Tennis legend Billie Jean King has re-stoked the flames of a hot debate in women’s tennis. I’m talking about the new WTA rule where coaches are allowed to signal players from the stands.
King calls it a “no-brainer,” saying that it’s essential in order to create more interest in tennis.
But is it, really?
The WTA already allows players to talk to their coaches during changeovers, once per set (excluding Slams.) And starting next week at the Dubai Duty-Free Championships, the WTA will be allowing coaches to interact with players from the stands on a trial basis.
This is what King told Reuters in a phone interview:
“They should be able to signal from the stands. Look at baseball. They have a first base coach and a third-base coach, the coaches are giving all these signals, squeezing their nose or whatever and making all these signals. It’s fascinating for the people…They make documentaries on these coaches. It’s just a story to promote our sport and anything we can do to promote it is a good thing, it is a no-brainer.”
I get it. Tennis coaches signal their players from the stands all the time — whether they are caught or not — and though I love her to death, King makes a failed attempt to justify legalization. She’s leaving out the most important fact, that, while all professional baseball teams have coaches to give them signals, all professional tennis players do not.
The current WTA rule allowing coaches to coach during changeovers is unfair enough, as many of the lower-ranked players don’t have any (or enough) sponsorship funds to pay for a coach — especially one that travels with them. Those players barely have the money to cover their own travel, hotels, meals, and other expenses, and therefore, only have themselves to rely on when they’re down in the set.
Then, there are the players that have the sponsorship kwan, the coaches, and now, the extra coaching both on the sidelines AND in the stands, all throughout their matches (excluding the Slams.)
Who do you think has a better chance of winning?
In my opinion, unless the WTA is also going to offer free coaching for players who can’t afford it, on-court coaching and signaling is going to prove very bad for women’s tennis. Both give an unfair advantage to players who have coaches by literally rendering helpless their opponents who can’t afford them. Seriously… where is the motivation now for anyone — no matter how talented — to turn pro if they can’t afford a traveling coach?
Those are just my thoughts, but I’m interested to know what you think about it. Please share in the comments below!