Tennis star’s radical proposal to shake up sport

Roland Garros finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas has called for tennis to allow courtside coaching “on every point”.

The 22-year-old, who is coached by his father Apostolos along with leading mentor Patrick Mouratoglou, argued the sport needs to embrace change.

“Coaching on every point should be allowed in tennis,” Tsitsipas wrote on Twitter.

“The sport needs to embrace it. We’re probably one of the only global sports that doesn’t use coaching during play.

“Make it legal. It’s about time the sport takes a big step forward.”

But his proposal has been given the thumbs down by Nick Kyrgios, who famously doesn’t have a coach.

“I usually don’t mind his ideas, but this one is terrible,” the Australian wrote on Instagram.

“The beauty of tennis is to go out there alone. Some people choose not to have a coach, some people can’t afford a coach. On the tennis court it’s a level playing field.”

Kyrgios’ view is shared by tennis legend Todd Woodbridge.

“I have to disagree with Tsitsipas,” Woodbridge told Wide World of Sports.

“I can understand where he’s coming from, but the individuality of the sport is what sets it apart.

“The uniqueness of having to find your own way out of an issue. You’re out there on your own and it comes down to how good you are at making a change to alter the outcome.”

The world No.4 found himself in hot water over this very topic during his five-set quarter final win over Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open in February.

The Greek star was handed a code violation by chair umpire Damien Dumusois during the fourth set for apparently receiving coaching from his box. Both Apostolos Tsitsipas and Mouratoglou were present at the time.

“He obviously feels like he needs it, which for me is a bit of a surprise,” Woodbridge explained.

“I think Stef has one of those games that is able to recognise the strengths and weaknesses of his opponent and break those down.

“I think he would benefit from having more faith in his own ability, rather than having someone confirm it for him.”

Mooratoglou, it should be remembered, was also at the centre of one of the most explosive events of recent times, when Serena Williams was penalised by umpire Carlos Ramos for receiving coaching during the 2018 US Open final against Naomi Osaka.

“I have never cheated in my life,” Williams told Ramos, in scenes that made headlines around the world. “You owe me an apology.”

Also in Woodbridge’s corner on this matter is 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer.

The Swiss maestro has previously spoken about his preference that coaching not be allowed, although he conceded it was difficult to police, noting that it wasn’t “rocket science” to realise that hand signals are being used to send messages.

“That’s a good point, and there needs to be better policing of that,” Woodbridge said.

“They do a reasonable job. The WTA has trialled coaching, and very rarely have I seen it benefit the player. It’s used as a crutch more often than not.

“Maybe at the end of each set you could give them 30 seconds or so. There might be ways to look at it, but it doesn’t add to the game.

“It doesn’t bring in extra spectators, it actually makes the game blander and like every other sport.”

Woodbridge noted that what set the likes of Federer and Novak Djokovic apart from the rest was their ability to think on their feet during a match and change tactics if necessary.

He also explained that only the top players can afford to have a coach travel with them every week, meaning any move to allow courtside coaching would split the tour between the haves and have nots.

“A champion player or tactician has the ability to read what’s happening in the match. If we were to allow coaching all the time, it dumbs the game down. It doesn’t make it more interesting,” Woodbridge said.

“It’s fine to say they should bring coaching in, but at the highest level it only promotes inequality. I’m sure if he thought it through properly, Stefanos would realise that.

“Players share coaches on tour. If they’re playing at the same time, or playing each other, the coach can’t be in two places at once. That’s not going to work.

“If you’re an up-and-comer, you can’t necessarily afford it. The top players have a large team around them, so they’d benefit. Right now we’re looking at helping the players ranked outside the top 75 to be able to compete at the same level. They just can’t afford to have a coach travel with them every week.”

Tsitsipas explained that tennis needed to modernise, but noted it was difficult because “the traditionalists are very powerful and prevail”.

“I saw that,” Woodbridge said. “I also saw him say at Wimbledon that he loved the tradition!

“Everybody loves the way the majors are, and they are the most traditional forms of the sport. If we make the majors like every other event, there’s no point of difference.

“That’s not about tradition, that’s about using your assets wisely.”

Woodbridge has some experience with courtside coaching, having represented Australia with distinction in the Davis Cup arena, where the coach is heavily involved during matches.

But the 22-time Grand Slam champion insists it should remain the exception, rather than the rule.

“I was a player that most definitely would have benefited from having a coach sit with me,” he said.

“I loved to communicate. One of the reasons I succeeded so much in doubles was because I had another person with me. But that’s also why I don’t want to see it. I knew that my job on the court in singles was to work it out myself.

“I used to love talking tennis on the changeovers with John Newcombe in Davis Cup. We talked about what was happening and how I would try to build to something, to create an opening. I loved it, but I don’t think every match should be like that. It’s one of the things that separates Davis Cup, and now the ATP Cup.

“But having a coach courtside for a Grand Slam doesn’t make the sport any better.”

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