July.
  • Saturday – Priceline Health Check Tent
  • Daily – Bar and Canteen Service
  • Dynamic Tennis Pro Shop – Restrings, Grips, Shoes etc.

Entry Forms can be mailed to PO Box 522 Forster NSW 2428 or emailed to [email protected]

Brian Adams
Forster Tennis Club
Seniors Tournament Director
Phone: 0404955599
Email: [email protected]

30 Plus Social Round Robin 2022

ATP Statement On Decision To Ban Russian & Belarusian Players

Russian and Belarusian players will continue to be allowed to compete at ATP events under neutral flag

We strongly condemn Russia’s reprehensible invasion of Ukraine and stand in solidarity with the millions of innocent people affected by the ongoing war.

Our sport is proud to operate on the fundamental principles of merit and fairness, where players compete as individuals to earn their place in tournaments based on the ATP Rankings. We believe that today’s unilateral decision by Wimbledon and the LTA to exclude players from Russia and Belarus from this year’s British grass-court swing is unfair and has the potential to set a damaging precedent for the game. Discrimination based on nationality also constitutes a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon that states that player entry is based solely on ATP Rankings. Any course of action in response to this decision will now be assessed in consultation with our Board and Member councils.

It is important to stress that players from Russia and Belarus will continue to be allowed to compete at ATP events under a neutral flag, a position that has until now been shared across professional tennis. In parallel, we will continue our joint humanitarian support for Ukraine under Tennis Plays for Peace.

https://www.atptour.com/en/news/atp-statement-wimbledon-british-grass-swing-april-2022

In Tennis, Racket Smashing Gets Out of Hand | NYTimes

 

After blowing a golden opportunity to break his opponent’s serve late in the second set of his match on Monday at the Miami Open, Jenson Brooksby, the rising American star, whacked his foot with his racket several times in frustration.

It was progress for Brooksby, who earlier in the tournament had escaped an automatic disqualification that many tennis veterans — and his opponent — thought was justified after he angrily hurled his racket to the court and it skittered into the feet of a ball person standing behind the baseline.

A week earlier, Nick Kyrgios, the temperamental Australian, narrowly missed hitting a ball boy in the face when he flung his racket to the ground following a three-set loss in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif. The ATP punished Kyrgios with a $20,000 fine and another $5,000 for uttering an obscenity on the court, but he was allowed to play a few days later in Miami.

Kyrgios was at it again on Tuesday during his fourth-round match against Italy’s Jannik Sinner. He threw his racket to the court on his way to losing a first-set tiebreaker, prompting a warning and a point penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct as he shouted at the umpire, Carlos Bernardes. Then, during the changeover, he battered his racket four times against the ground, earning a game penalty.

“Do we have to wait until someone starts bleeding?” an exasperated Patrick McEnroe, the former pro and tennis commentator, said recently when asked about the flying rackets.

Racket-smashing tantrums have long been accepted as part of the game. Like hockey fights, they are a way for players to blow off steam. But as the broader culture becomes less tolerant of public displays of anger, and with an increasing number of close calls on the court, racket smashing suddenly no longer seems like an entertaining idiosyncrasy.

Mary Carillo, the former player and longtime commentator, said the tantrums have never been worse, especially on the ATP Tour, calling them “the most consistently uncomfortable thing to watch.” But chair umpires still resist meting out the most serious punishment.

“The reason for conspicuous leniency is that they have to somehow keep a match alive; there are no substitutions,” Carillo said of the chair umpires. “Tennis players, especially tennis stars, know they have incontestable leverage over the chair.

Like most people in tennis, McEnroe was stunned when the ATP recently handed down a suspended eight-week ban to Alexander Zverev, who repeatedly beat on the umpire’s chair at the end of a doubles match at the Mexican Open in February, coming within inches of cracking his racket into the official’s feet.

Psychologists have found that expressing anger physically tends to hurt performance and can encourage subsequent outbursts. In an oft-cited 1959 study by the psychologist R.H. Hornberger, participants listened to insults before being divided into two groups. One group pounded nails. The other sat quietly. The group that pounded nails was far more hostile to those who criticized them.

And yet these days, racket smashing feels contagious. There was Naomi Osaka’s display during her third-round loss to Leylah Fernandez at the U.S. Open last year. Novak Djokovic’s during the bronze medal match at the Tokyo Olympics. Even Roger Federer has had his moments. Rafael Nadal, by contrast, is famously gentle with his equipment and has said he never will smash his racket.

Even Andy Roddick, the former world No. 1, got cheeky on the subject, taking to Twitter last week with a tongue-in-cheek tutorial on how to safely smash a racket and whack a ball without endangering anyone.

Smashing and throwing a racket, not to mention swats of the ball — that hit, or nearly hit, and possibly injure people on the court or in the stadium — fall under equipment abuse in the sport’s rule books. To the frustration of some of the biggest names in tennis, those codes are more gray than black and white.

Martina Navratilova, the 18-time Grand Slam singles champion who is covering the Miami Open for Tennis Channel, expressed the sentiments of many after Brooksby’s racket made contact with the ball person.

“If it hit the ball boy, they need to disqualify him,” she said.

Brooksby and Kyrgios lost in Miami on Tuesday, but Zverev advanced to the quarterfinals and has a good chance of winning one of the top titles on the ATP Tour, even though some in tennis believe he should be on the sideline serving a suspension.

A spokesman for the ATP, which does not publicly discuss individual penalties, said Brooksby received a $15,000 fine, $5,000 less than the maximum $20,000 a player can receive for an incident from tournament officials. That amounted to less than half of the $30,130 he guaranteed himself by winning the match, not to mention the $94,575 he ultimately collected for making it to the fourth round.

Kyrgios was fined $20,000 for nearly hitting the ball boy after his loss to Nadal at Indian Wells, where he collected nearly $180,000 for making the quarterfinals. He, too, will earn $94,575 in Miami, less whatever fines he receives for his behavior on Tuesday.

Zverev, who has earned more than $30 million in career prize money, had to forfeit his earnings from the Mexican Open, and the ATP fined him $65,000, but the suspended ban has allowed him — in less than two tournaments — to more than triple in prize money what his outburst cost him.

The ATP is considering whether, given recent increases in prize money, an increase in fines could deter players. Fines for racket abuse on the ATP Tour begin at $500, compared with $2,500 on the WTA Tour.

Other than that, the codes for men and women are similar: No violently hitting or kicking or throwing a racket — or any piece of equipment, for that matter, and no physical abuse or attempted abuse against ball people, umpires, judges or spectators.

Still, tennis officials have a somewhat ambiguous understanding of when disqualification is warranted. It goes sort of like this: If you throw a racket or whack a ball at someone intentionally in an attempt to hit or intimidate them, you are automatically disqualified, whether you succeed or fail. But if you throw or smash a racket or whack a ball without consideration of its direction, and it ends up hitting someone, then tournament officials have to assess whether an injury has occurred.

If someone is indeed injured, as when Djokovic inadvertently hit a line judge in the throat at the 2020 U.S. Open, the player is automatically disqualified. But if no one is injured, as when Brooksby’s racket skittered into the ball person’s foot, the umpires will assess a penalty and tournament officials will fine the player — no disqualification necessary.

Brooksby and Zverev quickly posted apologies for their actions on social media and personally apologized to the people involved.

“I was grateful to have a second chance,” Brooksby told Tennis Channel on Monday.

Kyrgios is a repeat offender. In a news conference after the Indian Wells match, he berated journalists who questioned him about the racket toss that nearly clipped a ball boy’s head, and was unapologetic.

“It most definitely wasn’t like Zverev,” he said. “It was complete accident. I didn’t hit him.”

Only after an avalanche of criticism on social media did Kyrgios issue an apology. The next day, he posted a video of himself giving the boy a racket.

After his match on Tuesday, Kyrgios played the victim, criticizing Bernardes for speaking to the crowd while Kyrgios was trying to serve. He seemed not to understand why the ATP had come down so hard on him for the incident at Indian Wells, given, he said, that Denis Shapovalov had inadvertently hit a fan with a ball and received just a $5,000 fine. In fact, Shapovalov hit a chair umpire and was fined $7,000.

“I can throw a racket at Indian Wells,” Kyrgios said, “didn’t even hit anyone, and I’m getting 25 grand.”

Matthew FuttermanMarch 30, 2022

@MTC: Drink Play Graze Event

Saturday 30th April 6-11pm

Enquiries and bookings can be made with Scott at the Pro Shop or people can look it up on Trybooking under Drink Play Graze and pay online.

We’re having match play over the 6 courts with prizes, grazing table, live music and the bar will be open so they can purchase their own drinks.

Players $70 Social $40

Carmela Blackburn

Rafael Nadal Wins the Australian Open, His 21st Grand Slam Title

Novak Djokovic overshadowed the first Grand Slam of the year before it began, but Nadal pulled off an epic comeback over Daniil Medvedev that broke his tie with Djokovic and Roger Federer in men’s singles major career victories.


Rafael Nadal won the men’s singles final at the Australian Open.

Credit…Alana Holmberg for The New York Times

MELBOURNE, Australia — The Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal shook his head, as if in disbelief. Then he moved to the net to shake the hand of his opponent, Daniil Medvedev, and it was then that it seemed to sink in. Nadal stood alone in the record book with 21 career Grand Slam men’s singles titles, one more than his rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

Suddenly, Nadal punched the air like a prizefighter, flexing his arms like a bodybuilder, pumping his fists overhead, then dropping to his knees as tears flowed.

Nadal’s five-hour-and-24-minute triumph, after being down by two sets, thrilled a raucous crowd on a warm Sunday night at Rod Laver Arena. It came just a day after Ashleigh Barty of Australia won the women’s singles title, the first home court win at the Australian Open in 44 years.

But if the final weekend of the first major sporting event of the year ended in singular fashion, the beginning was anything but.

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