The ATP Tour has announced that a trial for off-court coaching will be carried out over the second half of the 2022 season. This trial period will begin the week of 11 July, with the Infosys Hall of Fame Open in Newport and Nordea Open in Bastad being the first events to have off-court coaching.
The change will also apply to the two biggest events remaining in the calendar after 11 July, the US Open and the ATP Finals. This trial period will be evaluated at the end of the season and a decision will be made on whether to upgrade it to a full rule change or if another direction will be taken.
How does it work?
Obviously, this off-court coaching change is not a free-for-all and does have rules surrounding it. With verbal coaching, it is only allowed when the player is at the same end of the court and can only consist of a few words or short phrases, conversations not being permitted. Coaches also aren’t allowed to speak to their player during bathroom breaks or any other situations when the player leaves the court.
With non-verbal coaching such as hand signals, it is allowed at all times. The coaches must sit in the coach seats designated by the tournament and can only coach if it does not hinder the opponent or create an interruption in play. If the rules are not followed, fines and penalties will be handed out for abuse or misuse of coaching.
Why is it being brought in?
Off-court coaching is incredibly hard to regulate in tennis. It is very hard for an umpire to say what is verbal coaching and what is encouragement, especially in different languages, or what qualifies as a hand signal and what is just an encouraging fist pump. This led to an uneven application of rules with some umpires at 250s ignoring coaching altogether and some looking for it at the biggest of moments, such as the 2018 Women’s US Open Final.
If this trial proves successful, we should never see such a situation again.
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