The epic meltdown that descended the US Open final into chaos and has since split opinion started from a violation of a divisive rule – coaching.
Serena Williams received her first conduct violation by chair umpire Carlos Ramos for breaching the coaching rule, forbidden at all Grand Slam tournaments for both men and women.
According to the 2018 Grand Slam rule book: “Players shall not receive coaching during a match (including the warm-up).”
Williams vehemently denied receiving coaching from Patrick Mouratoglou, saying she’d “rather lose than cheat to win”, despite her coach admitting that he had indeed tried to signal her.
In the aftermath of the controversial final, many have suggested mid-match coaching shouldn’t be illegal anyway, with some saying the rule should be scrapped.
But a number of tennis stars, including Roger Federer, have strongly opposed the introduction of coaching at the pro level.
Federer has always been a strong advocate against introducing coaching to the ATP ever since the idea was floated, saying that tennis “could or should be one of those unique sports where you don’t get coaching.”
The Swiss master has previously said there is no reason to change the rules, and he is more than comfortable with having his long-term coach Severin Luthi in the player’s box for support.
“You can look over to your coach for comfort and support,” Federer said.
“It will look amateur-like in my opinion, I hope we’ll stay as far away from that idea.”
While coaching currently has no place in the professional men’s game, it is allowed on the women’s tour, with Grand Slam events an exception to the rule.
In women’s events outside of Grand Slams, the players are entitled to call a coach to the court once per set during a changeover, but in the men’s game it does not allow for coaching whatsoever.
The initial decision to penalise Williams for a coaching violation has since been slammed by some players and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).
But if there was a universal approach to the coaching rule across all professional levels of the game, perhaps the situation could have been avoided altogether.
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The WTA has since called for equal treatment of all tennis players, and for coaching to be introduced across the sport in the aftermath of the marred US Open final.
“We also think the issue of coaching needs to be addressed and should be allowed across the sport,” WTA CEO Steve Simon said in a statement.
“The WTA supports coaching through its on-court coaching rule, but further review is needed.”
But while Federer may not have a lot of years left in his professional playing career, the 37-year-old doesn’t believe it has a place in the game.
“I really don’t think it’s necessary,” Federer said.
“If it does happen, it’s hopefully after I’m done playing.”
Tournament director for the Australian Open, Craig Tiley, also weighed into the coaching debate surrounding tennis.
“The sport has to really get itself sorted out on what it does with coaching,” he said.
“Are we going to have coaching? Are we not going to have coaching? What is it going to look like?
“The sport needs to get together and sort it out. Once that’s sorted out, we don’t have the issue.”
Serena stunned by coach’s huge admission
Serena Williams and her coach Patrick Mouratoglou have contradicted each other with their comments on coaching in the US Open final, leaving the tennis champion stunned.
While Mouratoglou told ESPN he at least tried to signal Williams from the coaches box, Serena was adamant she would never do such a thing, saying cheating ”is the one thing I’ve never done, ever.”
The events and the arguing and the booing that would make this a US Open final unlike any other began when Serena Williams’ coach made what she insisted was an innocent thumbs-up, but the chair umpire interpreted as a helpful signal.
It was the second game of the second set, in a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium, and Williams’ bid for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title already was in real trouble because she was being outplayed by first-time major finalist Naomi Osaka.
While Williams was adamant during and post match that she never receives coaching, her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, acknowledged afterward that he did indeed try to signal Williams, but didn’t think she had seen him.
It’s true that it is something of an open secret in professional tennis that plenty of coaches do get away with offering help without any sort of sanction.
”I never had any warning in my career for coaching. Strange to do that in a Grand Slam final,” Mouratoglou said.
”Second, we all know that all the coaches coach at every match, all year long, from the first of January all the way to the 31st of December. We all know it.”
When Williams heard her coach had accepted he was giving her some form of coaching, she was confused.