Patrick Mouratoglou, the coach at the center of Serena Williams’ controversial US Open defeat, says coaching should be allowed at all tennis tournaments to make it more exciting on television and help grow the sport.
His comments come after last month’s US Open women’s final descended into chaos when chair umpire Carlos Ramos handed the former top-ranked American three code violations, including one for receiving coaching from her long-time coach Mouratoglou in the stands.
Williams furiously denied receiving any coaching, and accused Ramos of sexism after the match, sparking a global debate about double standards in sports. She was later given a $17,000 fine by tournament organizers.
Although Mouratoglou did not directly address Williams’ meltdown in a column in the latest edition of Britain’s Tennishead magazine, he wrote: “One very good thing has happened as a consequence of Serena Williams’ experience in the US Open final: people throughout tennis are again discussing the whole issue of on-court coaching.
“At the moment we’re in the worst of all worlds. On-court coaching is clearly widespread, but it is unstructured, players are occasionally given code violations for it and TV viewers are given no insight into what the coaches are telling their players.”
No on-court coaching at the majors
Under the current rules, on-court coaching isn’t allowed during any of the four tennis majors or on the men’s ATP World Tour.
The US Open has been experimenting with on-court coaching in the past two years, allowing it during its qualifying and junior events.
The women’s WTA Tour allows women to talk to their coach during one changeover per set. The coach is wearing a mic, so the conversation can be heard by television viewers and commentators.
To date, the four grand slam tournaments have resisted calls to introduce on-court coaching in the main draws, arguing that having players figure out problems by themselves is one of the unique attractions to tennis.
But Mouratoglou believes it’s time to change.
“I have never understood why tennis is just about the only sport in which coaching during matches is not allowed,” said the 48-year-old Frenchman, who has guided Williams to 10 of a total of 23 grand slam singles titles since they started working together in 2012.
After all, Mouratoglou argued, team sports have it, and so have most other individual sports, such as boxing, cycling or golf.
Mouratoglou added he also wanted to make it obligatory for coaches to speak in English during changeovers, even if both player and coach usually communicate in a different language.
“It’s important that TV viewers can understand what is being said,” Mouratoglou said, adding it would bring in more casual tennis fans and help grow the sport.
‘Very basic truth’
Shortly after the end of the US Open finals, Mouratoglou told US broadcaster ESPN he had been coaching Williams “like 100% of the coaches in 100% of the matches,” but that he didn’t think she had seen it.
In his column for Tennishead.net, Mouratoglou said it was “a very basic truth that the vast majority of tennis coaches are actually coaching on court, despite the rules. Occasionally the players are punished for it, but for the most part they are not.”
“Look at how many times players look towards their box during a match. Some do it after every single point.
“Of course the coaches are usually discreet in the way they give message to their players — they do it with signs or coded signals — but most of them also communicate verbally,” said Mouratoglou, the founder and president of the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in the south of France.
“So if on-court coaching is happening anyway, would it not be much better to authorize it in a structured way?” he asked.
Mouratoglou said he “would love to see coaches on the court in all matches,” such as during the Davis Cup and Fed Cup team events.
“If people consider that a step too far, I would advocate the WTA rule, though I would prefer it if coaches could come on the court more often,” he said.