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Zhang Shuai of China listens to her coach (Photo credit should read SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Joel Drucker: Just Say No to On-Court Coaching

A lot of positive cases can be made on behalf of on-court coaching. As each player is provided with new tactics and the opponent is forced to adjust, the quality of competition might improve. Players are extensively coached away from matches, so why not during? Besides, they’re likely be coached during matches in ways both discreet – subtle hand or verbal signals – and even obvious, such as when a player consults his or her box to see if it’s viable to challenge a line call.

Then there is this argument: All the other sports have it.

Fancy that -- all the other sports. Alas, tennis, succumbing to peer pressure.

One of tennis’ greatest assets is its emphasis on self-reliance. This code is in place from the minute a player picks up a racquet. Unlike team sports, a tennis player does not have to make the team or impress the coach with anything other than the ability to win. Nor is a tennis player dependent on teammates to block, catch, throw or engage in any other task. For that matter, to heck with the team – just go out there and play tournaments. Nor in tennis is the player subordinate to a coach; quite the opposite, as instructors and coaches serve at the behest (and checkbook) of the player. The tennis player is a singular individual, who builds a playing style, arranges practice matches, enters tournaments – and, most of all, competes as a singular entity. One major reason to play tennis is that you don’t have someone telling you what to do. In one single point, a tennis player can be the quarterback, wide receiver, linebacker, coach and team owner.

The current WTA rule permits one on-court coaching visit per set (though not at Grand Slam events). Can the tour truly consider this anything more than a novelty? Given all the independence these pros have had as they’ve made their way up the ranks – as well as during the majors – do they really view on-court coaching as useful and sustainable?

How about tennis boasting something other sports do not have?

Read more articles by Joel Drucker

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