On-Court Coaching in Tennis?

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The WTA Tour announced today that it will allow on-court coaching during matches, beginning with the 2009 season. The women’s tennis tour said that players will be permitted to use a coach once per set during changeovers or at the end of a set. Coaches must wear a microphone during televised matches.

The new rule is part of a broader intitiative to inject new life in the tour that includes a new schedule and requirements that top players participate in the tour’s most premiere events.

Tennis fans have long debated the merits of allowing on-court coaching. Proponents have argued that it adds another element of intrigue for fans, particularly if the coaching can be seen live on TV. World TeamTennis has used coaching for years, with positive reviews.

I applaud the Tour for taking a bold step to increase access and enhance entertainment for TV viewers,” said Jason Bernstein, ESPN’s Senior Director for Programming & Acquisitions, in a press release. “Women’s tennis has been a leader in player access initiatives, and on-court coaching will be a great addition for the fan experience.”

But opponents have argued that on-court coaching goes the spirit of the game, in which players are solely reliant on their own abilities. There is also the issue of competitive balance, as many players on the fringes of the tour can’t necessarily afford to have a coach travel with them to every tournament

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